By Dr. Mohab Hanna
This article originally appeared in Bergen County Moms. Link here.
Our children’s ability to focus is being continuously compromised. There’s constant access to technology - cell phones, video games, Chromebooks for studying - the list goes on. Kids’ developing brains are being trained to constantly shift attention to the exciting and stimulating versus being trained to sustain attention for extended periods of time on the neutral tasks of everyday life.
The number of kids, teens and even adults who are struggling with managing their focus and attention is exploding. We know that for many it is because of screens but for others, especially kids and teens it could be ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Discerning the difference is not always obvious.
When might you suspect that it could be ADHD?
You see challenges in focus and organization across multiple venues - school, activities, sports,and social settings.
You notice a particularly negative impact on the child’s availability for learning. Your son or daughter might be bright but they are underperforming due to a regular pattern of lack of attention to details and frequent careless mistakes along with missing or late assignments.
Does your child need constant reminders to do the same thing everyday that you have repeatedly reminded them to do?
Are they losing and misplacing things (including things that are important to them)?
While we often see boys exhibiting typical ADHD type behaviors like being hyperactive, impulsive and disruptive in multiple settings, many girls have ADHD as well. But often, the ways that they express it are different. Many girls with ADHD may tend to be more easily distracted and “spacy” as opposed to being a more hyperactive behavioral problem that teachers notice.
If you are observing some of these, I’d suggest that you first speak with your child’s teacher and coaches/activities leaders to get feedback from different perspectives.
You also may consider getting a clinical ADHD diagnostic evaluation. We perform those at MedPsych Behavioral Health. In our ADHD Diagnostic & Treatment Center, we administer several different standardized tests as part of a comprehensive clinical evaluation in order to accurately diagnose the problem. Sometimes it is ADHD but frequently it is actually something else such as anxiety or depression. At times, the issue is not psychiatric at all but is related to lack of maturity, a language based disability or a primary learning challenge. An accurate diagnosis is essential since the diagnosis is the foundation for developing an appropriate plan to address the problem.
Getting a diagnosis of ADHD can be useful in getting additional support from your child’s school, such as IEP or 504 designation. The key is getting an accurate picture of what is actually happening whether there is a diagnosis or no diagnosis at all.
Dr. Mohab Hanna is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the founder of MedPsych Behavioral Health with offices in Ramsey, Old Tappan and Montclair. Dr. Hanna specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety, depression, and ADHD. MedPsych provides psychiatry, psychotherapy, autism and ADHD testing, and other services with in-person and virtual appointments available.