Many ADHD Children Misdiagnosed at Start of School


The start of school is unfortunately the most common time many behavior-problem kids suspected of having ADHD are misdiagnosed as children with ADHD.

Why is it often the case that misdiagnosis of ADHD occurs at the start of the school year?

Parents are in a rush to get their kids ready for school and hopefully prepare them for a successful academic year-including better grades and an improved behavior. Unfortunately, the rush happens because most of us tend to put-it-off until the last minute-we fail to follow through on our plans.

One mom explained it to me last week: “We’ve been too busy over the summer with vacations, cook-outs, birthday parties, baseball, swimming, and you know-all that summer stuff-to worry about his behavior and grades.”

She went on to add: “And you know something? His behavior got a lot better as soon as school was out…and there just wasn’t a rush to do something about his grades. I thought we’d let his teacher deal with those in the new school year. I just need you to put him back on his medications, so the teacher won’t be calling me every two or three days.”

Are parents the only ones to rush through things at the start of a new school year?

Teachers are many times in a rush during the first two or three weeks of class and will ask parents to have a child evaluated and treated for ADHD before getting a good picture of what the child’s behavior and learning skills is really like.

We all have known normal children that had a difficult time making transitions from one school to another or even from one grade to another. It usually took these kids a couple of weeks to settle in and get used to all of the new and sometimes frightening and intimidating experiences.

I know from my mom’s and sister’s years of teaching how important it is for a teacher to “get a handle on” his or her class as soon as possible after the start of the school year…but getting in a rush to label a child as ADHD may cause more harm than good for both the mislabeled child and the other kids in the classroom. (Both gifted and talented kids and children with ADHD can enrich the learning experiences of every other child in their class!)

And regrettably, all of these pressures might cause the child’s ADHD doctor to rush-to rush through the child’s evaluation and diagnostic work-up-to rush through getting an adequate picture of the child’s behavior-and to rush to put him or her on ADHD stimulants.

I call it the “rush to label syndrome”. It seems like as a society, we just can’t live without applying a label to everything, everybody and every occurrence.

It’s during this “rush to label” that many children with behavior problems, gifted and talented children and even normal children who just have discipline problems will be poorly evaluated and ultimately misdiagnosed as ADHD.

The topic of my next post:

What parents and teachers can do to protect children with learning and behavior problems from being misdiagnosed as ADHD at the start of the school year.

Dr. Frank

Thought you might like to take a look at these recent articles:

School support for ADHD children may be missing the mark

Are the numbers of students with ADHD changing?

8 possible causes of 'Behavioral problems at school'

Poor Hand Writing May Cause ADHD Misdiagnosis in Children

ADHD Expert-How do you know when you need one?

The Creative Brain and ADHD Misdiagnosis


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