We understand that getting to the bottom of what’s going on with our children can be nerve-wracking and stressful, especially when we suspect that our child has ADD or ADHD diagnosis. Some of the questions we hear most often from New Orleans parents are, “how do I know if my child has ADHD, and where can I get my child tested for ADHD in New Orleans?” This series is designed to demystify the diagnosis process, as well as provide New Orleans families with resources for getting your children evaluated. While these posts are very personal and real we are grateful to our partners at the Behavioral Health Center at Children’s Hospital New Orleans for sponsoring this series.
Our Journey to an Unexpected ADHD Diagnosis
It all started with math homework…
One evening as I was going over a simple math worksheet with my 3rd grade daughter she consistently had trouble doing very simple addition to solve an equation. Something seemed off; she had always done well in school but she was becoming increasingly irritable with her work. I would throw simple questions at her like tell me 1+1, and she looked at me like I had two heads. We ended the math work and finished our bedtime routine, but as I went to sleep that evening, the scenario kept re-playing in my head.
The next morning I asked my daughter about the encounter and asked her why she was having more trouble with her homework the night before. She replied that as she was trying to solve the problem, multiple answers were swirling in her mind and she couldn’t decide which answer to choose. We had experienced other moments of frustration before and anxious thoughts, and at that point, I knew we needed to talk to someone, but who?
We started with her school counselor…
A few days passed and I chatted with a few friends about what we experienced and the idea of her suffering with anxiety came up. I reached out to her school counselor to get a professional opinion from someone who already knew her. When I sent the initial email with my concerns, she called me to say some of those anxious feelings and not feeling “good enough” was very typical in her age group, but she would pull her and chat to see what was going on. She connected with me again the next day saying some of her feelings were a bit heightened for her age. She said she would pull her more often and give her some tools to work through her anxious and frustrating moments. She ended up giving us some great resources and books to read and things seemed to be getting a bit better.
At her well check, I brought up my concerns again and her pediatrician suggested we get her evaluated for anxiety and ADHD. The idea of ADHD seemed unlikely to me as she is very focused, listens well, and not hyperactive. The pediatrician explained how ADHD in girls can look so different and their symptoms are not as obvious as they are in boys. She gave some suggestions of pediatric psychologists, and I reached out to the school counselor for some suggestions as well and went on a hunt.
The ADHD Testing Process In New Orleans Was Long
The process of getting tested for ADHD in New Orleans was indeed very long. From finding a psychologist to waiting for insurance pre-authorizations to finally getting an appointment, the process was a job in and of itself. But, after a few bumps, we were finally set up with an intake appointment where the psychologist met with my husband and me to talk through our concerns, what we were seeing, discussing how the brain works and the actual process of evaluation.
Once we met with the psychologist and knew the next steps, we had to get our daughter on board. We did not want her to feel overwhelmed or that something was “wrong” with her so we explained to her that we would have an evaluation done to find out more about who she is as a person, and find out how you learn and receive information. We explained that it would help us to be better parents and ensure we knew how best to communicate and teach her things, and we would share the knowledge with her teachers so they would know the best ways to teach her because each person learns and thinks differently.
Next, we were scheduled for her to have an evaluation by a psychometrist who did several tests with her that lasted about 3.5 hours; she was NOT happy after completing the evaluation. She said it was way too long and boring but quickly moved on 15 minutes after we left. Once her evaluation was complete, she met with the psychologist and a series of questionnaires were sent to me and her teachers to complete.
The Final ADHD Diagnosis
After nearly a year of searching, waiting lists, and Hurricane Ida setbacks, we were finally presented with a diagnosis. I sat down (via Zoom) with our provider to discuss what was going on inside my daughter’s head. She did a great job looping our original conversation to how she processed all the data that was collected and came to a conclusion that best fit our daughter. The diagnosis was inattentive ADHD. I was a bit shocked, as in my mind, I was still so focused on what I “thought” ADHD looked like. She explained how many of the symptoms of anxiety align with ADHD, but overall she was dealing with a huge issue of “perfectionism” which was a character trait and inability to stay focused over a period of time. It has nothing to do with her intelligence level, as the assessment revealed she has a High Average IQ and her reading comprehension is 5 grade levels above her current grade level. She is smart, she is capable, but she still needs resources to be successful.
Once the diagnosis was explained to us, we were given a plethora of resources to help navigate support for her as well as tips for working through an accommodation plan (504 plan) with her school. When the call concluded I took a huge sigh of relief because – although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting – I was happy to know what was going on and the tools to support my child to be her very best.
You Suspect Your Child Might Have ADHD?
Thankfully, there are many resources in New Orleans for evaluating (and treating) children for ADHD.
The NEW, 51-bed Behavioral Health Center at Children’s Hospital New Orleans is the only psychiatric program in the Gulf Coast region exclusively dedicated to the mental healthcare needs of children and adolescents in crisis. Outpatient services are also provided to compliment inpatient care and include assessment and treatment of psychiatric and behavioral disorders such as Autism, ADHD, and mood disturbance. Our team of professionals provides evidence-based management for a range of challenges facing children, adolescents and their families. Our program focuses on teaching and empowering patients to develop healthy life skills to improve their current function and future quality of life.