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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Evaluation and Treatment
 

Imagine living in a fast-moving kaleidoscope, where sounds, images, and thoughts are constantly shifting. You feel easily bored, yet helpless to keep your mind on tasks you need to complete. Distracted by unimportant sights and sounds, your mind drives you from one thought or activity to the next. Perhaps you are so wrapped up in a collage of thoughts and images that you don't notice when someone speaks to you. For many people, this is what it's like to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. They may be unable to sit still, plan ahead, finish tasks, or be fully aware of what's going on around them. To their family, classmates, teachers, or coworkers, they seem to exist in a whirlwind of disorganized or frenzied activity. Unexpectedly--on some days and in some situations--they seem fine, often leading others to think the person with ADHD can actually control these behaviors. As a result, the disorder can mar the person's relationships with others in addition to disrupting his or her daily life, consuming energy, and diminishing self-esteem.

 

EVALUATION
If you or your child has difficulty coping due to poor attention, easy distractibility, highly impulsive behavior, or inability to stay still, a thorough evaluation by a psychologist and a physician is highly recommended. Many of the symptoms of ADHD can be mimicked by other physical and psychological problems. Physical conditions should be evaluated by your medical doctor. A psychologist is trained and licensed to assess and diagnose ADHD and other emotional conditions such as depression, anxiety, behavior disorders, learning disorders, intellectual deficit or excellence, and perceptual-motor deficits. One or more of these conditions may cause inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity or may accompany ADHD and may also need to be addressed in treatment. The evaluation procedure starts with a history form and symptom checklist sent to the parent or adult. During the first scheduled appointment a detailed background interview with a parent and child is performed. The child or adult suspecting ADHD is administered the Conners Continuous Performance Test, a computer administered test which directly measures abilities such as attention span. The psychologist will review report cards and achievement test scores and any other evaluations performed previously and decide whether other intellectual or educational testing is indicated. Other tests are administered to the child or adult suspecting ADHD depending upon the presenting problems and background information. The parent is given rating forms to complete and some to give to teachers to complete. After all tests are scored and interpreted, conclusions, recommendations, education, and literature are provided to the parents or adult seeking help. Help is offered the client regardless of whether or not ADHD is diagnosed.

 

TREATMENT
The recommended approaches to helping a child or adult diagnosed with ADHD depend upon the particular individual. Suggestions are made to modify the home, school, and/or work environments. Behavior modification programs are one of the most effective interventions for children diagnosed with ADHD. Guidance in developing individualized educational programs in the schools is provided. Social skills training for children and self-control training for adults can be provided. Referrals to the family physician or a psychiatrist are made for medication if that is indicated. Stimulant medication has been found to be 80% effective in decreasing current symptoms in children. Research has shown that the best chance for long term success is a combination of the above mentioned interventions. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to the welfare of children with ADHD. When children are not identified early, they have a high risk of developing other problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, low self-esteem, antisocial and aggressive behavior, inability to maintain relationships or jobs, and failure in school. Adults diagnosed with the disorder have been at once greatly relieved to know what has been causing them problems all their lives, and also greatly bereaved with grief for all they missed by not being properly diagnosed and treated earlier.

If you believe that you, your child, or spouse may may be living in this kaleidoscope called ADHD, please call Dr. David Kidder at 985-649-2011 for more information. For further information about this disorder view the web site of CHADD, a national support group. See the LINKS page.

Author: David W. Kidder, Ph.D.


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