Babble is partnering with PACER Center to help readers better understand and navigate the needs of young children. This month, we’re talking about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and what parents should know if their child is diagnosed with the condition.
It’s normal to want to make things better for your child in any way you can — that’s part of what parenting is all about. So if your child is struggling with a mental health or behavioral disorder, you might find yourself hoping for a diagnosis not only to make sense of their behavior, but also to help them do their best. Sometimes, though, the initial diagnosis is only the beginning.
When the diagnosis is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), you might actually feel relieved. After all, because ADHD is so common, most people have at least heard of it. In fact, according to experts, between 8 and 11 percent of children have the disorder, which is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. You might even think to yourself, Now that we know what we’re dealing with, things will get better. And in many cases, that’s absolutely true.
Sometimes the right treatment for ADHD might be as easy as finding the appropriate medication, behavioral therapy, or a combination of the two. Behavioral therapy can mean a parent learning from a mental health professional how to help their child develop positive relationships and behave appropriately at home, in school, and in the community. If ADHD is a child’s only diagnosis, improvement can be dramatic with appropriate treatment.
Other times though, an ADHD diagnosis may only be one piece of the puzzle, and additional support and treatment are necessary.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that when a child is diagnosed with ADHD, they are also thoroughly assessed for other disabilities. This is sound reasoning: according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly two-thirds of children with ADHD have at least one other disability that also needs attention in order for a child to be able to function best.
Often children with ADHD may experience a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety. Children with ADHD also frequently exhibit learning disabilities, particularly with reading, writing and math.
Above all, early intervention is key to a positive outcome for your child, but it’s also important not to overreact to the diagnosis. Work with your medical professional to develop a treatment and support plan, and be sure to always let your child know they are loved and supported. Learning all that you can, and involving your child’s school or preschool in their treatment is important, so that everyone has all the information and is on the same page.
For more information about children’s mental health and emotional or behavioral disorders, visit PACER’s website.