This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their diagnosing and treatment guidelines for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This update makes pediatricians’ guidelines more in line with the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in the DSM 5 (the manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists for diagnosing). Pediatricians now recognize that ADHD symptoms may be more obvious in later childhood, so the criterion on age of first symptoms has been extended from age 7 to age 12. Additionally, they now recognize that older adolescents and adults may present with different or fewer ADHD symptoms.
Another important addition to the guidelines was the recognition of issues that can occur with ADHD or even falsely look like ADHD. The AAP acknowledges that there can be other causes for symptoms such as inattention or difficulty concentrating, and teasing out the specifics of a child’s symptoms and other life factors is a crucial part of diagnosis. As mentioned, there is increased awareness of the common challenges that can co-occur with ADHD, including anxiety, depression, autism, and substance use.
With regard to treatment, the AAP recognized the need for collaboration across areas of a child’s life, including doctors, school, home, and the community. They also added an emphasis on parent training for behavior management as the primary treatment method for preschoolers and other young children. They specified that behavior management should include both positive reinforcement (praising good behavior) and punishment for problematic behavior. Behavior management without acknowledgement of the positive is likely to be ineffective.