Today, we take a look at home behavior as part of diagnosing ADHD the right way.

Look for yesterday’s article on Diagnosing ADHD the Right Way Part 1 from Dr. Barnhill, author of Mistaken for ADHD here.

What is your kid’s current energy level like at home? Is he wound up like a spring and on the go all the time, withdrawn, or does he appear to drag much of the time?  Withdrawal can be a sign of depression or insecurity.

How does he interact with other family members, siblings, cousins, grandparents?

Have you added or eliminated any foods or supplements from your child’s diet? This includes caffeine, chocolate, sugar, soda pops, tobacco, or over-the-counter herbs, vitamins, or allergy/cold medications.

All of these things can cause changes in behavior.

Does he have a habit of burning rubber when pulling out of the driveway, getting speeding tickets, or having legal problems? Doe he or she wander off down the street without telling you or dart across the street without looking? Impulsivity is a key component in the diagnosis of ADHD with hyperactivity.

How is your child at organizing things and focusing on doing tasks at home? Is he always losing his homework? Can’t find his car keys? Can he find his belt or tennis shoes in a rush?

Has she been able to finish crafts or hobbies instead of leaving them half-finished and starting something new? Does she keep her room clean and organized?

Have you seen signs of depression or anxiety? These may include decreased appetite, increasing sleepiness, inability to fall asleep as normal, mood swings reflected in crying, giddiness, withdrawal, physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, racing heart, urination problems, sweating, blurry vision, vomiting, or diarrhea.

How does he or she handle disappointments and failure? Does he or she ask probing questions that lead you to believe he or she is insecure or having emotional problems?

diagnosing adhd the right way How does your ADHDer treat his personal possessions? Is she keeping her room and clothing clean?

Does he keep that new car you bought him clean? Does she forget to feed her dog? Does he keep his toys put away when not playing?

Has your child’s behavior changed slowly over the past year or so, or did it seem to change suddenly, as if overnight? The next couple of questions explain why this is so important, as ADHD behavioral traits do not just show up suddenly.

These behaviors tend to develop slowly, over several years, in most cases, while the sudden onset type of ADHD is most often caused by the child experiencing some type of terrible emotional or physical stress.

Have there been any changes in your family? These include divorce, separation of parents, other siblings running away, death, loss of girl/boyfriend, failure in school, and other emotional stressors. Even the death of a pet can affect a child profoundly enough to cause a change in behavior.

Have there been any economic changes in your family? These would include loss of a job, filing bankruptcy, losing one’s home or car, having a house burn to the ground, or having been robbed. All these stressful events could cause a child to appear to become hyperactive.

Do family members, friends, teachers, or siblings call your child stupid, dumb, airheaded, brain dead or other degrading insults? If so, this will eventually cause defensive counter behavior and loss of self-esteem, and the child will react just like an ADHDer.

Part 3 of Diagnosing ADHD the Right Way will appear on our next post.

Dr. Barnhill is’s Official Expert on ADHD and welcomes your questions.  Email him here and we will post your question, with your first name only, plus the answer on our blog.

Frank Barnhill M.D. Frank Barnhill, M.D. is a family physician, author of Mistaken for ADHD and the blog of the same name.  He specializes in finding the conditions that can mimic ADHD and diagnosing ADHD the right way.