April 2002

ADHD: real or imagined?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and medication is regularly in the news. Many news reports tell us that too many children are on medication for ADHD. For most children, medication allows them to reach their potential in school.

Alex was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 8 years old. He was evaluated by a psychologist, a behavioral pediatrician, and an educational specialist. They recommended a trial of Ritalin. Alex took Ritalin for the last two weeks of second grade. Before he took the Ritalin he struggled to write a few sentences in his daily school journal. The first day he took the medication he wrote a whole page in his journal. The second day he wrote a page with illustrations.

Not all insurance plans will pay for the necessary evaluation, so many children are not fully evaluated before the diagnosis is made. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) is a national non-profit organization providing education, advocacy, and support for individuals with AD/HD (http://www.chadd.org). CHADD advises that a comprehensive evaluation is necessary to establish a diagnosis, rule out other causes, and determine the presence or absence of co-occurring conditions. Such an evaluation should include a clinical assessment of the individual's academic, social, and emotional functioning and developmental abilities.

CHADD offers some suggestions about getting insurance coverage for testing. The challenge for parents is to be persistent and perhaps even file a grievance for denial of this service.

In addition to the CHADD website, the National Institute of Mental Health also offers information on ADHD. Their website (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/adhd.cfm) lists books and many other resources.

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