Internist/Primary Care Doctor
Likely a pediatrician or family practice physician, this should be the first medical professional you turn to if you suspect your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He or she will first attempt to rule out any alternative diagnoses for your child’s symptoms. If your doctor believes that it is ADHD that is causing the symptoms, he or she may prescribe medication but cannot provide counseling/therapy to a patient with ADHD. Therefore, your doctor may refer you to a specialist who can further help your child overcome the debilitating symptoms of ADHD.
Psychologists are mental health professionals who can provide social-skills training and behavioral-modification therapy. A doctoral degree in psychology is usually required for private practice. Most states do not allow psychologists to prescribe any type of medication; however, as of 2009, two states--New Mexico and Louisiana--authorize licensed, board-certified psychologists who have completed a post-doctoral master's degree in clinical psychopharmcology and passed national examination to prescribe certain medications for the treatment of mental health disorders. Even if psychologists in your state cannot prescribe medication, they may be helpful in working with you and your child to overcome the symptoms of ADHD through other means. Psychologists may test your child’s IQ and use a series of other tests to determine emotional and social factors. If a psychologist determines that medication is necessary, he or she can refer you to a doctor who can issue the prescription.
Psychiatrists are mental health professionals who have the ability to diagnose ADHD, prescribe medication for it, and provide counseling/therapy to patients with ADHD. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have gone through medical school and have three additional years of training in treating mental health conditions. It is best to seek out a psychiatrist who has experience treating childhood mental disorders such as ADHD.
Social workers are mental health professionals who focus specifically on helping people cope with issues in their everyday lives. A social worker may observe your child in his or her natural surroundings in order to document mood swings and behavior patterns and then work with both you and your child to make changes that will help your child be more successful in social situations. Social workers who treat ADHD will have a master’s degree in social work but will most likely not have a medical degree and therefore cannot prescribe medication. If necessary, a social worker may refer you to a doctor who can issue the prescription.
Some children with ADHD have problems with speech and language and may need to be referred to a speech-language pathologist. A speech-language pathologist may work with your child’s teacher to change the classroom environment as needed to the child function better in class. A speech language pathologist may also help your child learn to communicate more effectively in specific social situations and work to help your child develop better planning, organization, and study skills.