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ADHD?

January 26, 2013

Did you know in some parts of the US, ADHD is diagnosed in up to 15% of children? However, according to the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, 3% – 7% of school aged children have ADHD.

Why the difference? This is because many diagnose this inferred neurologically determined attention disorder on the basis of observable behavior alone.

Other than the inferred neurological condition, there are a number of other conditions that can give rise to the same behavioral outcomes. Indeed behavior similar or equal to that in children diagnosed with ADHD can be seen in children exposed to domestic violence and those subject to high conflict parental divorce. As such, the diagnosis should not be made on the basis of child observation alone, but should include a good developmental, social and even physical history.

Assuming an appropriate diagnosis, the next issue is treatment and in particular stimulant medication.

Many parents wonder why give stimulant medication to children who apparently already cannot sit still. Here’s the answer:

Think of stimulant medication as stimulating the brakes!

Kids with ADHD seem to only have a gas peddle and have tremendous difficulty slowing down long enough to consider their actions and make choices before implementing behavior. Stimulant medication helps them apply the brakes faster and longer, thus enabling them to interrupt their behavioral flow, pause, take in the immediate stimuli and respond more effectively.

This is not to say that stimulant medication is the only or necessarily the best treatment, but it is important to understand it’s value when considering treatment options.

If someone tells you your child has ADHD, do more than accept this on face value.

Obtain a well rounded assessment from a professional with broad expertise who will take a bio-psycho-social approach. Make sure you know what the issue is underlying your child’s behavior in order to determine the appropriate course of treatment, which may or may not include stimulant medication, behavioral counseling or even intervention for the parents in view of issues resulting from domestic violence, conflicting parenting style or high-conflict separation.

This video explains how an auditory processing disorder can be mistaken for ADHD:

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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7 Comments
  1. Linda Moffatt permalink

    I agree completely, and is precisely why I always do a complete bio-psycho-social assessment on all children, going back to the pregnancy! Anxiety/hypervigilence, etc., can look a lot like ADHD to school teachers, and they are very quick to jump on the ADHD bandwagon. If you ask a parent “has Johnny ever been exposed to any trauma?’, they are likely to say no. But if you say, “I want to go way back, tell me about your pregnancy with him, how old were you, how old was dad, what kind of atmosphere did he come home to, did you have support people, etc., you get tons of information, because it then becomes about that parent and what she or he went through. It then sets the stage for that parent to understand trauma and the infant and young child and the aftereffects and your explanations. I’ve found this extremely effective. Of course, sometimes ADHD is the explanation, but generally NOT when there are other extreme behaviors such as violence.

  2. Linda, if I needed a child assessed, I would want that child to be assessed by someone like you. You get it!

  3. Patricia permalink

    Hi my son are 9 and are ADHD he just don’t listen to me.he refuses to do anything I asked after a fight he will do it and will say nobody likes him

    Any ideas for me please

  4. Saara Teresa Penfold permalink

    Have you done any research into FASD?

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