How Do You Diagnose ADHD?

From time to time, I will receive an email from a reader asking me how ADHD is diagnosed in children. Instead of writing a long email explaining the process, I refer them to articles that answer the question. While googling the latest research on ADHD, I became inspired to write an article about ADHD diagnosis. Let’s get started.

Let’s get the most important thing out of the way. There is no definitive way to test for ADHD. Also, any test that you choose will be complex. You need to conduct research for yourself, so you can understand the pros and cons of each approach. That way, when you meet with your child’s doctor, you will be able to discuss options from a place of power and confidence. In addition, If you approach the diagnosis process with an understanding of its intricacies, you can avoid some common mistakes, and as a result, experience fewer frustrations.

Look for the signs

The diagnosis process actually begins with someone noticing that your child has problems that are inhibiting their ability to focus and function in a classroom setting. It might be a teacher who sees it first, noticing that your child is falling behind academically or being disruptive because of their impulsivity. When this occurs, your next step is to take your child to see their pediatrician or family medicine doctor.

How is a Child Diagnosed with ADHD?

Before you and your child sit down with their doctor, you need to know that most general practitioners and some pediatricians may not be schooled in the nuances of ADHD and thus are not qualified or equipped to conduct an evaluation. It can take several hours of assessment and analysis to diagnose someone with ADHD, and most general practitioners and even pediatricians can not devote that much time to one patient. However, if they are not qualified, they can suggest a qualified ADHD specialist.

How Professionals Diagnose ADHD In Children

As a prerequisite to making an accurate diagnosis, your doctor needs to find out if your child has the symptoms outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM-V). For a child to be diagnosed with ADHD, they must possess six of the nine symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity before age 12. Also, these symptoms must impair the child’s functioning in more than one setting — home, school, or work.

If your child meets the criteria, they must undergo a clinical interview that uses a standardized ADHD scale. Also, they will be administered a screening assessment to rule out common coexisting conditions like learning disorders, anxiety, autism, and mood disorders.

The ADHD diagnostic process can take a week or two, so don’t expect overnight results. During this process, make sure that you let your child’s teacher and other school officials know. As a matter of fact, in some cases, the school may be able to handle the testing themselves, as they employ special education teachers, psychometrists, and educational psychologists who are more than qualified to handle the process.

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