When working with children you often come across the usage and misusage of diagnosis. Today, children as young as three are being given stimulant medication for behaviors and symptoms that are consistent with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) however these children have not been properly tested or evaluated. When children and youth suffer from ADHD they have problems paying attention, staying focused on certain tasks, they become easily distracted and they may struggle with controlling their energy level and behavior. However, the possibility exists that these symptoms and behaviors could be attributed to something else.
Before jumping to any mental health diagnosis it is imperative to explore all other possibilities. Often times a child has a learning disability that is impairing their ability to understand the material given to them in school. Also, the child could be overcoming some form of trauma. Research shows, that many times a child who has experienced some type of trauma will be misdiagnosis with ADHD. You may be asking yourself how this happens and the answer is because reactions to trauma in children commonly look like ADHD. Think of it like this, if you are going through something stressful and overwhelming will you be able to focus? If you have bad memories constantly coming back to haunt you be motivated to complete a school assignment? The likelihood that the answer to both is no is quite high.
During times where we unsure what the next step is to approach a possible mental health issue with a child, we suggest that you consider psychological testing. It might be helpful to think of psychological testing and assessment as being similar to medical tests. If you or your loved one has worrisome physical symptoms, you will likely seek the help of your primary care provider. Then a primary care provider may order things like X-rays or blood tests to gain a deeper understanding of what might be causing those physical symptoms. Based on the test result you and your primary care provider may come up with a plan to treat the health issue. Psychological evaluations serve the same purpose. Psychologists use tests and other assessment tools to measure and observe a client’s behavior to arrive at a diagnosis and guide treatment.
Psychologists administer tests and assessments for a wide variety of reasons. Children who are experiencing difficulty in school, for example, may undergo testing to see what may be creating the challenges being experienced at school.