With ADHD, early and accurate diagnosis helps both parents and children

By Regence
November 07, 2022
boy doing homework

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental (i.e. brain growth and development) disorders of childhood. It’s estimated that almost 10% of children ages 3 to 17 were diagnosed with ADHD from 2016 to 2019, with boys more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls.

Diagnosing ADHD in children

Children with ADHD typically are overly active and have trouble paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviors. There can also be issues with regulating their emotions and behaviors, so receiving support from the adults in their lives is important. Early and accurate diagnosis of ADHD helps caregivers meet the needs of a child with ADHD.

There isn’t a simple, single test for ADHD. Evaluation for ADHD usually starts with a visit to the pediatrician. ADHD evaluation should include critically evaluating learning, memory, cognitive, social and executive functioning, and verbal and non-verbal communication, recommends Dr. Mike Franz, Regence’s senior medical director of behavioral health.

Typically, health care providers use medical guidelines to ensure children are appropriately diagnosed. Parents, teachers and other adults who often interact with the child are also asked about their behavior in different settings. When evaluating for ADHD, it’s important to rule out other conditions that could be causing ADHD symptoms, such as learning disabilities, depression, anxiety disorder or autism spectrum disorder. Sometimes a child can have ADHD in addition to other conditions.

Treating children with ADHD

When performed thoroughly and effectively, an ADHD evaluation offers therapy, treatment and educational strategies to address the child’s specific needs. This generally includes therapy involving parents and/or teachers as well as possible medication. Stimulant medication is the most recommended and studies show it is the most effective.

“There’s strong evidence that medications, and in particular stimulants, are highly effective in treating ADHD in young people,” says Dr. Franz. “In fact, I often say to my patients and families, there is no psychiatric medication in pediatrics more effective for a behavioral health condition than stimulants are for ADHD. For 80 percent of the kids, they have a significantly positive response.”

Working closely with a child's pediatrician or health care provider is essential to better monitor appropriate development and treatment. It’s also important to establish a collaborative relationship with your child’s teacher and school staff. As a child gets older, they can become a more active participant in their ADHD treatment.

ADHD’s impact on the family

When a child has ADHD, it impacts the whole family and can lead to more stress and frustration than in families without ADHD present. Family activities may require more effort and guidance from parents. Often siblings are asked to have more patience and understanding with frustrating behaviors. In 2018, researchers found that early ADHD treatments in children as young as age three may reduce parental stress and help families over time. Treating ADHD is a team effort that starts with early and accurate diagnosis followed by effective treatments.

We're here to help

If you would like your child evaluated for ADHD, Regence can help you find an in-network provider who can help. Our award-winning Customer Service team is available to help, by either calling the number on your Regence member ID card or by signing in to your member account for live chat or sending a message. You can also search for in-network providers online at regence.com.