“Is my kid ADHD?”

I hear this question pretty frequently from parents worried about their “active,” “aggressive,” or consistently difficult child.  Our culture has become very educated (thankfully), but seemingly very focused (not thankfully) about naming the behavioral characteristics of their child as a “condition.”  It is amazing how many people are so quick to flippantly “diagnose” kids.  Thankfully, I do not officially diagnose anyone or anything or dispense medication.  I see this as a luxury.  My job is to look at a behavior or a bunch of different behaviors and try to figure out how to make more of the good ones and less of the not-so-good ones.  So, that is the perspective from which I am writing this to you.  

Before I move on, let me give you the official answer:talk to your physician or a qualified professional about your specific situation.  The rest of the answer isn’t that easy:

Here is what I say:

Let’s look more closely at the specific behaviors you are talking about.  What do you think is interfering the most with her academic progress?  What behavior is the most serious at home?  What is the most crucial behavior now?  Impulsive, how?  Impulsive, when?  

Usually the conversation results in a conclusion that identifies 1 or 2 behaviors that occur at 2 or 3 specific times of the day.  “He’s a terror at bedtime,” “she freaks out when I ask her to do anything she does not want to do,” “his teacher says he is all over the place after lunch.”  Focus on those behaviors…at those times.  What is it about that time that makes those behaviors happen more?  A lot of times, the answer is fairly clear. Fix that…chip away 1 piece/time/behavior at a time instead of looking at these things as a whole “condition.”

Lets look closer at that. 

If that behavior did not exist or happened half as much as it does now, how would that change your perspective?  How would it change his afternoon at home?  How many other things are affected by that behavior (not getting enough sleep leads to grogginess leads to irritable leads to tantrum, etc.)?  Would that help?

Instead of asking professionals (or your friends, who would probably never tell you anyway, even if they are professionals) about labels or a “condition,” I think it is better to ask the professionals about specific behavior.  “How do I help my child sit down for dinner?” “how do I get my son to stop beating on my daughter,” “I am worried my daughter is not doing well in math.”  There are so many questions to ask beyond the question of diagnosis to get the answer you want.  That is, if the answer you seek is fixing the problem rather than naming it.

Of course…feel free to ask me on the BehaviorBandAid.com Facebook page!

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