By Elizabeth Martin, PhD
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental and behavioral health challenges that children experience. Along with this diagnosis, various other comorbid or secondary disorders may develop including but not limited to learning disorders, social skills deficits, emotion regulation difficulties, anxiety, depression, and externalizing behavioral difficulties like Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Have you ever been concerned that your child is having academic difficulties, but just not quite sure why? You feel that your child is intelligent, but his/her grades seem to fluctuate quite a bit. Your child’s ability to pay attention is superb when playing video games, playing a favorite sport, or watching an interesting movie, but paying attention long enough to complete brief, simple household chores or doing homework are huge challenges. Your child may also be constantly moving, fidgeting, talking out of turn, and talking excessively.
The answer may partially be due to your child having a true diagnosable attention and hyperactivity-impulsivity problem such as ADHD. There could also be something else going on – in addition to or instead of ADHD. Your child’s grades often fluctuate, but math grades are consistently lower. Are these challenges in academic performance due to your child being “lazy,” having ADHD, having a math learning disorder, or simply having slightly weaker skills in the area of math? After all, we all have various academic areas of strengths and weaknesses. Are the fidgeting and excessive talking behaviors due to having ADHD or due to the restlessness that can be a part of having anxiety?
Psychoeducational testing is an option used to obtain answers with these types of questions. Often psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and well-trained primary care providers can precisely diagnose children who have ADHD. However, when the picture is more complicated with serious learning and academic performance difficulties as well as social and emotional challenges involved, psychoeducational testing should be sought. It can aid in clarifying what may be the explanation of the difficulties as well as determine the most effective steps to obtain needed treatment so your child can reach his/her potential in all areas of life.
ADHD itself continues to be one of the most debated and discussed disorders of childhood even though it has a long history of being well researched with various effective treatments resulting. For those who still question its existence or find it confusing to see in children, the following example may provide some clarity.
Imagine two children – one diagnosed with ADHD and one who is not – doing something of high interest to both like playing a video game. Can you see behaviors that would reveal which child has been diagnosed with ADHD? Now imagine the same two children at homework time. Can you observe behaviors that would lead you to identify which child has ADHD? For those children involved in an activity of high interest, often those children with ADHD are indistinguishable from those children who do not have this disorder. However, if the activity is of neutral to low interest, it is often quite obvious which child is exhibiting ADHD symptoms. Children with ADHD have to put forth much more effort than children without ADHD to complete tasks that are uninteresting to both.
So, if you are a parent who has been questioning or are concerned about whether or not your child’s difficulties are temporary or are becoming more chronic especially in the area of academic and emotional functioning, consider having an assessment done to see if any additional services such as therapy or psychoeducational testing may be needed. Clinical interviewing, behavioral rating questionnaires, and standardized IQ and achievement testing may be needed to clarify your child’s strengths and difficulties. You can contact your insurance panel to find out who is available closest to you to provide psychoeducational testing. Behavioral Healthcare Associates, LLC, provides initial assessments currently and will be providing Psychoeducational testing services in time for the new school year this fall for children aged 6 to 16 years old. Contact our office at 919-292-1464 for an appointment.