When should a child with symptoms of ADHD be brought to a doctor for diagnosis?
This is a question that has been often asked by concerned parents who have learned that there is a disorder called Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or AD/HD. On the other hand, a number of educators complain that some parents turn a blind eye to their childrenâ€™s behavior problems even after being informed about.
An angel runs
Angela Suacillo, nine, was diagnosed with AD/HD when she was five years old. She started going to school at two years old and her mother Sol said that she was a very smart and physically active child.
But compared with other kids her age, Angela could not sit still and would always roam around the classroom. The teacher called Angelaâ€™s parents attention and bluntly told them that they should not expect her to learn because she never sat down to listen and would not finish class activities.
Sol did not have an idea that Angela was different but was alarmed that her daughter did not walk but always ran. “We began to have doubts when she started to go to school because we saw how she was with kids her age. That is when you get a â€˜light bulb momentâ€™, you realize that something might be wrong ,” Sol relates.
Concerned with the teacherâ€™s observations and after reading an article about AD/HD, Sol and husband Joel took their daughter to a developmental pediatrician for an assessment. Angela was then given a home therapy program to train her to sit still and finish all the activities given to her. She also had to go to a speech pathologist for her speech delay, and to an occupational therapist for behavior modification. She took medication for more than a year to help her focus while in class.
Yet, Angelaâ€™s parents continued to be frustrated as a few schools refused to accept their daughter. They reasoned out that children with AD/HD should go to a special education (SPED) school.
Luckily, they found a regular school that has been very supportive of Angela who is now an incoming 4th grade student. “We always keep an open communication line with the guidance office, the faculty and with her therapist as to how we could help her more in school,” Sol said.
Looking back, Sol believes that the initial interventions given to Angela helped her cope. The therapies provided the needed structure. Her behavior modification therapy, in particular, taught Angela and her parents that organization of things and activities is very important to an ADHD child. Her medication also helped with inattention problems, thereby improving her academic performance in school.
Sol advises parents who suspect that their child may have ADHD to have their kids assessed. “Itâ€™s important to identify their condition so that you could understand them better. After you have identified what it is, seek early intervention. Early intervention would give the children a better understanding of themselves and structure in their daily activities,” Sol advises.
It is important that parents be educated about AD/HD and how to deal with situations that may arise because of the disorder. Sol and Joel became active members of the AD/HD Society of the Philippines, attending seminars, conferences and support group meetings and listening to experts on AD/HD.
A medical perspective
Dr. Mark Reysio-Cruz, a developmental pediatrician and an active member of the advisory board of the AD/HD Society of the Philippines, advises parents to seek professional help as soon as they have a concern about their childâ€™s development and/or behavior.
“Preschoolers who will eventually be diagnosed with AD/HD go thru pre-academic and social difficulties. Their self-esteem may be affected and so they may refuse to go to school. They may have to move from one preschool to another because of their misbehaviors,” Dr. Reysio-Cruz says.
On the question of why some children remain to be undiagnosed despite the symptoms they exhibit, Dr. Reysio-Cruz says that most parents go thru a period of denial, grief, guilt, shame or anger. He however adds that there are also well-meaning but misinformed family and friends who may downplay the parentsâ€™ concerns about their childâ€™s behavior, like the childâ€™s hyperactivity may just be simply sobrang malikot or sobrang kulit. There are also those who want to have their child diagnosed but cannot do so because of financial reasons.
Initially, Dr. Reysio-Cruz advises parents to get substantial and objective feedback from their childâ€™s teachers, guidance counselors and other people who regularly interact with their child. Parents could also get in touch with the ADHD Society of the Philippines if they need more information about AD/HD and how they could go about in getting a diagnosis. The Society could also refer them to a medical practitioner who specializes in AD/HD.
In some cases, parents are afraid that the diagnosis will have a negative effect on their child, like being labeled as a bad child because of AD/HD. Dr. Reysio-Cruz stresses that the child is already being labeled in a negative manner even without a diagnosis. But with a diagnosis, the parents will treat the child with more patience, understanding and give positive reinforcement. The childâ€™s social, academic, and occupational functioning will improve with management of his condition. It will provide the parents with relief that the child isnâ€™t just lazy or cognitively challenged or that they are bad parents, Dr. Reysio -Cruz adds.
Dr. Reysio-Cruz remains positive that with early intervention — such as support from the ADHD Society of the Philippines (parents of children and adults with ADHD); educational support from teachers; occupational therapy (if the child also has fine motor skills difficulties); speech therapy (if the child has speech and language skills difficulties); behavior therapy (for behavior modification); family counseling; and pscychoeducational testing (to rule out an associated learning disability) , a child with AD/HD can have a life that is as regular and as normal as any child should have.
Last say …
“An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,” so the saying goes. If you know a child who shows symptoms of age-inappropriate hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity, be an advocate and inform the parents about AD/HD.
If youâ€™re a parent though, itâ€™s about time to take a second look at your child and learn to ACCEPT the fact that your child may have some problem. It all starts from there.
(For your inquiries about AD/HD, please email the AD/HD Society of the Philippines at firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to our website at www.adhdsociety-ph.org. )
Source: Manila Bulletin