Q: My 5-year-old son’s teacher told me that my son has ADHD. Can they even determine this, and what should I do?
A: Many parents that visit my office report that they have been asked by teachers, friends, extended family and neighbors about whether their child has ADHD. You are correct to question, “Who really can give this label to my child?” Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is only formally diagnosed by medical or health professionals. That being said, let’s assume your child’s teacher is raising concerns with your son’s best interests in mind. What is most important is that you realize two things. First, you know your child better than anyone, and second, children develop at different rates. For example, many children under the age of 8 with or without ADHD cannot focus and sit still in a classroom for six hours at a time.
With that perspective, go ahead and schedule a conference with your child’s teacher and the guidance counselor or school psychologist to hear what they have to say. The conference should have two main objectives. First, you want clarification regarding the specific behaviors that are concerning the teacher: “What exactly is your son doing?” Second, you want to find out, “How is the teacher managing those behaviors in the classroom?”
The behaviors that (may) reflect ADHD include difficulty with the following behaviors: attending to details, sustaining attention, listening and following directions, keeping track of items, following daily routines, and transitioning from one task to the next. In addition, some children with inattention also display hyperactivity such as being overly active, restlessness, fidgety and impulsive, with frequent blurting-out behavior.
Be aware that although ADHD behaviors can mimic behaviors that are often described with terms like disruptive, acting out and noncompliant, ADHD-like behaviors are a result of either normal development for younger children or, if ADHD is truly present, the ADHD condition and not a conscious attempt to disrupt.