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Is It Bad Behavior...Or ADHD? Print E-mail
Written by Brittany Gatson, BDO Staff Writer   
Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Image(BlackDoctor.org) -- Some children are always out of control. Sometimes it's naughty behavior, sometimes it's the result of poor parenting, but sometimes out-of-control behavior is caused by a mental health disorder known as ADHD.
ADHD Symptoms
While bad behavior often accompanies other symptoms of ADHD, bad behavior in isolation is not ADHD. Children with ADHD simply cannot contain their impulses and active behavior like other kids, and these symptoms sometimes resemble bad behavior:
1. Inattention -- daydreaming, lack of organization, inability to start or stick with routine tasks
2. Impulsivity -- saying and doing things that are inappropriate (interrupting, being disruptive) on a regular basis
3. Hyperactivity -- fidgeting, needing to move around, talking excessively
Distinguishing ADHD from bad behavior can be difficult because not only do the symptoms resemble bad behavior, but they can also lead to bad behavior.

Step Back and Observe

Parents should begin observation of their child's behavior first. To tell the difference between bad behavior and ADHD, observe behavior over time and in different situations such as at home, at school, at a park, at the movies, and at the dinner table. If the behaviors persist over six months and across settings, it could be ADHD. 

But it's important to note that there are 18 criteria for a professional ADHD diagnosis, and none of them are about bad behavior. The most common reason for bad behavior in school is a learning style mismatch between the teacher and the student. 70 percent of those labeled with ADHD are misdiagnosed. If your child is able to follow directions and stay on task at home but not at school, then the issue is the school environment, not the child.
Misbehavior can look an awful lot like ADHD, and a great number of ADHD diagnoses are based on questioning parents and teachers. There is too much over-diagnosing of children with a label of ADHD. But be careful when observing very young children. It's difficult to determine if behavior has an underlying cause, especially with a child under the age of 7. Very young children, particularly boys, have immature nervous systems and can often present as if they have ADHD.
Address the Behavior
ADHD is not an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Parents must establish firm boundaries while also showing understanding for the child's challenges.The issue isn't whether it's bad behavior or ADHD but rather how to teach the child to modify inappropriate behavior. ADHD is a catchall diagnosis that is often contained within other issues. Teach your child to recognize unacceptable behavior and modify it.
Consult a Professional
Not everyone who exhibits hyperactive, impulsive, or inattentive traits has ADHD, so how is a diagnosis made? It is important that a child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis by a qualified professional. Since ADHD has a strong genetic link and tends to run in families, the doctor will need the child’s complete medical history.
To rule out other medical problems, hearing and vision problems should also be considered, as they could contribute to similar behaviors.
If ADHD is suspected, a specialist should be consulted for a formal diagnosis. Developmental/behavioral pediatricians, clinical social workers, behavioral neurologists, child psychiatrists, and psychologists are qualified to diagnose ADHD.
These steps are recommended:
 •  Talk to your child’s pediatrician
•  Make an appointment with a child psychiatrist to review specific ADHD symptoms
•  Request a neuro-psychologial evaluation (from school, a mental health clinic, or private psychologist)
•  A good evaluation will look not just at the possibility of ADHD but also possible learning disabilities that may make a child’s behavior look like ADHD.


Comments (3)add
written by Rhonda K Hicks , April 21, 2011
Great article. I have experienced this and it really is good to be able to identify the difference. Once I noticed something different I quickly scheduled an appointment with the IEP team at school and scheduled and appointment with the doctor. It also helps when the teachers know of this type of diagnosis so they will not put students on the bad behavior list.
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written by Mitch Mitchell , April 21, 2011
Man, I hope this doesn't come across as negative, but it's just incredible that so many children are diagnosed with ADHD these days. I mean, we had kids acting up back in the day as well, and there was always that one kid that acted out more than the others. But it was just that one, not lots of kids.

So many kids, and also adults, are diagnosed with this, or at least many say they have it, and sometimes it sounds like an excuse for bad behavior. I don't doubt that there are some kids and adults that need help but am I the only one that thinks the numbers are skewed?
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written by Roger Madison Jr. , April 25, 2011
This is a very complex diagnosis, as the article reveals. I worry that many kids may be misdiagnosed. It is easy to reflect on the past, and the ways many of our communities and relatives have us to manage children's behavior. However, it also seems that medicating so many kids is a convenient cop out that may have longer term negative effects.

I hope that sharing this article helps to inject some caution into the decisions that parents make when dealing with behavioral issues with young children.
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