Which professional should be treating ADHD/ ADD?
Children and adolescents with attention difficulties are often first identified by either parents or the teacher who works with them daily. When they are referred there is a variety of medical professionals and specialists who can be consulted. Who should you consult for treatment?
- The Family Doctor
Your family doctor is responsible for your overall health care. Some doctors have taken additional courses to learn more about ADHD and are qualified to treat ADHD. Others offer only basic care and refer you to a specialist for further ADHD treatment. There has to be a word of caution, ADHD/ADD should be monitored regularly and doctors who prescribe medication without monitoring it regularly and only refilling the script is not ideal.
- The Developmental Pediatrician
If your child has developmental challenges they are often referred to a developmental Pediatrician. This doctor will examine whether there is anything unusual about the child’s development. They will examine the nervous system, noting physical strength and coordination as well as behaviour, social responsiveness and speech.
- The (Pediatric) Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who received specialized training in diagnosing and treating emotional disorders, such as ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. Psychiatrists understand the complex relationship between physical and emotional disorders and work with the client to create a treatment plan that is best suited to each person. They prescribe medication which is monitored on a 6 monthly basis. They monitor things like growth (height/weight) and hormonal changes which all have an impact on the dosage of the medication.
- The Educational Psychologist
An Educational Psychologist is an expert in child and adolescent development and learning. They can do assessments which identify the reasons for the difficulties experienced and give guidance to parents and teachers on how to manage ADHD/ADD more effectively at home and school. They also make recommendations about school placement. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication but can diagnose ADHD.
- The Counselor
Counselors give advice to parents in how to manage ADHD/ADD. Most will refer clients to a psychologist or psychiatrist for assessment and further treatment. They cannot prescribe medication.
- The Neurologist
A Neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in disorders of the brain and nervous system. While neurologists may play a role in the diagnostic process, such as testing for or treating a coexisting disorders like epilepsy and seizures or Tourette’s syndrome, they do not normally diagnose mental and emotional disorders. They can make recommendations about medication and overall care of the client.
- The Occupational Therapist
The Occupational Therapist (OT) assesses the child’s ability to use muscles, like those of the hand or face. Dysgraphia (poor handwriting) as well as writing speed is problems for many children with ADHD that an OT addresses. The OT will also look at the child’s sensitivity to sensory stimulation for example a child who cannot sit still in class or have the tag on the neck of their shirt rubbing against the skin which causes irritation. Some are also trained in Integrated Learning Therapy which uses the body movements to make connections in the brain which might be lacking in their development.