ADHD Diagnosis, Therapy, & Treatment Guide

Science has come a long way in the last decade. Mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organizations have concluded that ADHD is a real, brain-based medical disorder. Getting a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly improve the lives of those who struggle. This guide will help clarify what is involved in getting a proper diagnosis and the various treatment options that have been recognized as effective.

What is involved in a proper diagnosis?
A proper diagnosis is dependent on a lengthy and thorough process that rules out any other possibilities and explores possible co-existing conditions. There is no single test that determines if one has ADHD. A comprehensive evaluation will generally include the following:

    1.Rating Scales
    2. School-related assessments
    3. Observation
    4. Medical Examination
    5. Medical and developmental history
    6. Family and individual psychiatric history


Who can diagnosis ADHD?
There are several types of professionals who can diagnose ADHD.

    1. Pediatrician
    2. Developmental Pediatrician
    3. Psychiatrist
    4. Neurologist
    5. Nurse Practitioner
    6. Clinical Psychologist
    7. Clinical Social Worker

Not every professional in these categories has had the necessary training to diagnose ADHD properly. It is essential that the individual you choose is current on their knowledge and does a thorough evaluation to rule out or identify any other possible conditions.


What is ADHD Therapy?
When people are diagnosed with ADHD, parents, and adults with ADHD face several options for treatment. The treatment plan should be developed on an individual basis. Understanding the different options available to you can help make the treatment of ADHD less overwhelming.

Here is a brief overview of the various components of an effective ADHD treatment plan. You might find you want to have some of all of these different parts working together. Remember always, that you as the parent or you as the adult with ADHD must ultimately manage your team, but help and support are always available. Please reach out to me if you are in immediate need of finding local resources in your area.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for ADHD

CBT is a type of talk therapy for adults and children with ADHD where the therapist and patient discuss the underlying reasons that specific thought patterns persist. Then they develop strategies to deal with how to change the way patients view themselves and the way they react to these thoughts. It is imperative that the therapist has full and current science-based knowledge of ADHD and its impact on behavior.

CBT can be an effective support for a person with ADHD in dealing with the emotional issues that may develop due to having ADHD. Through the process of ADHD therapy, patients can discover how their thoughts impact their actions and how their thoughts influence their views of themselves and the world.  Generally, this type of therapy is more effective for older children or adults who have more maturity, insights, and motivation to improve challenges.


ADHD Coaching

A trained ADHD Coach provides support for their clients in developing a broad understanding of ADHD and its impact on all areas of life: school/work, home, social, financial responsibility, relationships, etc.. ADHD coaches also work with clients to develop individualized structures, support, skills, and strategies to help them stay focused on their goals and face their challenges. The client is seen as naturally creative, resourceful, and whole with the Coach there to help raise awareness through powerful questioning and listening.  Coaches can work in person or remotely to support their clients in developing actionable plans and supporting accountability.


ADHD Parent Coaching

An ADHD Parent Coach is a trained professional who combines the knowledge of Coaching, Parenting, and ADHD to provide parents with ADHD appropriate tips, tools, strategies and on-going support to manage the complexities of raising a child with ADHD. Once parents are educated about the Social and Emotional impact that ADHD, Executive Function skills, stress, anxiety, and pressure have on learning and behavior, the ADHD Parent Coach can help a parent become a more effective parent to their individual child.

The ADHD Parent Coach will help the parent learn to manage conflict effectively, set boundaries, and motivate positive behavior. By providing on-going encouragement, recommendations, feedback, and support the coach can help the parent develop the tools, strategies, and confidence necessary to stay accountable for the changes they wish to make while supporting their child consistently.

 

How long does ADHD therapy take to be effective?

The length of treatment can vary depending on a person’s age, level of challenge, and the treatment option they are using. Generally, a minimum of 4 months ensures that there has been adequate time to explore the range of challenges, develop appropriate strategies, and allow for support as changes are made.


What alternative ADHD treatment options are there for me to consider to treat symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder? [e.g., diet treatment, foods, etc.]

At this time, there have been no specific diets or foods that have been scientifically proven to impact ADHD, or it’s treatment. Having said that, many individuals with ADHD have a more difficult time regulating their emotions and performance. Proper nutrition on a consistent basis will make it easier to manage the challenges they may face.  Before starting any special diet, supplement, or treatment be sure to check the research to make sure that there is a large sample size, that they are not doing the results based on a small/specific change that does not necessarily carry over to other aspects of life, and is still measurable over a long time period.


Can exercise be used as part of ADHD treatment?

Exercise is a vital part of treatment for all people, and especially for those with ADHD. Studies have shown that regular exercise can enhance cognitive performance and brain function.  And exercise has been shown to increase certain helpful hormone levels for some time after the exercise is completed. Read  Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey for great details.

 

Teacher Training/School Collaboration

Proper support in school is vital for any student who has ADHD. The teachers and staff must be knowledgeable about how ADHD impacts learning and behavior so that they can appropriately set expectations and interactions to support the challenges the student faces. There are important ways that the classroom environment can be modified to accommodate all learners with added value for the students with ADHD.

Also, teachers who are knowledgeable about ADHD and Executive Function skills will be able to modify their interactions to help the student be more confident and effective in their learning and performance. This will generally reduce the student’s off-task behaviors and help reduce the teacher’s time spent on classroom behavior management.

An excellent resource book for teachers:
ADHD, Executive Function, & Behavioral Challenges in the Classroom: Managing the Impact on Learning, Motivation, and Stress

 

Medication Used For ADHD Therapy

The decision to use medication is highly personal. Parents, older children, and adults must ensure that they understand what meds can and cannot do, to treat the symptoms of ADHD. Medication cannot teach skills; however, it can make it significantly easier to focus, reduce impulsivity, hyperactivity, irritability, and manage other challenging behaviors. When dealing with children, it is imperative to make sure you have a proper diagnosis that includes knowing what, if any, comorbid conditions exist.

It is very important to be under the care of a doctor who is current and knowledgeable about the latest studies and best practices for dispensing ADHD medication. A well trained and experienced doctor will know how to balance treating his patients when more than one diagnosis is present. It can

If you have questions or would like to discuss the various treatment options available to your family, reach out to Cindy at PTS Coaching.
Email Cindy@PTScoaching.com

Additional ADHD Resources
For additional information, please check out these resources:
CHADD.org
Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADD.org)
ADHD Coaches Organization (www.adhdcoaches.org)
National Resource Center for ADHD (www.help4adhd.org)

 

Originally published 11/10/2014
Updated July 22, 2020

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