In 2013, 11% of school aged children were diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and about two-thirds of them were placed on stimulant medication. These powerful medications can help children function in the classroom and at home and reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. Unfortunately, some children are wrongly diagnosed with ADHD when the real problem lies elsewhere. Others may have ADHD but the symptoms are intensified by an undiagnosed condition. Before you begin a stimulant regimen, it's important to address other possible causes of your child's behavior.

Vision Problems

For some kids, vision problems contribute to their ADHD symptoms. Conditions like convergence insufficiency (the inability for the eyes to work in tandem), can cause problems in the classroom. CI presents much like dyslexia, causing words to jump around on the page and a kind of double vision known as "ghosting."

Focusing on a book or assignment for too long can cause eye strain leading to headaches, making it difficult for kids to concentrate. They may misbehave out of pain or frustration, often prompting teachers to broach the subject of a possible ADHD evaluation with concerned parents.  

It's not yet known whether CI only exacerbates the existing symptoms of ADHD or is misdiagnosed as ADHD itself. The conditions are often both present at once; in fact, children with ADHD are three times more likely than their peers to have CI.

Convergence insufficiency is often treated with vision therapy, which uses specialized eye exercises, lenses and prisms to train the eyes to work together. The condition probably won't be caught during a traditional vision screening. If you suspect CI may be a contributing factor to your child's behavior, schedule a comprehensive exam and mention CI to your child's eye doctor, or visit

Hearing Difficulties

It's hard to follow verbal instructions if you can't hear what's being said. Hearing problems may account for your child's inattentiveness in the classroom and the resultant frustration can cause them to act out, leading to discipline issues.

Any diagnosis of ADHD should be backed up by a complete hearing test. The evaluation given at school or at your pediatrician's office won't be sensitive enough to pick up on slight hearing issues so you'll need to visit an audiologist.

Your child may also have an auditory processing disorder. This can cause big sensitivities to small sounds, interfering with their ability to focus. They may be unable to filter out distractions or spend so much time trying to process what's being said that their capacity to retain the information is non-existent.

Undiagnosed hearing problems can mimic the symptoms of ADHD, often leading to the wrong diagnosis.

Medical Issues

There are plenty of underlying health problems that can lead to ADHD-type behaviors. Something as simple as low blood sugar can make a child irritable, moody and unable to concentrate. Iron deficiencies, food allergies and sleep disturbances can all cause ADHD signs, even if your child doesn't actually have ADHD.

Stimulant medication is a huge help to children who suffer from ADHD but it can be useless and even dangerous for those who are misdiagnosed with the condition. If you suspect your child may have ADHD, it's important to rule out all other possible medical conditions before accepting the diagnosis.