If you or your child have been diagnosed with ADHD, you will want to make sure you get the best possible treatment. While your family physician may be able to help, their knowledge on ADHD may be limited or out of date. Therefore, it is usually more beneficial to visit an ADHD specialist.
In this article, we look at what an ADHD specialist is, and what sets them apart from other healthcare professionals. Here is all you need to know.
What is an ADHD Specialist?
If your primary care physician has given you or your child a diagnosis of ADHD, you may be wondering where to turn next. Or perhaps you suspect a diagnosis of ADHD but have not yet had it confirmed. In either case, you may find it helpful to visit an ADHD specialist.
People with ADHD often do well with medication, but they also benefit significantly from a more complete treatment plan. This treatment plan could include behavioral therapy, occupational therapy and educational support. These could be provided by different social and healthcare professionals, including:
- Family physician.
- Nurse practitioner.
- Occupational therapist.
- Social worker.
An ADHD specialist is a professional who has chosen to focus on treating people who are affected by ADHD. They will have undertaken extra training on ADHD and should be up to date with the latest research on the subject.
What Does an ADHD Specialist Do?
Diagnosing ADHD can be difficult, and treating it can be a complex process. An ADHD specialist will have attended workshops or completed courses on the subject, meaning they are well-equipped to help people deal with ADHD symptoms and treatment.
If you have not yet received an official diagnosis, an ADHD specialist can help. They may carry out a physical examination to rule out any other conditions as well as interviewing you and/or your child.
An ADHD specialist may ask you or your child about:
- Physical and emotional symptoms.
- When these symptoms started.
- When and where these symptoms happen (at home, school, work, etc.).
- How these symptoms are affecting day-to-day life.
- Any recent events that may have triggered these symptoms.
- Any other conditions or medication.
- Family history.
When you see an ADHD specialist for the first time, be sure to bring any relevant information along to your appointment. You may also want to bring a list of questions in case your mind goes blank in the moment.
Once your ADHD specialist has made a diagnosis, they may prescribe medication, therapy, or both. Most doctors agree that a combination of medication and therapy is most effective in the treatment of ADHD. However, if your child is under 6 years old and diagnosed with ADHD, they may be recommended therapy alone at first.
While there are different types of ADHD therapy, it's important to find one that fits your needs. Here's how to find a therapist for you.
How Can an ADHD Specialist Help?
Many different types of healthcare professionals may specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Each of these specialists can help in a slightly different way.
Your regular primary care doctor or pediatrician may be able to give you a diagnosis of ADHD. Since they are familiar with you and your medical history, it may be easier to get diagnosed by your family physician.
However, unless your regular doctor happens to be an expert in ADHD, you might receive more appropriate treatment elsewhere. Although your physician can prescribe medication, they cannot provide counseling or behavioral therapy, and you may have to be referred to another professional.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a special interest in mental health, while a psychologist is a healthcare professional with a qualification in psychology.
Both psychiatrists and psychologists may be able to give you a diagnosis of ADHD. However, only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, and only a psychologist is likely to offer counseling or behavioral therapy.
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in treating the brain and nervous system. They can refer you or your child for tests such as MRI scans and EEGs to rule out any nervous system disorders which may be mistaken for ADHD.
A nurse practitioner often works alongside a physician and may be able to make a diagnosis and prescribe medication. These healthcare professionals are often more affordable and convenient to visit than doctors or psychiatrists. However, it is important to find a nurse who is an ADHD specialist to guarantee the best possible care.
An occupational therapist can help you or your child to live with ADHD by teaching day-to-day coping skills. Coping skills could include things like organization and time management.
An occupational therapist cannot make a diagnosis or prescribe medication.
A social worker who is an ADHD specialist may be able to provide general support and counseling to their clients. They cannot make a diagnosis or prescribe medication.
How to Find an ADHD Specialist
You must find the right ADHD specialist for you. This means that not only should they be well-informed about diagnosing and treating ADHD, but also that you feel confident and comfortable in their presence.
Finding the right ADHD specialist can be a case of trial and error. You might need to try a few before you find one who you connect with. Try asking for recommendations at local support groups or online and conduct your own research as well.
Do not be afraid to ask an ADHD specialist about their skills and qualifications before booking an appointment. You might want to ask about:
- Their skills and training.
- How long they have been working with ADHD clients.
- What is involved in the initial assessment.
- What treatments they tend to recommend.
If you have a healthcare plan, check your provider’s website for a list of participating practitioners. Otherwise, you could check your local health department for more information. If, for any reason, you are unhappy with your current ADHD specialist, do not be afraid to move on.