Treatment of specific symptoms of autism or ADHD can help children, even without a diagnosis


Treating children’s mental health symptoms, even without a diagnosis, can be beneficial. Credit: Shutterstock

For people with mental health difficulties, early access to support services and effective intervention it can alter life. To access these services through the health system, however, most institutions require an official diagnosis.

But what about those who have symptoms but don’t quite meet the criteria for a mindset? diagnosis? The healthcare system can overlook these people, despite the symptoms that can be treated.

In most cases, a diagnosis must meet the criteria in the document Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5). For example, she is suspected of having a child (ADHD) must have six or more symptoms affecting their quality of operation. Some examples of these symptoms include:

  • It is often touched with the hands or feet or touched, or turned in the seat.
  • He often has trouble organizing tasks or activities.
  • It often interrupts or interferes with others.

This checklist serves as a line in the sand. If six boxes are checked, a diagnosis can be made, but if one less is checked, no diagnosis can be given. People in the latter category are often unable to access services, although they are likely to benefit.

In addition, mental health conditions are not always clear and easy to identify. Two children with the same diagnosis may experience very different symptoms and their daily lives may be affected in very different ways. To further complicate matters, factors such as gender, age or have more than one diagnosis it can affect the way symptoms present themselves, as well as whether (and how quickly) a diagnosis can be made.

Because symptoms can vary from person to person, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. For example, some children with ADHD may benefit from language improvement programs, while others may benefit from those that focus on care. This variability is not limited to ADHD and is present in most, if not all, mental health conditions.

Symptoms and functioning vs. diagnoses

These factors have led some researchers to think of mental health difficulties in terms of specific symptoms rather than diagnostic categories. For example, it could focus on care difficulties regardless of whether a person had ADHD, a different diagnosis, or even no diagnosis. The most commonly used framework for doing this is the search domain criteria or RDoC approach, where symptoms are used instead of diagnostic labels to understand an individual’s mental health difficulties.

As development researchers, we use the RDoC approach to see how the symptoms of ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the general population can affect functioning. In two recent studies, we found that those with symptoms of increased ADHD and ASD (but no official diagnosis) had more learning, language and social communication difficulties.

These results tell us that we don’t need someone to work at the lowest level to benefit from treatment. Those with different levels of these undiagnosed disorders may also benefit.

The full adoption of an RDoC approach to mental health care would require a complete overhaul of the diagnostic system and, in fact, is unlikely to happen soon. However, adopting this approach in terms of research and support systems could lead to immediate improvement for those with symptoms.

This would include people who do not arrive at the diagnosis, do not fall directly into a specific diagnosis, or await an evaluation. And in Canada, it can take time from referral to diagnosis evaluation up to a year. The good news is that there are resources available and actions parents can take to provide support that can help you with specific difficulties.

  • Gather information: Get to know your child better. A doctor is only able to collect the behaviors observed during the visit. Defend your child and let doctors and specialists know how they interact at home, at school and in the community.
  • Learning programs: There may be programs in your community that support them early learning and help children develop important language and social skills regardless of the diagnostic status. These programs can also be helpful in helping your child transition to the school system. Many of these programs include speech language or occupational therapists who can help solve specific difficulties.
  • Participates in the research: As of development i language researchers, we manage a wide range of evaluations. By participating in research, you will gain a better understanding of your child’s mental health and how their difficulties may affect their functioning. Participants are often compensated for participating in our research

We believe that the best way to understand mental health difficulties is to go beyond the simple binary option of having a or not, and to focus on the different degrees of symptoms of the general population. Taking this approach in terms of research and it could lead to improvements in individualized and targeted care and a better quality of life for anyone who experiences it .

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