Health Minute

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Summer 2018

Children Benefit When Diagnosed Early for ADHD

Health Minute     Summer 2018

Undiagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can lead to long-term academic and social struggles as children grow up.

ADHD is a chronic illness caused when your child’s brain stops making the right amount of dopamine, a chemical that helps her to focus and organize her thoughts and behaviors.

The condition can be hereditary. If you struggled to focus in school, it’s a possibility that your children might be diagnosed with ADHD.

“ADHD has been around for many years,” says Mark Casdorph, DO, a psychiatrist at Upper Valley Outpatient Behavioral Health, part of the Premier Physician Network. “Children who couldn’t sit still or pay attention in school were the first ones looked at when the condition was initially researched. But now we know it can manifest itself in different ways, such as a child who is disorganized, can’t focus, or can’t stay on task.”

If ADHD is not diagnosed, it can negatively affect your child’s life. Difficulty focusing can lead children to feel like they aren’t good students.

Children with ADHD can also struggle socially if the disorder is ignored or left undiagnosed. Though your child with ADHD might be able to make friends easily, she might not be able to keep long-lasting friendships, Dr. Casdorph says.

Having ADHD also can put your children at higher risk for developing depression, having a substance abuse problem, using tobacco, and having an unwanted teen pregnancy, he adds.

Diagnosing ADHD is a team effort. Dr. Casdorph says parents, the school and clinicians each play an important role in the diagnosis:

  • Listening to the parents – Talking through your child’s history is the first and most important step in your child’s potential ADHD diagnosis. Families will often share how their child has struggled since birth with symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.
  • Seeking help from school – Teachers and administrators can help provide information through questionnaires about your child’s behavior and performance.
  • Having a clinical exam – The final step is taking your child to have a clinical exam with a psychiatrist. The exam will probably include the clinician observing your child while they complete tasks or have staged interactions and conversations.

The next step after an ADHD diagnosis is determining a treatment plan. Treating ADHD could include a medication to help the brain better process dopamine and therapy to help your child gain the tools needed to better stay on task.

“If a child has ADHD to the point of impairment, then we offer them medication,” Dr. Casdorph says. “But it’s my belief that a combination of medication and behavioral training is the best course of treatment.”

Like many parents, you might feel scared and worried for your children with ADHD who seem to be failing at school or struggling with depression and anxiety. But Dr. Casdorph says he’s had the privilege of watching children transform with the right therapy for them.

“The right amount of medication combined with therapy has taken children from low grades in school to very high grades,” he says. “The child becomes more involved and is now able to develop positive social interactions.”

For more information about ADHD, talk with your doctor or visit to find a physician.