Who Is Diagnosing All These Kids With ADHD?
A national survey asks parents of children with ADHD who made their child’s diagnosis, and the methods used.
Approximately 11% of US children receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the prevalence of the condition has been increasing in recent decades.
So, the question, when we see this kind of increase in a diagnosis, is why this increase is happening. I think that this survey is another way to look at this and I think it was a great idea.
Although professional organization guidelines exist and outline specific criteria that should be met to make the diagnosis of ADHD, the extent to which diagnostic criteria are followed and who diagnoses ADHD in children are not clear.
And this is important. Not every doctor is trained in making this diagnosis. There are many screening tools out there, but they are not diagnostic and one of the concerns is that they are being used that way. I am personally not a fan of a family doctor or pediatrician making this diagnosis. I personally feel that this should be something given to a psychiatrist to check. They are the experts. Why would we not want them involved?
The thing about this survey is that it suggests that there isn’t enough involvement with the psychiatrist and that the screening tools are being used to diagnosis. This suggests that there are children that are being diagnosed who may not have the disorder. That is problematic on so many levels. If there is something going on with these children we need to be sure that we know what it is before we start treating them, especially if we are talking about medications.
Now, something to keep in mind here is that this survey is only giving us part of the picture. The parents have no reason to lie on this survey, so I am taking the data at face value. However, there are things that the survey didn’t ask that I would want to know. So, a family doctor wrote the diagnosis, but was there psych consult? Was there a psych eval for the ADHD? Sometimes the family doctor is the one that gives the parents the information and writes the diagnosis after there has been an extensive work up by experts. That may be happening. This data does not ask that question.
But I am glad that they are taking a look at this problem from another angle. It is complex and really requires that we get complex in the way that we are exploring it.