ADHD is a complex disorder, and treating it is also complex. When a child has ADHD, many people need to come together to ensure that she has coordinated care.
The core ADHD team is made up of:
- your child's teacher
- your child's doctor
The ADHD team may also include:
- nurses (clinical nurses monitor medications)
- medical specialists, such as a child psychiatrist
- other health professionals, such as pharmacists and social workers
- special education teachers or resource teachers
- other school resources, such as guidance counsellors
Parents have several roles in helping their child with ADHD:
- Parents advocate for their child. This includes noticing early signs of ADHD, getting a proper evaluation, seeing that a treatment plan is in place, and monitoring their child’s progress.
- Parents also help their child learn to manage her behaviour. ADHD affects many aspects of a child's life. Although medication treats some of the symptoms, children with ADHD often need extra support. Parents can create a supportive, structured environment and help their child cope with school, homework, and social interaction.
- Finally, parents are the most important source of support, comfort, and security for their children. Children with ADHD often face a lot of criticism and disappointment. If a child with ADHD is made to feel confident and worthy, she will be in a better position to cope with the challenges she faces.
Teachers and other school resources
The terms used for various school and learning resources may be different depending on where you live. These are some of the people you can expect to help your child at school:
Your child's classroom teacher has the most contact with your child during the school day. Teachers are often the first to notice that students are having behaviour and learning problems. Your child's teacher can provide information that will help with the diagnosis of ADHD. After the diagnosis is made, the teacher can help to monitor treatment and support the child in the classroom.
Special education teacher or resource teacher
If your child has a learning disability as well as ADHD, a special education teacher (also known as a resource teacher) may become involved. This teacher:
- helps children who have learning disabilities with basic skills instruction
- helps general teachers adapt course materials and teaching techniques for students with learning disabilities
- sees that students are given special accommodations or adaptations when needed, such as having test questions read out loud (if appropriate) or lengthening the time allowed for taking tests
- helps to develop the individualized education plan (IEP) or individual program plan (IPP) for students with learning disabilities
School reading or math specialist or resource teacher
These are teachers with expertise in learning disabilities or special education. This teacher:
- organizes and evaluates the reading and math curricula
- tests students to determine whether or not they have a learning disability
- provides remedial assistance to help students with reading or math
Guidance counsellors specialize in helping students and families with problems that affect children’s learning. Guidance counsellors can:
- help families connect with support services or other community resources
- help students choose courses and careers
- help students deal with problems at home and at school
Physicians and other health care professionals
A family physician, paediatrician, or child psychiatrist will be involved in diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication. This may be your child's regular doctor or another physician.
In Canada, in addition to an undergraduate degree and four years of medical school, a physician must complete at least a two-year residency. He or she must also pass a board exam in order to earn a licence.
A family physician gives primary care to all members of the family. This includes:
- preventive care, such as immunizations
- diagnosis and treatment of illness
- if necessary, referring a patient to one or more specialists and coordinating the patient's care
Family physicians usually work in the community, rather than in a hospital.
A paediatrician is a physician who specializes in the care of babies, children, and teenagers. Some paediatricians specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as neurology, psychiatry, or cardiology. These are called paediatric sub-specialists.
Paediatricians may work in the community, in a hospital, or both.
A child psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the care of children and teenagers with mental and emotional illnesses.
A pharmacist prepares, distributes, and stores medications. Pharmacists also provide information about drug interactions, dosing, side effects, safety, and other drug-related questions.
A pharmacist has at least a bachelor's degree in pharmacy. Pharmacists must also write a board exam and complete an internship to qualify for a licence.
Psychologists and other mental health professionals
A clinical psychologist diagnoses, counsels, and treats individuals, families, or groups. A clinical psychologist can help children deal with stress and behavioural or emotional difficulties. With the help of a psychologist, a child with ADHD or other difficulties can achieve positive changes in behaviour, lifestyle, or relationships. Clinical psychologists also provide independent learning disability assessments outside the school system.
A neuropsychologist specializes in understanding brain-behaviour relationships. A neuropsychologist assesses functions like visual-motor and fine motor skills, intelligence, attention, memory, language, problem-solving, and academic skills. A neuropsychologist may diagnose disorders such as ADHD or learning disabilities. Neuropsychologists can offer strategies to help people improve skills and functions, assist in obtaining special academic placements or accessing community resources, and provide counselling.
School psychologists are trained in both psychology and education. They provide assessments of learning- and school-related problems. School psychologists counsel students with emotional and behavioural problems. They can also advise teachers about behaviour management and instructional techniques.
A social worker helps individuals and families deal with lifestyle changes, problems, and relationships. A social worker helps patients to identify concerns, consider solutions, and find services that can help them.
Social workers may work for organizations such as school boards, community organizations, hospitals, and child welfare agencies, or in private practice.