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Assess Your Child's ADHD Symptoms and Choose a Specialist

Choosing a specialist to treat ADHD

If your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they may face challenges that include problems in school and social situations. That’s why comprehensive treatment is key.

Your child’s doctor may encourage them to see a variety of pediatric, mental health, and education specialists.

Learn about some of the specialists that can help your child manage ADHD.

Primary care doctor

If you suspect your child has ADHD, make an appointment with their primary care doctor. This doctor may be a general practitioner (GP) or pediatrician.

If your child’s doctor diagnoses them with ADHD, they may prescribe medication. They may also refer your child to a mental health specialist, like a psychologist or psychiatrist. These specialists can provide your child with counseling and help them manage their symptoms by developing coping strategies.

Psychologist

A psychologist is a mental health professional who has a degree in psychology. They provide social skills training and behavior modification therapy. They can help your child understand and manage their symptoms and test their IQ.

In some states, psychologists are able to prescribe medications for treating ADHD. If the psychologist practices in a state where they cannot prescribe, they can refer your child to a doctor who can evaluate whether your child needs medication.

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has training in treating mental health conditions. They can help diagnose ADHD, prescribe medication, and provide your child with counseling or therapy. It’s best to seek out a psychiatrist who has experience treating children.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners

A psychiatric nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has advanced training at the masters or doctoral level. And they are certified and licensed by the state in which they practice.

They can provide a medical diagnosis and other therapeutic interventions. And they can prescribe medication.

Nurse practitioners who are licensed and certified in the area of mental health are able to diagnose ADHD and can prescribe medications to treat this condition.

Social worker

A social worker is a professional who has a degree in social work. They can help your child cope with challenges in daily life. For example, they may assess your child’s behavior patterns and mood. Then they can help them develop coping strategies to manage their condition and be more successful in social situations.

Social workers don’t prescribe medication. But they may refer your child to a doctor who can issue a prescription.

Speech-language pathologist

Some children with ADHD have challenges with speech and language development. If this is the case for your child, they may be referred to a speech-language pathologist who can help your child learn to communicate more effectively in social situations.

A speech-language pathologist may also help your child develop better planning, organization, and study skills. And they may work with your child’s teacher to help your child succeed in school.

How to find the right specialist

It’s important to find a specialist that you and your child feel comfortable around. It might take some research and trial and error before you find the right person.

To get started, ask your child’s primary care doctor for specialists they would recommend. You can also talk to other parents of children with ADHD, or ask your child’s teacher or school nurse for recommendations.

Next, call your health insurance company to learn if the specialists you have in mind are in their network of coverage. If not, ask your insurance company if they have a list of in-network specialists for your area.

Then, call your prospective specialist and ask them about their practice. For example, ask them:

  • how much experience they have working with children and treating ADHD
  • what their preferred methods for treating ADHD are
  • what the process for making appointments involves

You might need to try a few different specialists before you find the right fit. You need to find someone that you and your child can trust and talk with openly. If your child starts to see a specialist and struggles to develop a trusting relationship with them, you can always try another.

As a parent of a child with ADHD, you may also benefit from seeing a mental health specialist. If you’re experiencing symptoms of chronic stress, anxiety, or other concerns, talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other specialist for treatment.

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