Although some parents are often suspicious about their young child having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at a very early age, their concerns usually aren’t manifested until the child starts interacting in a structured environment such as preschool. This is when the head-banging tantrums and inability to follow simple directions sometimes reveal a deeper issue that calls for early intervention. Other symptoms may include not being able to sit still for any length of time, constantly interrupting others, being highly impulsive, having trouble concentrating, or becoming easily bored or distracted.
These are just a handful of signs that may or may not indicate a child has ADHD. For a child to be accurately diagnosed, a careful and thorough evaluation should be made by a mental health professional who can separate and distinguish areas of concern from normal developmental behavior. This professional can also determine if there are any overlapping psychological disorders or underlying medical conditions.
Guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that doctors should first treat preschoolers diagnosed with ADHD by using behavior management therapy before writing out a script for medication. However, in a recent study conducted by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, researchers found that one in five doctors prescribed medication as their initial treatment plan. With more and more young children being diagnosed each year with ADHD, this increases the percentage of children taking medications without other interventions.
A couple of reasons for this disturbing trend may be because behavior management therapy is not covered by insurance, or the family may not be located near a qualified professional. Another reason doctors may whip out the script pad first is because a long-term commitment to behavior therapy may seem too demanding for busy parents.
In any event, while medication is sometimes necessary for a preschooler diagnosed with ADHD, a treatment plan that includes behavior management therapy as the front line of defense is the most effective.
Dr. Andrew Adesman, Chief of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, agrees. “Certainly it would seem that pediatricians and specialists should increasingly look to behavioral interventions as a first-line treatment,” said Dr. Adesman. “I think parents also should seek behavioral treatments as first-line, and in general, medication should be reserved for cases where either behavioral therapy is not effective or where it is not available.”
If you think your child may have an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, don’t wait to get help. Have her evaluated by a qualified mental health professional at the earliest opportunity. Sometimes a child who seems to struggle with ADHD may actually have a learning disability or other underlying issue. So, a proper diagnosis and early intervention is important to get her on the fast track to success in school and at home. If you would like information regarding Dr. Susan Daniel’s professional services and/or to have a comprehensive evaluation, please feel free to contact her for more information.