Every child is different. Even in a family. Even if they are twins. Because of these differences, no path to getting diagnosed with ADHD is the same.
My son, D, is 16. He was born 8 weeks early and spent a month in the NICU (along with his twin). The wonderful nurses nicknamed him “The Acrobat.” They would get him all swaddled with his wires and feeding tube and within minutes, he would wiggle down to the bottom of his incubator with all the wires tangled up. As an infant, he was never still and could never focus on one thing for literally any length of time.
My son, T, is 16 (yes, they’re twins). He was always the watcher. He would watch D move and wiggle and squirm. He was quiet and seemed like he always had a hundred things on his mind. T was the child who would look under the swing to see how it worked rather than go crazy on the swing like his brother.
My daughter, E, is 15. She was content. She was the sweet, happy baby who giggled and loved to be held. She moved more in her crib than any baby I have ever seen. She seemed to never settle and was a very light sleeper. She loved learning and reading. She is still very inquisitive, just like she was as a child.
All three have ADHD and the diagnosing process was completely different for each. For D, the diagnosing process was easy. He was seen by developmental pediatricians and neurologists for years due to his autism. He was diagnosed with autism at 2, and the developmental pediatrician said ADHD would be later based on his behavior. He was officially diagnosed by a neurologist at 6 with ADHD Combined type. It was never a surprise or an unknown. We just knew.
For T, the process was longer and harder. Because he was successful in school, getting him diagnosed was more of a battle. We started the process in the 2nd grade. The school system had a psychologist in the schools, and she met with him one-on-one for two separate 1-hour sessions. She said the only thing that he did that may indicate ADHD was spin on the spinning office chair. I asked if she observed him in the classroom, where there were 20 other children, and countless other interruptions. She said no. We had him evaluated outside of the school system by a neuroeducational psychologist, which was very expensive but well worth it. He was diagnosed with moderate ADHD Inattentive type just before he went into the 3rd grade.
E’s diagnosis was not made until she was in the 4th grade. She had already been evaluated as gifted in the 2nd grade. She began to really struggle with organization and losing papers, lunchboxes, etc. And while her teacher was not the most understanding, she was instrumental in getting E diagnosed. Because she did so well in school, most people overlooked her struggles. She was diagnosed with help from her pediatrician.
I have ADHD as well. I was not diagnosed until I was an adult. I have always struggled with organization and remembering details. I was diagnosed by a psychologist I was seeing for anxiety.
The actual process for getting an ADHD diagnosis was similar for each of us. Professionals use several types of questionnaires that parents and teachers complete. If you are an adult, you complete your own. Those questionnaires are then evaluated in accordance with an observation by the professional. Children may also have IQ tests and other tests to evaluate for learning disabilities or related neurological issues. It can be a long process, which can be hard for someone with ADHD. The process is definitely worth it in the end.
As a parent, it is up to you to advocate for your child. If you feel your child should be evaluated for ADHD, please talk to your child’s school and doctor and keep talking. It may take a while until you find someone willing to help. It’s easy to get discouraged, but so important to stay strong.
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