By Dr. Jan Hittelman

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is estimated to affect 3-7% of school-age children. Over the years there have been increasing concerns that many children are inaccurately diagnosed as having ADHD. In fact, children with anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and many other conditions, can present with very similar symptoms. In these cases, an accurate diagnosis is critical in determining the correct treatment.

In order to accurately diagnose ADHD, there needs to be several indicators that together confirm the diagnosis. These would include: feedback from parents, teachers and children themselves; objective evidence based on standardized psychometric tests; and meeting the specific criteria developed by the American Psychiatric Association. Too often these critical steps are skipped and psychotropic medication is prescribed.

While psychological testing can be time-consuming and expensive, it is an effective approach in arriving at an accurate diagnosis. In addition, tests that specifically measure ADHD can be used to monitor and adjust dosage levels to ensure maximum effectiveness.

When a child is accurately diagnosed with ADHD and put on the proper medication regimen, the results can be dramatic in terms of their newfound ability to focus in school and reduce their impulsive behaviors. In addition, behavioral strategies to help strengthen the child’s social, coping, and problem solving skills are often an important component of an overall treatment plan.