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Center now includes ADHD testing

Neighborhood Counseling Center of Wadena has recently expanded its services to include testing for child and adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder with the formation of a Psychological Evaluation Center. The evaluation center's services will also include learning disabilities testing, drug evaluations, bipolar disorder testing and evaluations to determine how well clients are succeeding in therapy, according to center officials.

"I'm hoping that we ... provide the most expert, efficient evaluations that we can for those who need it," said Wayne Samuelson, director of NCC.

The goal of the center is to provide an organized approach to mental health issues that require testing for expert diagnosis, he said. There has been a lot of demand for these new services.

"People are confused as to why some human beings cannot function as well as they should," Samuelson said.

There are many reasons for behavioral problems and psychological testing can help to winnow them down, he said.

"The proper diagnosis leads to proper treatment," Samuelson said. "That's my belief."

Evaluating whether or not someone has ADHD begins with an initial diagnosis interview to construct a good medical, personal, clinical and educational history, Samuelson said. The psychologist also looks for disorders that cause similar symptoms to ADHD such as Asperger syndrome, autism, oppositional disorder, learning disabilities, depression and anxiety.

Information needs to come from more than one source in order for there to be a diagnosis, he said. Family, school, work, relationships and church are all examples of where information can be gathered. Behavioral rating scales with formal norms and comparisons to the general population are also used, he said.

Additional evaluation techniques are testing an individuals ability to focus attention, maintain concentration and resist distraction, he said.

Diagnosis is an important step for people with ADHD, he said.

"Most often people are very relieved that they finally know one of the areas that have bothered them, that they didn't understand before," Samuelson said.

For example, he said most adults with ADHD are undiagnosed. Ten to 12 million adults are estimated to have ADHD in the United States, while only 1 million have received a diagnosis, he said.

"Most adults who have been undiagnosed have grown up believing that they're just ... lazy, uncaring or unmotivated because they can't get their lives organized or structured," Samuelson said.

Diagnosis is also important for children's self-image, he said. Estimates for the number of children with ADHD range from 3 to 6 percent of the school-age population.

"Most children with ADHD really think they are different from other children," he said. "Not only different, but deficient. That other children are better than they are."

Because of their frustration, he said they can also develop secondary problems such as misbehavior, rowdiness, withdrawal, agitation or even anger.

There are three types of ADHD, he said. Inattentive is a version of the disorder with symptoms including failing to complete tasks, disorganization, difficulty managing life, forgetfulness and completing things but not turning them in. This type of ADHD is often ignored, he said.

"There are many quiet types of ADHD," he said. "They're the ones who fall through the cracks, and yet their impairment is just as great."

Hyperactive-impulsive is another type of the disorder, he said. Excessive talking, blurting out answers and acting without sufficient thought are all symptoms.

The third version of ADHD is a combination of inattentive and hyperactive, he said. This type is the most often diagnosed.

Samuelson said it is important to note there are nine symptoms of the inattentive type and nine symptoms of the hyperactive-impulsive type and a minimum number of symptoms must be diagnosed depending on the age of the person under evaluation.

"One symptom is not enough," he said.

The best treatment for ADHD is a combination of environmental modifications, counseling and medication, Samuelson said. Proper treatment helps to make the life of individuals with ADHD more tolerable and enjoyable.

Medication treatment includes stimulants or some other medication if the stimulant does not work or parents object to their children using them. Modifications in the classroom such as placing a pad on a desk chair so that a child can move without making noise are also effective in dealing with ADHD, he said. Counseling includes helping the diagnosed person become aware of how the disorder is affecting their lives as well as teaching relaxation techniques and time management skills.

Samuelson said 30 years of research has shown that alternative treatments such as natural food therapy, caffeine supplements and megavitamin therapy are not effective.

Schools, parents, physicians, psychologists and employers all need to work together to implement the treatment program, he said.

ADHD is a disorder that affects the whole community, he said.

"One or two ADHD individuals in any ... setting, whether classroom, church, work place, work crew, in a movie theater, at a restaurant, can certainly have a real impact on everyone else," he said.