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WWL: Understanding ADHD
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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In this episode:

The CDC estimates 3 to 7% of school aged children suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


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49:01 minutes (23.53 MB)
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In Connecticut, about 7% of school-aged children have been diagnosed. These children often experience challenges in controlling their behavior and remaining focused.

As our recent program about “The Spirited Child” pointed out – there are many reasons why children might be hyperactive – or inattentive – that have nothing to do with this disorder.

But, early diagnosis of ADHD can get children on a path of medication that can help.

Today, Where We Live, we’ll explore new research on ADHD from Hartford Hospital – and we’ll talk about the challenges these young people are having transitioning to college.

*Please Note: This program originally aired on May 13, 2009.

Related Content:

Testing for older persons

I am 55 and have know that I "learn differently". I have had difficutly reading and with math. School has always been difficult for me, althought I did complete my B S degree, Printing Management from RIT at the age of 32. I would like to be tested or "studied" if you will. Are there programs or stuidies that I could be involved in?

I understand the obvious importance of the identification and treatment of this problem in our youth. But to me this has been a life long issue that I would like to know more about.

Testing for older persons

With respect to adult ADHD evaluations, I often refer people to my colleague, Dr. Richard Kaplan, who is s neuropsychologist who runs an outpatient assessment service at the UConn Health Center where I also worked for a few years.  Neuropsychological assessment is really just lengthy, detailed assessment of different cognitive abilities using paper-and-pencil or computerized testing.  Such testing isn't necessary for ADHD evaluation, because ADHD is a clinically-defined disorder.  However, coupled with a detailed psychological history, many adults who are seeking information about ADHD in themselves often benefit from a detailed assessment of their own cognitive strengths and weaknesses.  Very often, those weaknesses are 'characteristic' of many folks who have ADHD, which is an indirect way of confirming the types of ADHD-related impairments that you might be curious about.  Take a look a the UConn Department of Psychiatry webpage, at www.uchc.edu.  Most insurance will pay for a the interview, and some portion of the testing involved.  There could be some out-of-pocket expense.

Listener email from Christine

I have a daughter who is in third grade and I strongly suspect that she suffers from ADHD.  I took her to our pediatrician and she gave me a questionnaire for my husband and me to fill out as well as one for her teacher.  School had only been in session for about 2 months at the time and the teacher's assessment reflected a very different child than we have at home.  The pediatrician said that the child has to have the same behavior in school as at home but her report cards/conferences have absolutely shown that she struggles in areas that require attention to detail and organization.  Behaviorally, she can somewhat contain herself in social situations but at home, she is still climbing on the furniture.  She is nine.  She had a terrible time focusing and remembering things and she has been climbing on things since she was 6 months old.  My fear is that she is not going to be diagnosed and 3rd grade is going to be the end of the road for her.  I heard a caller say that her son was 31 and had been diagnosed since 2nd grade and that he now holds a master's degree.  I worry that without intervention/treatment, she won't even make it through high school.  Is there any other avenue that I can take to get her evaluated again?

Second Assessment

I agree with this.  Many pediatricians are extremely knowledgeable about ADHD, but then again, most pediatricians have 'broad-based' knowledge, not the specialized knowledge in ADHD or other mental health disorders that can be offered by a psychiatrist or psychologist.  Also keep in mind that the criterion that the symptoms have to occur in multiple settings, while true, is not concrete or absolute.  In your posting, you describe your child climbing all over the furniture at home.  This might not happen in school, but a detailed interview/assessment might reveal comparable problems with hyperactivity/restlessness that do occur in the classroom setting.  Again, just shows that sometimes you need an assessment more in depth than can be provided by pediatrician well visits/annual checkups.

One first step is to ask your school whether they can conduct an evaluation by the school psychologist.  Other options involve locating a private practioner.  Again, even specialists in mental health have greater/lesser expertise with different topics.  So, it's Ok to shop around and ask whether any person you're considering has experience working with ADHD with early school age kids.


I have both an observation and suggestion for you. My daughter, who is now in 8th grade, was diagnosed with ADHD in 1st grade and when I sought treatment for her, I was also diagnosed with ADHD. There is said to be a substantial hereditary link in ADHD.

The observation: Many teachers and physicians are wary of the potential liability associated with a diagnosis that is both controversial and associated with DEA controlled medications. Also, there is a federal law that requires the school to provide accommodations that may incur additional cost or extra time on the part of the school and the school system will usually resist having that door opened (Google "Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973" for more information since ADHD is considered a learning disability under that law).

The suggestion: You are much more in touch with your child than your pediatrician is. You are not only entitled to a second opinion...your child deserves a second opinion. If your health insurance has mental health coverage, I highly recommend seeking an opinion from a psychiatrist who is qualified to determine if your child has ADHD or possibly some other challenge that creates these behaviors and/or symptoms.

Good luck and don't give up! Your daughter is counting on you to fight for her!!!


My son is 5 and he has just been labelled with ADHD heading into Kindegarten in Sept in order for him to start receiving services at school.  He was observed in Pre-K for over a year and this was the result.

I am overwhelmed with information that is out there and what to do next as a parent.  Are there any first steps that should be done now to help with this confirmation?  And with ADHD being such a broad term, how do I determine exactly what my son's core issues are so we can address them?


Overwhelmed with info is right!  There's actually way too much out there.  This will sound like hokey advice, but you honestly just need to take it slow.  Start with your doctor/school system and digest what information they give you.  Next, peruse the umpteen-thousand books available at the local bookstore.  Pick 1 or at most 2 of the books that meet your need for level of detail or type of information.  One caveat - steer away from the more radical theories of ADHD.  What will benefit you the most are sources of information that cover several key things.  1) What is the disorder, exactly.  2) How is the disorder treated?  and 3) What do you, as a parent, need to know about raising a kid who is diagnosed with ADHD.  

Remember you have time to figure this out.  There is absolutely nothing that you're going to do 'wrong' as a parent if you don't fully understand everything within the next few weeks.  Moreover, as with any kid, just as you think you've got a handle on what's going on, they'll up and change the rules for you!  Kindergarten turns into grade school... Grade school to middle/high school, etc. You get new challenges -- different peer relationships, different academic challenges, etc.  As with any parent, we just try to do the best we can, always seeking the best information and advice we can get.  Always be on the lookout for new information, and work as closely as is feasible with any resources you'll find you have available from your family, schools, friends, or support groups.