Back in 2013 an editorial piece was published in the Huffington Post. It looked at a collection of studies that had been examined about ADHD diagnoses that were growing around the world. More and more children were being given the label, and often medicated for it. Were rates really growing?
As it turns out, probably not. Instead, misdiagnosis appears to be the problem. While more study is needed, the evidence is compelling.
The Problem With The Diagnosis
Hyperactivity is a difficult symptom to nail down. The truth is that kids are often hyper because they are full of energy, have a short attention span, and like to run around. Parents will often overestimate the average attention span length of children, as well.
For instance, a 5 - 6 year old child has an average attention span of 10 minutes. The nearer they get to that amount, the harder it is for them to focus. Eventually, they will lose that focus. For younger children, it is an even smaller block of time.
You also have to keep in mind that children grow and mature at different rates. If your son or daughter is 7, and they seem to be closer in attention span to a 6 year old, that may just be their rate of development.
Of course, if you are consistently facing attention problems, your child is far under that amount, and they are having other symptoms (such as tantrums or acting out), it may be time to speak to your pediatrician.
One issue may be an allergy or food sensitivity. This could be to sugars, wheat, certain enzymes, or even artificial colors or sweeteners. The first line of defense may be cutting out these items one at a time and seeing if there is an improvement. If so, you could try leaving those foods out of their diet for a time, until their bodies develop a better ability to digest them.
If you have ruled foods out, make a note to speak to your child’s doctor during their next Wellness Exam.
What To Ask Your Doctor
Once at the appointment, list off the symptoms that are concerning you. Include any hyperactivity you have noticed, and possibly any triggers. Do loud noises set them off? Is it a bigger issue when routines are broken? Has anything happened lately that might have cause emotional harm, such as the death of a loved one or pet?
Your doctor will be able to use this conversation to direct you towards more tests, if necessary. They can also discuss treatments, which usually start with behavioral modification. There is some worry about over medication in cases of ADHD to consider when establishing a treatment plan.