ADHD Diagnosis

When is ADHD diagnosed?
Because the symptoms of ADHD can also be the result of other issues, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma, a professional diagnosing your child should carefully rule out other possible reasons for his behavior.

A child should receive an ADHD diagnosis only if he exhibits a variety of inattentive or impulsive behaviors

  • At a level that is abnormal for children his age
  • Over an extended period
  • In more than one setting—both at home and at school, for instance.
    These behaviors must also be interfering significantly with schoolwork or social interaction.

How is an ADHD diagnosis done?
To make an accurate diagnosis, a clinician should collect information from several people who have observed your child, including you, other caregivers, and teachers.

Parents and teachers should be asked to fill out a rating scale, such as the SNAP, the Child Behavior Checklist, or Connor’s Checklist, to capture an accurate assessment of the frequency of symptoms over a period of time. A child may be given a test called a Continuous Performance Test, which rates her ability to complete a repetitive task over a period of time and can give a more complex picture of her ADHD symptoms.

A child should not be diagnosed with ADHD just based on a parent’s or teacher’s report that she is overly active or distracted.

Who can diagnose ADHD?
ADHD can be diagnosed by any doctor or mental health professional, including:

  • Pediatricians
  • Psychiatrists
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Social workers
  • School psychologists

But in the majority of cases, only medical doctors like psychiatrists can prescribe medication to treat it. (Some states allow psychologists to prescribe, and nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants often can, as well.) The overwhelming majority of ADHD diagnoses are made by pediatricians, though parents should be aware that many pediatricians don’t have advanced training in psychiatric disorders, and an ADHD diagnosis should not be made in a quick office visit, based solely on a report that a child is having trouble concentrating in school. Inattention can be caused by other things, and giving a child ADHD medication won’t address his problems if he doesn’t have ADHD.