Dr. Gellner: Parents often worry about their child being too hyperactive, even at a very young age. But when should parents start worrying that their child may have ADHD?
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Dr. Gellner: Parents of kids as young as two or three often ask me if their child has ADHD. It's actually quite normal for a young child to have a lot of energy and seem hyperactive. They have such short attention spans at that age, and they are constantly being bombarded with new information and scenarios they've never encountered before. It's a lot for their little inquisitive minds to process.
Adults forget that what they have been through, time and time again, is actually a brand-new experience for young children. Parents often wonder if this high level of energy is going to be a problem for them as they grow older and have to deal with environments where they need more control, like the classroom.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6.1 million children in America have been diagnosed with ADHD. Currently, as part of the evaluation process to diagnose a child with ADHD, they have to have symptoms for at least six months and not be attributed to their developmental level, and these symptoms need to interfere with the child's behavior or performance in at least two different settings, usually home and school. This is why ADHD is normally not diagnosed until a child is in first or second grade. Often, medication isn't even covered by insurance companies until a child is at least six years old.
One key factor that needs to be considered when determining if a child has ADHD is where are their symptoms worst. If both at home and at school, then ADHD is pretty high on the list. If their issues are mainly at school and they are well-behaved at home, then they may actually have a learning disability. The school psychologist can help do some testing to see if this is the case, and if so, they can help write up an individualized education plan, or IEP, that includes accommodations to help your child succeed.
If they are well-behaved at school but a Tasmanian devil at home, think about what is going on in the home environment that could be stressing your child out, and see if there's anything you can do to help.
If you think your child does have ADHD, talk to your child's pediatrician to see if they can do the evaluation or refer you to a specialist who works with children who have ADHD to make sure your child has the correct diagnosis and gets the help they need.
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