Wednesday, April 3, 2013


We are taking up again the idea of using information from parent, child, and teacher (our medical history) to build a case for the diagnosis of ADHD. Since there are no physical for drugs or laboratory test available to prove the diagnosis, we must rely on descriptions of the core behaviors of ADHD: (1) Hyperactivity (2) distractibility and (3) impulsiveness – verbal, physical, and emotional.
            The diagnosis of ADHD cannot be made unless the following conditions of those three behaviors are met:
1.   Occur over a long period of time
2.   Occur in more than one setting
3.   Significantly differ from their same age and sex peers, and
4.   Cause impairment or hurt the child                        
     Recently I saw a 9 year old girl in 2nd grade that was identified in kindergarten by her teacher with short attention span and exquisitely sensitive temperament.  She cried more easily than her classmates and seemed lost in the classroom for much of the day’s activities. Her mother agreed with the teacher’s opinions. A difference in her behavior was noted by her parents when compared to her younger brother at 6 months old and she was 2 years old. Mothers sometimes will describe the child as very active even before delivery.  They have always been on the go, driven as if by a motor, impulsive, slow to listen or remember, quick to respond and emotionally susceptible. If the child’s behavior has only recently developed it is much less likely that the cause is an inherited genetic trait or behavioral style.  Environmental circumstances such as a different teacher, new school or changes at home such as a death in the family, a new baby, divorce, a move or money problems are more likely the culprits for the worsening behavior.  Circumstances not personality have dictated the course.
     Secondly the characteristics need to be seen in more than one setting to solidify the diagnosis. The children act this way not only in the classroom setting but at home and day care, with the grandparents or babysitter, at church and Sunday School, while shopping, at the ball field, McDonalds, or a birthday party, in the car or even in (or out of) bed.  There is an unpredictable quality to their behaviors as well.  One day they may be as close to perfect as humanly possible and the next day transform into an unrecognizable monsters in the same setting with the same persons.
             At other times we may be able to predict the results of an explosive equation if the additive factors can be calculated.  If he is tired or has missed a meal, cramped up in the car for a long drive to Grandma’s party at her house full of expensive, breakable and accessible knick-knacks, and is instructed to play quietly with his evil young stepsister, we know it is only a matter of time before the inevitable screams, tears and blood happens.  The actions are related to the environment, the level of supervision and the personalities involved. Problems are often magnified if the situation is unstructured, the rules imprecise and inconsistently enforced and the child’s feelings ignored or injured.  There is some evidence that if the surroundings are not particular stimulating to these sensitive and responsive children, they will explore until they discover something interesting that keeps their attention. This extreme sensitivity to their environment and rapid, intense response of the child with ADHD creates the unpredictability that is the hallmark of the disorder.  They are consistently inconsistent all the time.

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