Does my child have ADHD or dyslexia?
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and dyslexia are common childhood conditions with serious consequences if left untreated or treated incorrectly. Parents must ensure that they get the correct diagnosis from a qualified and knowledgeable medical professional.
A mom's worst nightmare: the school phones to say your 8-year-old child is a handful and not achieving.
The voice says he has ADHD. You feel as if you have been kicked in the stomach by a horse. "Don't worry," the voice continues, "he is just borderline. But he is also borderline dyslexic!" Now a stampede of horses is taking pot-shots at your belly.
Sadly this is quite a common occurrence for moms of ADHD children. The dreaded ADHD label is usually pronounced in a caring way, but nothing can lessen the blow.
Let me try and provide some guidelines to help you deal with this devastating blow, but one that can be overcome. I know – this label was put on me in my mid-forties.
In the past decade I have had the opportunity to help hundreds of parents to deal with this – and even to see it as a positive turning point in life. The first step is to remove the label and rather say "he has ADHD" and not "he is ADHD".
Now let's look at the diagnosis. The only people properly qualified to diagnose ADHD are the following:
- General Practitioner
Of these, the psychologist can diagnose the condition, but cannot prescribe medication. The list of diagnosticians does not include teachers. Many children have either been missed or wrongly labelled as ADHD – in both cases, the consequences are dire.
Next, let's look at why a diagnosis of ADHD is so difficult.
- There is no test for ADHD. You can't have an X-ray, brain scan or blood test to decide whether you have ADHD.
- ADHD is diagnosed by observation and an in-depth look at current and historical behaviour. The observations are tested against a set of 18 symptoms that are divided into 2 groups of 9 each. To qualify, one needs to have at least 6 symptoms in each category, and you have to have presented them by the age of seven.
- Every person has at least 2 or 3 ADHD symptoms, which is far off the 12 required to qualify.
- No one has only ADHD. We all have at least one co-occurring condition. One of those is anxiety, whilst depression, OCD, Tics, and Tourettes are some of the others.
- There are other conditions that appear to present similar symptoms. Giftedness is one, as is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Another condition often misdiagnosed as ADHD is dyslexia – and vice-versa.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 'dyslexia is a learning disability that can hinder a person's ability to read, write, spell and sometimes speak'.
Every ADHD person has a reading disability of some sort. Many ADDers struggle to read, often in the same ways that dyslexics do. Others, like myself, read voraciously, 3-4 books at the same time. My reading disability is that I speed read, missing a lot of detail and often getting the wrong meaning. I have developed tools to help me to overcome this.
Treating ADHD versus the co-occurring conditions
In 2002 South Africa hosted its only International ADHD conference in Pretoria. The lead speaker was Dr Stephen Copps from Georgia Medical Institute, USA. In response to a question from one of the more than 300 doctors who attended concerning diagnostic best practice when it comes to ADHD and co-occurring conditions he gave the following wise advice: "Always eliminate or confirm ADHD first. If ADHD is present treat it, and only then treat what's left!"
This expert was adamant that this practice will avoid a lot of heartache and tragedy in later life. Many children who have been diagnosed with dyslexia may have ADHD, and sadly, the opposite is also true.
Get the correct diagnosis before deciding what is best for your child
ADHD and dyslexia are common childhood conditions with serious consequences if left untreated or treated incorrectly. One can have both conditions.
Despite the shock of this possibility, keep your feet responsibly on the ground, get a proper diagnosis, and then use a multi-disciplinary methodology to manage these conditions.
Not all children with ADHD and dyslexia have to go to a Special Needs School. Some can thrive in main stream, some need a few years in remedial classes, and others may have to go to special schools.
The answer to the question of what school is best for the child is not relevant until the parent is sure they have the correct diagnosis. That diagnosis must come from a qualified and knowledgeable medical professional only.
Then parent and child can ride the horses, no matter how much they buck and toss the rider around.
ADHD, when managed properly, is a fast and exhilarating ride on the wild side.
Dave Pughe-Parry founded Living ADDventure® a decade ago. LADD®, as it's commonly known, is an independent organisation providing ADHD coaching, training and support to people living with – and alongside – ADHD. Dave is a highly sought after speaker at conferences on ADHD, and works closely with medical professionals right around the country. LADD® is listed by PANDA (Paediatric and Neurological Developmental Association) as a supplier of services. LADD® has trained more than 3 000 teachers over the last three years. For more information go to www.ladd.co.za
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our free Children's Health Newsletter.
Latest from "Children's Health" ...