An ADHD diagnosis often answers some big, life-long questions. Then, it quickly raises new ones: What exactly does this mean? What are our options? Where do we go from here?
ADDitude surveyed its community about the important questions you want, and need, answered after you or your child receives an ADHD diagnosis. We asked experts to provide insights and advice to clear up confusion and illuminate a clear path forward.
1. Who is best suited to treat ADHD, and how do I find a qualified professional?
This is the most common question parents and adults ask. It is a reflection of how few experienced ADHD clinicians there are in the world. A survey done at the Mayo Clinic about eight years ago found that the average parents of children with ADHD consulted 11 clinicians before they found one they thought was well prepared.
For a good outcome, ADHD medication and counseling will both be needed. Medications level the neurological playing field so that the person with ADHD has the same attention span, impulse control, and level of arousal as anyone else. The professionals licensed to prescribe controlled substances vary by state. Physicians and nurse practitioners almost always have this authority. Some states also include physician assistants. But you can’t stop at just medication. The work of helping the whole family learn about ADHD, and helping the person with ADHD deal with the emotional aspect, can be done by psychologists, counselors, coaches, and other professionals.
In short, there is no particular specialty or advanced degree that is intrinsically better able to diagnose and treat ADHD. You are looking for someone who wants to treat ADHD — someone who has been willing to put in thousands of hours of her own time to become skilled at it. How do you find one of these rare clinicians?
- Start by asking friends, family members, parents of your child’s classmates, and members of nearby CHADD or ADDA support groups who they go to and whether they are happy with the care they are receiving.
- Speak to your shortlist of recommended clinicians and ask: How long have you been working with patients with ADHD? What percentage of your patients have ADHD? Have you received any training in the diagnosis or treatment of ADHD? What is involved in the diagnosis—written tests/interviews? Your typical treatment plan — behavior modification, medication, alternative therapies? What are the costs involved? Do you accept my insurance?
- Be willing to travel to get the initial evaluation from an expert in ADHD. Many can put you in touch with a provider closer to home for recommended services.
— William Dodson, M.D
2. Why wasn’t my ADHD diagnosed earlier?
ADHD is no longer considered a “childhood” diagnosis. Since 2014, more adults have been diagnosed with ADHD than children or adolescents. The average age at diagnosis is now in the early 30s. This evolution is due to a number of reasons.