Does my child have ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder that can severely impact the behaviour of children and youngsters regarding their school performance and socialising with peers. The worldwide prevalence for children with ADHD is 5%. (Faraone, Sergeant, Gilberg & Biederman, 2003).

Symptoms of ADHD:

Struggle to hold attention during calm activities, tend to daydream, forgetful, disorganised

Excessive activity, restlessness, fidgeting

Impatience, thoughtless behaviour, impaired impulse control

Children can also suffer under the symptoms of inattentiveness only (ADD), which makes the diagnosis less obvious.

How to diagnose AD(H)D?

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) diagnose ADHD.

It is essential to distinguish between usual symptoms of inattention, hyperactive and impulsive behaviour, which occur, for example, during specific developmental stages like childhood or puberty and those symptoms, which cause mal-adaptively high levels in the daily lives of children and adolescents whether at home, at school, at work or in social settings.

The symptoms must have begun before age seven and occur in at least two different settings, like home and school. Children and adolescents with an AD(H)D diagnosis suffer from socialising with their peers, learning difficulties or vocational training.

The therapist will usually collect valuable data from the children/adolescents, parents and teacher to have a holistic view of the issues described using, for example, the Child Behaviour Checklist questionnaire, interviews and observations during the sessions.

A thorough physical examination by a doctor should be done to exclude, for example, epilepsy, metabolism disorder, and sight and hearing impairment which can cause similar symptoms of ADHD.

Other psychological or developmental disorders can cause inattentiveness or hyperactive behaviours like obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism, tics, low or high intelligence or dyslexia.

Many different aspects should be considered before diagnosing AD(H)D. It usually takes up to 6 sessions, including questionnaires and other psychometric tests and profiles like IQ tests, followed by specialised assessments in reading, writing, spelling, math and language.

ADHD and Comorbidity

It is estimated that around 60 to 80 % of children/adolescents with ADHD also have other disorders like Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Conduct Disorder, Excretion Disorder and Specific Learning Disabilities.

The Stress on Parents 

The authors of the book ‘Understanding A.D.H.D’ Dr C. Green and Dr K. Chee put it together this way:

‘There must be super-men and wonderful women out there who find ADHD easy, but we have not met them so far. The parents we deal with are tired, confused and frequently full of self-doubts. Many have already had a real run-around… Many are secretly disappointed that parenting has not lived up to expectations. Others are angry that one child has brought so much stress and disruption to what was once a hassle-free home. A few have an immense feeling of being trapped in a nightmare that won’t end. At the end of a family weekend, the parents feel they have gone ten rounds in the boxing ring. “


Evidence-based therapeutical methods help children and adolescents with ADHD and other mental disorders. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the therapist will recommend a so-called combination therapy of medication and psychotherapy (CBT) or only medication or psychotherapy.
Untreated ADHD can cause severe problems throughout life.
Children can suffer from low-self esteem since they cannot show their full potential, struggle with having or keeping friends, have low school performance, and have trouble at home/with stressed parents.
Youngsters abuse drugs to ease their restlessness (self-medication) and often suffer from depression.

It is crucial to validate the emotions and the struggle of the parents. Parents and children mustn’t blame themselves for their struggle. They often suffer as much as their children and feel very often helpless. Therapy can help the whole family to understand the disorder and its consequences.

Therapy can help children focus on their strengths, develop adaptive strategies to overcome challenges, and strengthen overall relationships with family members and peers.

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Published on 2019/01/01

Posted in: ADHD, Children and Adolescents, Mental Health,