When your child displays unusual behaviour, it can be really concerning and you will be understandably worried about your child’s well-being and future. Unlocking ADHD writer Jannah (an educational therapist) explains what you can do if you suspect your child has ADHD.
It is common for young children to be active. Thus, you may not detect signs of ADHD in your young ones until they enter childcare or kindergarten. Children’s symptoms (e.g. hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention) become more apparent when they are unable to participate fruitfully in daily classroom activities. These issues may prompt concerned teachers to contact the children’s parents.
If you are a parent who has been contacted by a teacher for a reason, you may be at a loss as to what to do next. Your child’s teachers may have recommended an assessment by a paediatrician, but you may require further information about the process.
What can you do if you suspect your child has ADHD?
To get a better understanding of how ADHD shows up in children, check out this article: “What ADHD looks like in children”. For a handy overview on getting your child through the local healthcare system, take a look at this article: “Who do I seek if I suspect I have ADHD?”
Consider getting professional advice from a hospital paediatrician. Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH) ’s Department of Child Development and the National University Hospital (NUH)’s Child Development Unit specialise in developmental and behavioural paediatrics. They are multi-disciplinary teams that comprise paediatricians, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, educational therapists and medical social workers. They typically see children from birth to 7 years of age.
To make an appointment, visit any polyclinic with your child and get a referral letter to your hospital of choice. Upon seeing a paediatrician at either of the aforementioned hospitals, they will assess your child and plan for the next steps. If a diagnosis is required, an appointment will be made with the department’s psychologist.
Therapy for children with ADHD symptoms
Children with ADHD symptoms will also benefit from therapeutic interventions, such as occupational therapy or educational therapy. A diagnosis is not necessary for a child to obtain therapy for their learning or behavioural needs. Sessions typically include caregivers so that they can apply the strategies with their children at home.
An occupational therapist can help with strategies to develop a child’s social skills, executive functioning, attention and concentration. A child with ADHD typically requires these strategies to cope with routine, build relationships and handle tasks that require focus.
A child is typically referred to an educational therapist when there are concerns about their learning development and their academic future. At KKH, the focus is on school readiness. Each child’s learning skills are assessed. Timely intervention is provided to maximise the narrow window of intervention before school entry. If you wish to learn more about selecting the right school for your child, this article contains valuable insight from parents who have gone through a similar journey.
Speech therapists are recommended for children who have difficulties with speaking, language or swallowing. Children with ADHD are not required to see a speech therapist unless they display the above difficulties.
Children who require long-term intervention will be referred to appropriate community services.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
Child psychologists typically provide psychological assessments to make a diagnosis and provide psychological therapy. The main difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is that a child can only get medication with the latter. Children with ADHD symptoms are recommended to go through therapy to manage their symptoms. Medication may be considered if they are still struggling to manage their symptoms. If you have mixed feelings about medication, check out this article: “Should I or Should I Not Medicate My Child?”
If you feel that medications are required, discuss this with your child’s paediatrician for a recommendation. While medication can help with some of the ADHD symptoms, it is still important to apply strategies learned from the therapy sessions at the same time.