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Should my kindergartner be tested for ADHD?
Q: Since the third day of kindergarten my son’s teacher has insisted that I have him tested for ADHD. I know it is sometimes hereditary, and I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. My son’s pediatrician is aware of my concern and says he doesn’t want him tested because he feels he doesn’t have ADHD but has a very high IQ. For the last three weeks my son has lost privileges at school for failing to stay in his seat or raise his hand when answering questions. But he answers the questions correctly and always gets his work done on time – which, by the way, is material he mastered in preschool. How long do I wait before I insist that my pediatrician have him tested, or is my son just adjusting to kindergarten? I don’t have a problem with him not staying in his seat at home.
A: I would like to tell you to take him out of that school, but the teacher at the next school might be just as obsessed with ADHD.

I am sure you know that ADHD is called the designer diagnosis because it is so popular—almost a status designation. Furthermore, what type of treatment, if any, should be given is hotly debated. For years the drug of choice was Ritalin—paradoxically a stimulant when used with adults—but there are now several major competitors on the market, mainly Adderall, Concerta and Strattera.

The reported incidence of the condition has risen sharply over the past 25 years, from 3 to 4 percent of children to 10 to 15 percent. Whether this represents a true increase in the disorder or a greater awareness of the label and less tolerance of disruptive behaviour cannot really be determined. Long-term effects of medication for ADHD are not really known, and I remain on the side of those who urge restraint in its use.

Now, as to what to say to your son’s teacher, I would firmly tell her that his pediatrician evaluated your son for ADHD, concluded that he does not have it and doesn’t deem further testing necessary.

(Perhaps your pediatrician would write a letter to that effect to your son’s teacher or principal.) Explain that you don’t want to go against your doctor’s advice and seek an outside opinion at this time.

In a non-threatening way mention that your pediatrician implied that your son wasn’t getting enough stimulation in school (never say that the doctor thinks he had a high IQ) and that this may be one reason he doesn’t stay in his seat. Try to have this discussion during a parent-teacher conference; avoid appearing belligerent and seeming to put down the teacher’s opinion. Let her know that the behaviour she is concerned about doesn’t occur at home, and ask her to suggest ways you can help him follow school rules. Then, at home with your son, discuss the importance of listening to his teacher, paying close attention when she gives instructions and remembering to raise his hand when he wants to speak. Even though these rules make his classroom sound more like first grade than kindergarten, help your child learn that he should behave the way the teacher wants him to.