When a parent first notices that ADHD may be a possibility, or that their child is acting hyper, inattentive, and slightly irrational, their first stop is typically their pediatrician’s office. In almost all cases of ADHD, a pediatrician can diagnose, treat, and oversee the care of a child with ADHD. They can prescribe medications, suggest environment and diet changes, and even help parents come up with a way to correct problem situations with positive reinforcement. However, there are times when a pediatrician may need to refer a family to a specialist who can provide more in depth treatment options.

ADHD is a complex disorder. It is characterized by impulsive actions and the inability to pay attention. ADHD is thought to be a chemical imbalance that affects the areas of the brain that control the attention span. Even though many children who have ADHD will live a perfectly normal life with minimal treatment, it may be necessary to seek help beyond the scope of a pediatrician at various times, the child’s pediatrician will let you know when.

Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint the exact dosage or type of medication that will be most effective in a child. This is because each child is different, their body responds differently to medication, and their body grows and changes very rapidly. While pediatricians are specially educated and trained to provide a full-range of health care services to children, one single person cannot know the answer to every question, especially when it comes to matters that are as intricate as the human mind. When the mediation options that are available to pediatricians are not effective, they must refer the family to a mental health professional.

Parents may feel insulted or even ashamed when they are referred to a child psychologist for further treatment. They feel as though they, or their pediatrician, failed somewhere along the line, this is absolutely not true!  The human mind is a very in-depth subject that sometimes requires a specialist to sort out, especially in the earlier years of life. A child’s mind is constantly changing and they do not fully understand their emotions, which can cause a lot of confusion when it comes to medicating them for chemical imbalances.

A child psychologist can help sort out behaviors that are typical of ADHD, and those that are not. Sometimes, typical ADHD treatments fail because there is an underlying condition that cannot be seen until the ADHD is under control. Children with ADHD could have underlying anxiety, OCD, oppositional defiance disorder, or learning disabilities which are making treatment more difficult.  Each of the possible underlying disorders can also contribute to making a child with ADHD feel more out of control, and can counteract the typical stimulants that are given as treatment. A child psychologist is specially educated and trained to find the dividing line in these disorders and to treat them independently.

A child psychologist is able to work alongside their pediatrician and the family to ensure that the child is getting the best care available in a unified way.

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