ADHD & School Problems

If your child is having school problems--Experience counts

More than 28 years experience

Dr Briggs has more than 28 years experience in the evaluation and management of children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Maybe your child's teacher has expressed concerns, or you have concerns about how your child is doing in school. You may have read that many doctors are overdiagnosing ADHD and prescribing stimulant medications without doing a full evaluation. The last thing you want is for the doctor to spend 10 minutes with you and then hand you a prescription for medication. Not all school problems are ADHD. There is no simple test for ADHD--the diagnosis is based on clinical judgment. It is necessary to spend enough time to make a correct diagnosis and to counsel parents and children about treatment options. Clinical experience really does make a difference!

Doctors taking care of child health in Anchorage, AK

What is ADHD?

Approximately five per cent of children have a really hard time at school because of difficulty paying attention, sitting still, or controlling impulsive behavior.  We are not talking about a temporary problem related to stresses at home or at school. This is a “wired in” condition affecting the brain, and it causes kids to fall farther and farther behind as they progress from one grade to the next. By the time they reach middle school, many of these kids have low self- esteem and have already given up on school. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in these kids’ lives.

A child health doctor treating young boy in Anchorage, AK

How do we evalutate your child?

The first step is to do a complete health assessment and physical examination. This is to look for any specific health problems that might affect learning or behavior, such as sleep disorders, seizures, iron deficiency, and others. Next, the doctor will ask the parent, teachers, and (if old enough) the child to complete questionnaires or behavioral ratings about the problems the child is having. The doctor will go over these questionnaires with the parents and also interview the parents and child about how things are going at school and at home.

TOVA testing

The TOVA (Test of Variables of Attention) is a computerized test used for evaluating children and adults for attention problems. It can also be used to predict the response to medication. Dr. Briggs has been a “TOVA doctor” since the l980s. You can find more information about the TOVA at

Neurodevelopmental testing

Usually, we can make a diagnosis of ADHD from behavioral ratings and TOVA testing. When the diagnosis is still uncertain, the doctor may do a pediatric neurodevelopmental examination (PEEX2 or PEERAMID2). These are longer tests that look at learning skills, such as memory, language, and visual processing, as well as attention.

A doctor examining a child in Anchorage, AK

Quality treatment

An appropriate treatment program for ADHD should be 1) individualized for each patient, not just the same treatment for everybody; 2) based on facts, not myths and misinformation; 3) well-monitored, with reassessment and changes if the treatment is not working; and 4) consistent over time.

If a child is diagnosed with ADHD, just explaining or "demystifying" the condition can be very therapeutic. He or she may have experienced repeated criticism and blame, and going to the doctor may be seen as another putdown. The child or adolescent needs to be fully involved in treatment decisions.

Sometimes the doctor will identify other problems, such as depression or anxiety, which will need referral to a counselor, psychologist, or child psychiatrist. Learning disabilities or giftedness may also require referrals. Children may require evaluation at school for special education (IEP) or accomodations (such as a 504 plan).

For most children with ADHD, the most effective treatment is medication, most often a psychostimulant. However, the decision to start medication rests entirely with the patient and family. The doctor's role is to provide informed options.

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