(WGEM) - Restlessness, being disruptive in class, and slipping report cards.
All of these are symptoms most commonly associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD.
But they are also common symptoms for dozens of other conditions or disorders.
How do you know if it's ADHD, and how do you know how to treat it? It's a question many parents struggle with it and we're here to provide some information that might be helpful in making that decision.
The Center For Disease Control (CDC) reports that around 5 million school age kids are diagnosed with ADHD every year, and those numbers have climbed over the last decade.
Psychiatrists say they know more about diagnosing this behavioral disorder than ever before, but because the symptoms are so similar to other conditions, it's a challenge even for them.
Darla Gaus teaches special education in the Canton school district. She says she's seeing more students diagnosed with behavioral disabilities than ever before.
"But just a whole wide range of ADHD and some of the more severe disabilities," Gaus said.
Gaus' classroom is set up with a specific focus on the students.
"I think the two most important things are one is structure and consistency. We have a program, we have a structured time for everything, we don't change things up if it's working."
So how are students diagnosed with ADHD? Lanny Stiles, a Child Psychiatrist with Blessing Behavioral Center, says there is no medical test. He says it comes down to an extensive observation by parents, teachers and doctors.
Once diagnosed, parents and doctors have to settle on a treatment plan. In many cases, they choose drugs like Ritalin and Adderall.
"Medication is usually the first and most effective method of choice for ADHD," Stiles said.
But some experts say too many kids are overmedicated. A Michigan State University study suggests around 1 million kids are misdiagnosed each year in the United States.
"I certainly could see how there could be some kids that are overmedicated or are medicated with the wrong prescriptions," Chris McCormick-Pries, a Nurse Practitioner from Davenport, Iowa, said.
McCormick-Pries recently lectured at an ADHD seminar at Western Illinois University. Her son was also diagnosed with ADHD. But she says sometimes a child's behavior isn't what it seems.
"Anxiety disorders very often mimic symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, children who are asthmatic and are on bronchial dilators or theopholin or they're on steroids," McCormick-Pries said. "They often present, looking like they have ADHD."
McCormick-Pries says if a child is misdiagnosed, ADHD medication could cause even more problems. Evaluations must be extremely comprehensive.
"You're always asking yourself what else is going on? Have I missed something?" McCormick-Pries said.
In Canton, Gaus says students in her classroom are on the road to success. And, once properly diagnosed and treated, there's no reason ADHD should hold anyone back in life.
"Just letting a student know, this is what I expect," Gaus said.
McCormick-Pries says without proper treatment, ADHD can lead to issues in adulthood, such as depression and substance abuse.
Coming up Friday on WGEM News Today, we'll talk to a national expert about what other behavioral therapies can work alongside medication to help children improve their skills at school.
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