My eight year old son was diagnosed as moderately ADHD last spring, following developmental evaluations by a psychologist. We opted not to use medication at the time and have been researching neurofeedback as a natural form of treatment.
During the school year, things went well overall. He makes good grades and as long as we pay attention to his sleep requirements, we were reassured about his behavior.
Since school has been out, however, some behaviors have returned and/or worsened:
(1) He makes this almost constant noise in his throat. (this had disappeared)
(2) He says "I love you" throughout the day, and will repeat it until he is answered "I love you too." (this had lessened)
(3) He scratches his rear and then sniffs his fingers. (this is new)
(4) His impulsivity has worsened, along with anger issues returning, so we began a very low dose of the nonstimulant, Intuniv. We have seen some improvement in the hyperactivity, impulsivity, and anger, as well as a lessening of the behaviors listed above. The behavior is more tolerable, but the issues are still there.
Our overall concern is what is causing these behaviors in the first place? It seems like more than ADHD, but how can we know? Are there tests for OCD, Autism Spectrum, Sensory/Processing disorders?
Some behaviors from younger times: screaming, sensitivity to noise and light, needing background noise for concentration, no interest in creative play or picture books until age 3, clothing and dressing issues, tiptoe walker and arm flapping when much younger.
The diagnoses you mention are all given based on observation of behavior. So, there are assessments, but they involve observation of the individual rather than any sort of test for an underlying physiological cause, or anything of that sort. ADHD is, in fact, diagnosed the same way. While medication can be effective in decreasing hyperactivity, it can be hard to predict which, specific, behaviors will be affected. This is part of why the recommendation, typically, is to include behavioral interventions rather than to use medication alone. The list of behaviors you describe can all be treated behaviorally, and I recommend you seek a behavior therapist or Board Certified Behavior Analyst to help with those specifically. Some of the behaviors and types of perseveration are common in individuals with autism diagnoses, and I would consider having him specifically assessed for an autism-spectrum disorder (ASD). OCD is another diagnosis made based on observations of behavior. This may, or may not be appropriate for your son, but, again, having him assessed would be a good idea. As far as sensory processing disorders, I am familiar with these, have researched them extensively, and have worked with a number of children whose parents had concerns about them. In actuality, there is no conclusive evidence that these exist, or that treatments based on the assumption that they do are effective. I’ve also been able to effectively treat all of those children without any sort of intervention in place for possible sensory processing issues, so I can’t ethically recommend that you invest much time pursuing that angle.
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