Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - Tests and Diagnosis

How was your attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosed?

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How is ADHD diagnosed?

The evaluation of a child suspected of having ADHD involves various disciplines to provide comprehensive medical, developmental, educational, and psychosocial evaluations. Interviewing parents and the child along with contact with the child's teacher(s) is crucial. Investigation regarding the family history for behavioral and/or social problems is imperative.

While direct person-to-person contact is considered vital at the outset of an investigation, follow-up studies may be guided by comparing standardized questionnaires (parental and teacher) completed prior to intervention and subsequent to therapeutic trials of medication, behavioral therapy, or other approaches. While there is no unique finding on physical exam in patients with ADHD, unusual physical features should prompt consideration of consultation with a geneticist due to the high association with ADHD behavioral patterns and well-recognized congenital syndromes (for example, fetal alcohol syndrome).

How are schools involved in diagnosing, assessing, and treating ADHD?

Physicians and parents should be aware that schools are federally mandated to perform an appropriate evaluation if a child is suspected of having a disability that impairs academic functioning. This policy was recently strengthened by regulations implementing the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA), which guarantees appropriate services and a public education to children with disabilities from ages 3 to 21. If the assessment performed by the school is inadequate or inappropriate, parents may request that an independent evaluation be conducted at the school's expense. Furthermore, some children with ADHD qualify for special-education services within the public schools, under the category of "Other Health Impaired." In these cases, the special-education teacher, school psychologist, school administrators, classroom teachers, along with parents, must assess the child's strengths and weaknesses and design an Individualized Education Program (IEP). These special-education services for children with ADHD are available though IDEA.

Despite this "federal mandate," the reality is that many school districts, because of inadequate funding or understaffing, are unable to perform "an appropriate evaluation" for all children suspected of having ADHD. The districts have the latitude to define the degree of "impairment of academic functioning" necessary to approve "appropriate evaluation." This usually means the children who are failing or near failing in their academic performance. A very large segment of the ADHD-affected children will be "getting by" (not failing) academically (at least for their early years of school), but they are usually achieving well below their potential and will fall further behind each year on the academic prerequisite skills necessary for later school success. Thereafter, further educational testing may be requested from the school district. Unfortunately, some families will have to assume the financial burden of an independent educational evaluation. These evaluations are commonly done by an educational psychologist and may involve approximately eight to 10 hours of testing and observation spread out over several sessions. A primary goal of an educational evaluation is to exclude/include the possibility of learning disorders (such as dyslexia, language disorders, etc.).

Return to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children)

See what others are saying

Comment from: ADHDgirl, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: October 08

I was referred to the psychiatry department from my primary doctor. I went in for an initial intake consultation with a psychiatrist /social worker. He did a psychiatric assessment, a full evaluation and a series of tests or questions relating to my life, lifestyle, symptoms, etc. He recommended that I start a treatment plan which included medication and behavioral classes. I went the following week to a psychiatrist who did another assessment and asked more questions. I was relieved to know that I was finally going to get the help I needed. I was prescribed 5 mg Adderall, 2-3 times daily. So far so good. I was very impressed with the care I got in for ADHD.

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Comment from: lahas, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: February 10

My attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was diagnosed because I have problems focusing on things.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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