Dear Dr. Meg,
My 10-year-old son shows signs of ADHD, but I have mixed feelings about getting a diagnosis and medication. What are your thoughts on this?
Dear Uncertain Mom,
If your son shows signs of ADHD, it is very important to understand what is going on with him. You say that you have mixed feelings about getting a diagnosis, but I encourage you not to be afraid. One of the most important things you can do for your son is to understand what is happening with him so that you can help.
CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR
I would begin by going to your pediatrician. Tell him or her exactly what your and your son’s teachers’ concerns are. He should not recommend medication right off the bat; rather, he should recommend further testing.
There are certain medical conditions, which mimic ADHD. Learning disorders like dyslexia and mood disorders like depression can look just like ADHD. Your doctor will give you some questionnaires to fill out and then ask you to return with them. So, simply going in to discuss the subject with your pediatrician is just a means to better understand what is going on with your son. If your doctor prescribes medication on the first visit, get another opinion before you do so.
If you and your doctor decide that your son needs more testing, make arrangements for this. There will be professionals in your area who do this testing. You may go to a neuropsychologist, an education specialist, or whomever your pediatrician recommends. This will involve a battery of tests to determine whether your son is really struggling with attention/hyperactivity issues or something else.
Once the testing has been done (and I strongly recommend it before considering medication), then you will go back to your pediatrician and discuss treatment. This may include medication and it may not. Remember; you are in charge of the final decision with your son, and you must be comfortable with the plan.