Diagnosis of ADHD
If ADHD is suspected, the child should be carefully screened for the condition by a physician. Since there is still no biological test that can identify ADHD, a series of evaluations are required to make an accurate diagnosis.
A complete physical examination by a physician is necessary to make sure the child doesn't have hearing or vision problems, allergies, eczema, or epilepsy - all of which can cause symptoms similar to ADHD.
The physician will also study the child's medical history to see whether an earlier experience such as childhood disease or injury, or prenatal exposure to toxins, may have caused ADHD. The child may also need to be examined by a neurologist, child psychologist, or other health professional.
It's essential that the physician also has detailed information about the child's developmental, behavioral and academic history. Through direct discussions with parents, teachers and the child himself, and with questionnaires such as the Conner's Form, the physician will gather information about:
- The history and nature of the child's behavioral difficulties
- The quality of the child's relationships with his family and peers
- The family's medical and personal history
- The child's social and academic performance at school, including any learning disorders.
Ruling out other conditions
Other conditions which can produce ADHD-like symptoms will need to be ruled out before a diagnosis of ADHD can be made. But conditions such as learning disorders, physical disabilities, or emotional problems, can sometimes occur in combination with ADHD. Information gathered from the team's input should be used to determine the nature, severity, and possible causes of the child's condition.
Parents need to describe the history and nature of the child's behavior. Although ADHD symptoms often become most apparent and problematic in the school setting, they may have been present earlier in the child's life. Parents should also provide details about the quality of the child's relationships with family members and peers.
Information about the family's history is also important. Parents or siblings may have experienced symptoms similar to the child's, or may have themselves been diagnosed with ADHD. The family history should also take into account events at home, such as a recent divorce or other stressful life events which may be causing the child to experience emotional difficulties, or may be interfering with his or her ability to concentrate. Certain emotional disturbances may produce ADHD-like symptoms, but need to be treated differently.
Performance at school
The child's performance at school must also be evaluated. Teacher input is crucial for helping to determine whether the child's social and academic development are appropriate for his or her age.
The teacher can also help discern whether the child has an underlying learning disorder which may be causing - or contributing to - ADHD-like symptoms. Reports about the child's activity in the classroom, and his ability to pay attention during instruction are highly useful - as are any reports from school psychologists or special educators.
The child's input
The child himself is usually another excellent source of information, and so he should not be ignored in the diagnostic process. Questions about how he perceives himself in relation to his environment might provide some important insights.
- ADHD Symptoms & Causes
- ADHD and Child Development
- Diagnosis of ADHD
- Parenting Strategies for ADHD
- Classroom Strategies for ADHD
- Strategies for the Older Child with ADHD
- ADHD Medications