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You recognized symptoms of ADHD in your child and decided it was time to seek out medical help. Sure enough, your child’s doctor has given the diagnosis. And now you are asking what to do when your child is diagnosed with ADHD. You are not alone! I have been there and can help lead you in the right direction.
Whether you and your child are relieved or apprehensive (or both!) about having a diagnosis, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do next. Below are some of the first steps to take. They will help you decide what to do when your child is diagnosed with ADHD.
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I know that when my son was first diagnosed I had a million questions. You probably do too. I found some fabulous resources and have learned a lot along the way. But I remember the feeling of complete confusion that I felt in the beginning.
I won’t be able to totally get rid of that feeling for you but I can help you figure out what your first steps should be. It does get better and, armed with knowledge and information, that better can come more quickly. And, you don’t have to do it alone! There are people that will help you and your child live happily and successfully with ADHD.
What to do when your Child is Diagnosed with ADHD
Talk to your Child about the ADHD Diagnosis
The very first thing to do after receiving an ADHD diagnosis is to talk to your child about it. This conversation will look different depending on the age of your kiddo. The most important thing to do is to make sure your child knows that you are a team. And that you will work together to find ways of managing their ADHD.
Let your child know that they are special but also normal. There are many other children and adults with ADHD. ADHD isn’t who they are, it is simply the way their brain processes the world around them. ADHD brains work at turbo speed. Sometimes that makes certain situations a challenge. Other times it can be a big asset! None of us likes to feel different or like we are the only one. Assuring your child that they are not alone could bring them a lot of comfort.
Emphasizing the fact that there are many successful children and adults with ADHD can also be a big help. Let your child know about these success stories. Then assure them that together you will come up with a plan that will utilize their strengths while learning to work with their challenges.
And be honest. Admit that you don’t have all the answers yet. But let your child know that you do know how to look for them and that there are lots of people that will help! Whatever your child is feeling at this point, validate those feelings and reassure them that their emotions are legitimate and totally understandable.
You and your child are both likely to have lots of questions. It can be really helpful to write them down as they come up so that you don’t forget them. Keep a notebook where you write down your questions. And whenever your child has a one, write it down in the same spot.
This will show your child that you take their concerns as seriously as you do your own. And working on the list of questions together is a great way to start as you mean to go on, as a team!
Learn about ADHD and its Treatments
When I am faced with something challenging I want to learn as much as I can about it. I become a sponge, reading and soaking up as much as I can. The more knowledge I have, the more confident I feel in my ability to handle tough things.
It was no different when an ADHD diagnosis entered our lives. I gobbled up everything that I could to help me understand what was happening. Because I had done a lot of reading, I at least had cursory knowledge about the things that we discussed with the medical and educational professionals.
The important thing to remember when searching for any information is to know your sources. Social media can be a great place to find other parents and join a supportive community. But it should not be where we head for important information.
If an article has been published in a journal and peer reviewed, you can be pretty confident in the information it covers. Another good sign is if you found a piece on a website that ends in .org or .edu. These sites are typically reputable sources and the information they provide is well vetted. Avoid pieces that are opinion based and look for ones with solid evidence to support their claims.
There is no way to learn everything about ADHD right at the outset. Or any other time, for that matter. But having a basic understanding of symptoms and treatment options will make you better prepared to work with your child’s other “helpers”.
“Look for the Helpers”
I will never forget Mr. Rogers telling us that, in times of trouble or crisis, we should always look for the helpers. Even when things feel scary or overwhelming, you will always find people willing and able to help. Learning to live with ADHD is no different. There are many professionals who have helped others with ADHD and who will help your family too.
Explaining this to your child will help them understand that they are not alone. And that they don’t have to figure this all out on their own either. I know it was a huge comfort for me to realize this. You will be able to find the right treatment and strategies for you child, you just need to assemble your team first!
So who are these helpers? They are a unique blend of medical and education professionals. Every child with ADHD is different and faces different challenges. So your team may look a little different than mine. But here are some of the helpers who are ready to assist!
Health Care Professionals
Your Family Doctor
Likely it was your family doctor who gave you the ADHD diagnosis or who pointed you to the medical professional who did. Our family doctors have the most consistent medical relationship with our children and can be a great source of comfort and information. They will also be the member of your team that you will turn to if medication becomes part of your child’s treatment plan.
Having your child evaluated by a neuropsychologist can be very helpful. These professionals can pinpoint your child’s specific areas of struggle. Having that information can make finding the right treatment plan much easier. A neuropsychologist can tell you about accommodations and behavioral strategies that can help your child.
A neuropsychologist can also refer you to a cognitive-behavioral therapist. This type of therapy is very helpful for some ADHD children. It gives them strategies for functioning well at home and at school. A cognitive behavioral therapist will work with your child to find ways to regulate emotions and behaviors that cause them distress.
These strategies and methods will be tailored specifically to your child and their unique blend of challenges. Not all people with ADHD see a therapist but for many it has proven to be hugely beneficial.
Your Child’s Teacher
Your child’s classroom teacher is potentially one of your greatest allies. They are in the trenches with our kiddos almost as much as we are. Being on the front line means that they have noticed your child’s symptoms and may have even been the one to suggest that your child be evaluated for ADHD.
This teacher will be instrumental in helping your child implement their ADHD management strategies on a day to day basis. Their daily observations will also help you to determine if the current treatment plan is working well or needs to be tweaked.
The Special Education Team
It often surprises people that ADHD is not a learning disability. Some ADHD kids also have learning disabilities while many do not. (Learn more about ADHD and learning disabilities here). But, because symptoms of ADHD can make it difficult for children to thrive in a typical classroom, your child may qualify for an education plan. And it is often the special education team who will work with you to develop that plan.
It depends on the state that you live in what this will look like. There is the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan. These will include accommodations that are tailored to your child’s needs. It could include giving more time to complete tasks. Or tools to help reduce fidgeting.
Once the plan is in place, you may begin to notice that your child is doing really well in school. Their behavioral challenges are waning away and comprehension seems to be improving. You get all excited until…they get home and it all falls apart. I am here to tell you that that is normal and it is not your fault!
If you want to learn the truth about why your kid is good at school but not at home, I have a post for that too! Take heart parents many of us have similar experiences on a regular basis!
Your Personal Support System
You’ve gotten in touch with all the professionals. You have all worked together to establish a treatment plan. Everyone is feeling optimistic and excited to get started. And you will be able to ride that enthusiasm for awhile! But what happens when the honeymoon is over?
Enter your personal support systems! Whether it is family, friends, your church community, or an online support group, find the people who will listen and lift you up when things are feeling rough. These are the people who will truly celebrate your child’s wins.
But they are also the people who still show up when the struggles are real. You and your child both need these emotional support people in your lives. The team of professionals is definitely important. But your village is absolutely crucial! It is they who will be with you through all the highs, lows, and everything in between.
What to do when your Child is Diagnosed with ADHD
So let’s re-cap! Once your child is diagnosed with ADHD it is time to look for the helpers and assemble your team. Get in touch with the health professionals to establish a treatment plan. Then meet with the educational professionals and develop ways to set your child up for scholastic success.
Reach out to your emotional support people early and often. You and your sweet kiddo do not have to tackle this by yourselves! And above all (I should have mentioned this earlier, it is very important!) give yourself and your child grace.
This is a huge transition. And it will be a learning process. Neither of you is going to do it perfectly and that is totally ok! The important thing is that you will do it together. Celebrate all the little wins and learn from the scrapes along the way. And remember, you are the absolute perfect person to help your child. And help them you will!