7 Common Problems Encountered When Diagnosing ADHD in Children

One of the problems derived from a diagnosis of ADHD in children has to do with overmedication or with choosing medication as the only treatment. Learn about other problems in this article.
7 Common Problems Encountered When Diagnosing ADHD in Children

Last update: 01 September, 2022

Diagnoses often feel double-sided. On the one hand, they allow us to give a name to whatever’s happening that we don’t know how to explain. At the same time, they’re a starting point from which new paths open up that require other skills and techniques to address the problem that afflicts us. On the other hand, they present us with a series of challenges that make us realize that the matter’s not over. With all this in mind, let’s see what the most frequent problems in cases of ADHD in children are.

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What is attention deficit in children?

When we talk about attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity (ADHD) we’re referring to one of the most frequent diagnoses in childhood. Although the prevalence varies depending on the methodology used, it’s generally accepted that it’s present in 5% of the pediatric population, with a higher incidence in boys than in girls.

Although it’s still not possible to determine the cause of ADHD, we know it to be a multifactorial neurobiological disorder that produces some alterations in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is where the so-called executive functions are concentrated, which are those that allow us to maintain attention and concentration, appeal to memory, plan, make decisions, control impulses, and regulate emotions, among other issues.

Due to all the aspects of life that ADHD conditions, it’s important to reach an accurate and timely diagnosis in order to better accompany children. Both in their learning processes and in the rest of the activities of daily life.

The most frequent problems that arise when diagnosing ADHD in children

Any diagnosis that’s reached in a responsible manner triggers a series of questions. In turn, it gives rise to new and diverse emotions, challenges, and the inconvenience of implementing changes.

A mother taking a toy away from his son while he does his homework.
The diagnosis of ADHD in children clarifies the situation for parents but presents inconveniences and major challenges for the whole family.

1. Difficulty in making a decision about diagnosis

Sometimes, there are common characteristics among the different neurodevelopmental conditions that generate confusion when defining the diagnosis. In fact, many of the symptoms that are considered atypical at a certain time of life are actually to be expected until a certain age of development.

For both reasons, it’s important to apply a battery of diagnostic tests, ranging from interviews with the child, parents, and teachers, to vision and hearing tests or psychometric evaluations. This way, the definition of the child’s condition is clarified, and certain doubts about differential diagnoses are dispelled. Among the most common are behavioral disorders, learning disorders, and autism spectrum disorder, among others.

2- Overdiagnosis

There’s also a reality from which we can’t escape and that is the excess of ADHD diagnoses in children, even when they don’t meet the necessary criteria to define this condition. It should be noted that not every restless child is hyperactive and that the ability to sustain attention is a skill that matures progressively in little ones.

3- Emotional turmoil

Although knowing that our child has been diagnosed with ADHD provides a certain peace of mind compared to the uncertainty, it’s also true that it triggers some anxieties and fears. Will my child be able to lead a normal life? Will they be able to study or work in the future?

4- Overprotection

Once a family receives a diagnosis, especially if it’s a child, all the adults close to them tend to overprotect them. They’re so concerned about preventing them from suffering that they seek to preserve them in a kind of “glass box”.

However, at the end of the story, the self-fulfilling prophecy comes true: We protect them because we don’t want them to be excluded from the environment and suffer for that reason, but they end up isolated and affected by that very cause.

5- Difficulties with medication

When the treatment of ADHD in children includes medication, there may be some problems regarding adherence (or compliance) to this procedural strategy. This can occur for several reasons, either because the child doesn’t assimilate them well, because of the side effects they cause, or because there’s no family awareness.

On the other hand, sometimes the mistake is made of considering medication as the only way of approaching ADHD. Although important, it’s not enough. Patients with this diagnosis must attend therapies of various kinds to work on the necessary skills to fulfill their daily activities and tasks.

A mother and child laughing while he does his school work.
Accompanying and helping the child with ADHD is key. However, many times, neither parents nor teachers have the resources to be able to apply the necessary techniques.

6- Obstacles to accompanying the child

ADHD is a very widespread and studied condition. However, this doesn’t mean that parents or educators have sufficient resources to accompany the child in their development and learning processes. Therefore, when planning the approach, we must also think about the role of the family and the educational community and support them.

7- Impact on children

Receiving a diagnosis helps the child to cope with their condition. But it also has an impact on self-esteem, social “labels”, and the relationship with peers or teachers. We must be attentive to be able to be supportive and emotional support.

ADHD diagnoses are also a wake-up call to the adult world

Almost every time an issue involving children is addressed, it’s also important to look at the reality or the contributing factors in those who accompany their upbringing. This isn’t said with the intention of accusing or blaming anyone, but in order to accompany and provide the necessary tools to deal with the problem.

In this sense, it’s true that ADHD in children refers to a disorder with neurological bases. However, we can’t allow ourselves to think that we live in an environment where our daily rhythm, demands, consumption, and the way we handle ourselves in the world don’t have an impact. On the contrary, it influences and spreads. Therefore, many times we expect children to be able to pay attention to a traditional class and remain seated in a seat for hours or to arrive in good spirits at night after a day full of activities.

This is why a diagnosis of ADHD also implies a “stop” in the adult world. It invites us to reconnect with other rhythms, respect time, and understand that there are processes that require a “here and now”. We must be the first to self-regulate in order to teach our children to do so.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rodillo, B. E. (2015). Trastorno por déficit de atención e hiperactividad (TDAH) en adolescentes. Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes26(1), 52-59.
  • González, R., Liliana, B., & Rubiales, J. (2014). Estilos parentales en niños y niñas con TDAH. Revista Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Niñez y Juventud12(1), 141-158.
  • Pascual-Castroviejo, I. (2008). Trastornos por déficit de atención e hiperactividad (TDAH). Asociación Española de Pediatría y Sociedad Española de Neurología Pediátrica. Protocolos de Neurología12, 140-150.
  • García Peñas, J. J., & Domínguez Carral, J. (2014). ¿Existe un sobrediagnóstico del trastorno de déficit de atención e hiperactividad (TDAH)?

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.