Starting school or camp is often the first indication for parents that their child’s behavior may be outside the margins. Sometimes the feedback from a trusted teacher or counselor confirms suspicions the parent already had, or it can come as a complete surprise.
What should you do if you suspect your child may have ADHD?
This past year and a half has been a wild ride! First, consider if the behaviors could be an anomaly due to the pandemic. Most Chicago area children were isolated from peers and teachers, and forced to learn remotely for a few months, and in some cases, over a year.
With or without ADHD, kids simply are not built to sit in front of a screen, focused on learning for seven-plus hours each day! They need a change of scenery, socialization, and exercise. They need to let off steam! Most children found video learning to be a tremendous challenge and may have exhibited behaviors unusual for them.
Ask yourself, “Did I or those caring for my child notice these behaviors before the pandemic?”
“What about after life resumed to a little bit more normal?” If, when recalling their early childhood, you can identify patterns of distractibility; an inability to carry out simple sequential tasks (throw away your garbage and then put dishes in the sink); hyperactivity and difficulty calming down; trouble staying focused to complete craft projects, fun activities or games, it may indicate ADHD. You won’t always see all of these indicators, but often you’ll see more than one.
The first step is to contact a therapist who specializes in childhood ADHD, such as Wellington Counseling Group Chicago. By phone, a Wellington staff member will discuss your concerns and gather some preliminary information, then schedule a face-to-face intake session with a therapist or diagnostician for parent and child, depending on the child’s age.
How do I explain this to my child?
It depends on their age and developmental level. For younger children, explaining that “all kids are different from each other--you are great at gymnastics, taking care of your little brother, and building robots and you also sometimes have trouble focusing on things or remembering to do stuff.
Sometimes, those difficulties can be caused by a thing called ADHD, sometimes not.” You don’t really even have to name it for the younger children; simply let them know that you know someone who can help them find ways to keep them from feeling so frustrated.
“The first step is that we have to try to understand what is happening. It’s like taking an X-ray to determine what is going on beneath the skin, with the goal of making you feel better and more successful! The good thing is, with ADHD testing, there’s no blood drawn...no noisy laboratory technology or strange machinery. Just some interesting games and challenges, plus, you get to talk all about yourself to a therapist -- in fact, most kids consider it fun to basically be the star of the show for a few hours!”
Older kids may have heard of ADHD and feel nervous about a diagnosis. It’s important to help them understand that the first step in addressing and ameliorating some of what causes them stress or discomfort is to understand what is causing it.
ADHD testing provides that information. You may also wish to call their attention to the ways in which this attentional difference can be addressed and helped significantly through therapy and/or medication, when appropriate; to point out that MANY adults with satisfying and successful lives have ADHD and do just fine after finding its strengths and learning how to dodge and weave around its predictable stumbling blocks; and to point out that there actually are many careers where free-flowing awareness is an asset, not a liability.
What happens during an intake session?
The goal of ADHD testing is to determine if the behaviors a child is exhibiting are caused by ADHD or something else, such as anxiety, depression--or even an undiagnosed developmental disorder, such as autism spectrum disorder---and then to take steps to address the diagnosis.
An intake session can take several hours or may be divided into multiple sessions. Make a point to ask when you schedule the appointment so you can plan accordingly and share information with your child. And, don’t forget snacks!
Depending on your situation, age of your child, etc., the therapist may ask to meet with you and your child together first and then just with your child. You will be guided to reflect back to pregnancy, through infancy, noting developmental milestones and other occurrences--to be a storyteller about your child’s life. Together with the therapist, you’ll examine your child’s struggles and strengths; identify what else is going on with them socially, academically, extracurricularly, with siblings and peers, all to assemble a useful picture.
Wellington Counseling Group therapists strongly recommend that your child’s ADHD testing take place in the morning, before they are exhausted by a long day at school or activities. The therapist will ask your child about their life at school, at home, what’s difficult for them, what is easy or fun; and will note behavioral cues.
What happens after the intake session?
Generally, when providing ADHD testing in the Chicago area, following the intake, the therapist will ask parents and teachers to complete questionnaires--their child’s coaches, counselor, psychiatrist may be asked, too, depending on the situation. The more people who know your child and provide insights, the more complete the picture--not only of ADHD flags, but of the child’s full social and emotional world. The therapist will be looking for overlaps and differences of opinion.
Once the questionnaires are complete, the therapist will determine if an ADHD diagnosis is appropriate for your child. If so, they will schedule a feedback session with parents and child--often preferring a separate session for children so the therapist can use developmentally appropriate language to explain.
During this session, the therapist will fully explain the findings and make recommendations for what to do next. They may suggest scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist to see if medication is indicated and/or may refer to the right therapist (generally the testing therapist won’t continue to see the child as a patient) with whom the child can work to better understand their diagnosis and to practice behavior modifications to help them navigate the world more effectively.
While an ADHD diagnosis is very common in the United States--over six million children (9.4%) have received this diagnosis according to a CDC 2017 study--it still can be scary and daunting for parents.
But, understanding what’s causing a child’s behavioral issues can be incredibly helpful; realizing they are good kids and mean well, but just can’t control their attention and their emotions can be a tremendous relief.
While ADHD can be described as a frequently-occuring “cognitive style” or individual difference within a range of human expression, it is nevertheless considered a medical condition, and one with strong neurological origins, and fortunately, it’s also one that can be successfully treated. The first step is to find out if your child has ADHD by having them tested.
Learn more about ADHD testing in Chicago
Interested in learning more about ADHD testing in Chicago? Future Wellington Counseling Group blogs will offer tools and resources to aid and support your child with ADHD, as well as tips for loved ones (grandparents, babysitter, well-meaning friends) to help you and your child through supportive actions and words.
Contact us today if you’re interested in setting up a consultation to get ADHD testing in Chicago.