Child ADHD Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing ADHD in children requires expertise since its symptoms are similar to normal behaviors in young kids as well as the commonality of one more condition being present. It’s common for children with ADHD to have other problems like oppositional defiance, learning disabilities, anxiety and depression. Mercy’s pediatricians and behavioral health experts can diagnose your child and develop an ADHD treatment plan.

Diagnosing ADHD in Children

Child ADHD Test

While there’s no single test to diagnose ADHD in children, Mercy providers evaluate kids in multiple ways. Their overall health is assessed, including screenings for medical issues like vision, hearing, sleep or other problems that can affect behavior.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends gathering information about children’s behavior from parents, teachers or others with whom they spend time in different settings like home, school, sports or other activities. Guidelines are used to identify patterns of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity in children. ADHD is diagnosed only when symptoms are severe enough to cause ongoing problems in more than one area of your child’s life.

How to Treat a Child with ADHD

With treatment, many children with ADHD are successful in school and other areas of their lives. Mercy’s behavioral health specialists can show you how to help your child make positive changes. While there’s no cure, many treatment options are available for ADHD in children.

ADHD Medication for Children

Finding the right medication, dosage and schedule for your child may take time. Some medications may be more effective than others at improving your child’s symptoms. Types of pediatric ADHD medication include:

  • Stimulants – These drugs increase both dopamine and norepinephrine, brain chemicals associated with attention, behavior and emotion (examples: Adderall and Ritalin).
  • Non-stimulants – These include:
    • Atomoxetine, a drug that boosts levels of the brain chemical norepinephrine (example: Strattera)
    • The blood pressure medications clonidine and guanfacine, which treat hyperactivity and impulsivity (examples: Kapvay and Intuniv)
  • Antidepressants – Several types of antidepressants may be considered, and they’re especially helpful for kids who have ADHD along with depression, anxiety or other mood disorders.

Your Mercy provider will start with a mild dose, monitor for side effects and adjust as needed. Medication may be used alone or in combination with other therapies to treat children with ADHD. Talk with your provider about the benefits and risks of medication for child ADHD.

Therapy for Children with ADHD

Therapy can be effective in helping your child manage ADHD symptoms such as impulsivity, inattention, distractibility and disorganization.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT is the most common and helpful therapy for kids with ADHD. It’s a short-term, goal-oriented form of psychotherapy that gives kids behavioral modification tools to use at home and school.
  • Behavioral therapy (or behavior modification therapy) – This therapy uses praise and rewards to encourage desired behaviors, while problem behaviors have negative consequences. 

Education Modifications for ADHD

Kids with ADHD face extra challenges in school. Learning requires concentration, comprehension, behavior control and other skills that don’t come easily to children with ADHD. And learning disabilities are also common in kids with ADHD. Schools work with many children to minimize the effects of ADHD on learning. Common techniques used in the classroom include: 

  • Seating the child near the teacher
  • Maintaining a set schedule
  • Rewarding positive behaviors and having consequences for negative ones
  • Giving the child’s parents regular behavior reports
  • Supervising the child closely to keep them on task
  • Making assignments shorter or breaking them into section
  • Forming small groups for activities
  • Encouraging students to pause before answering questions
  • Changing how tests are taken, such as providing a less-distracting environment or allowing extra time

Federal laws require public schools to evaluate your child’s educational needs and provide services based on the evaluation. Make the school aware your child has ADHD (and any other learning problems), and ask about next steps for meeting your child’s educational needs.

While not all ADHD treatments are available in all locations, your Mercy doctor can help you locate resources and provide a treatment plan for your child.

Find a Behavioral Health Clinic

Mercy offers pediatric mental health services across all our communities.

Find a behavioral health clinic near you.