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  • Writer's pictureDr. Emily Anderson Elder MD

ADHD Testing and Academic Success

Have you ever felt confused by your child’s behavior, especially when it comes to learning?

Why are they distracted and struggling with schoolwork? Are they sad or mad or a social

butterfly or have poor vision or don’t like the teacher or have a learning difference or could it be the four letters...ADHD?

There are so many components to academic success that we as parents can’t possibly be able to decipher which components are faulty. We must allow

science and professionals to enter our child’s life and help answer these questions.

Kids with inattention or hyperactivity and a concern for ADHD should have a thorough

evaluation consisting of 5 parts: review of health history and lifestyle, physical exam, basic

labs, hearing and vision screening, and the Connors 4 evaluation.

• A review of health history and lifestyle evaluates for any developmental concerns that could

contribute to a learning disability. It is also important to review lifestyle including diet,

physical activity, sleep, environment, and stress/mood. Poor sleep or sleep apnea can cause

inattention. Minimal physical activity and/or high-sugar foods increase hyperactivity.

• What if a health issue is causing the child to not feel well and thus do poorly in school? A

physical exam (in addition to the health history above) is needed to help exclude such issues.

• Routine labs can help exclude a thyroid disorder, vitamin deficiency, and/or anemia (all

causes of fatigue and poor school performance).

• Hearing and vision screens also aid in detecting physical limitations.

• The Connors 4 evaluation is the most up-to-date behavior evaluation for ADHD. This is an

online evaluation completed by a parent/caregiver and a teacher. It not only asses for ADHD

symptoms but also if the concerning behavior could be from depression, anxiety, or other

psychological disorders. It helps determine if the behavior goes beyond what is

developmentally appropriate for that child’s age and gender.

Evaluating these 5 areas can be beneficial in accurately diagnosing ADHD; however, if a child’s evaluation is normal yet continues to struggle in school, further evaluation for learning differences is needed. Differences such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc. can present similarly to ADHD (or they can frequently coexist).

We are blessed that we as parents don’t have to have all the answers. The most important

thing we can do is seek help when our child is struggling...we were never meant to do it alone!

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