If you think your child might have ADHD, there are various types of specialists who can evaluate and diagnose him. But an ADHD evaluation needs to include certain elements no matter who does it. Here are nine things a clinician should do in a full ADHD assessment.
1. Have an initial meeting with you and your child.
This a fact-finding meeting. The purpose is to identify your child’s difficulties and strengths. The clinician should also get information about stressors in your child’s life that might be impacting his problems. These could be stressful situations happening at home, at school or in the community.
2. Ask you for detailed health information.
The clinician should ask about your child’s health, both past and present. That includes details about any problems in the pregnancy or delivery. Other aspects the clinician should ask about include:
- Early infancy
- Developmental milestones
- Sleep patterns
- Height and weight
- Ongoing developmental or medical problems
3. Ask about how your child functions.
The clinician should be looking at three key areas: home, school and social relationships. It’s important to identify both strengths and difficulties as well as what your child likes to do for fun.
4. Use normed ADHD rating scales.
These questionnaires are a way to collect information from you and your child. The point is to see how much trouble your child is having with a variety of school and daily functions. The clinician then assesses his behavior compared to that of other kids his age.
5. Review past and present school performance.
The clinician should look at report cards and standardized testing. Another important piece is a teacher-version ADHD rating scale filled out by your child’s current teacher(s). Any extra help your child is getting should also be considered. That might include things like tutoring or informal classroom supports.
6. Make sure official criteria for diagnosis are met.
There are a number of factors that need to be present for a diagnosis of ADHD. The official criteria include nine types of problems with attention, and nine types of problems with hyperactivity/impulsivity. A child who’s 16 or younger must have six of the nine problems on either list. A child who’s 17 or older needs just five items on either list. These problems have to significantly the child’s functioning.
7. Consider other possible issues that may be involved.
These might include learning issues or mental health problems like anxiety and depression. If the clinician isn’t qualified to assess for those issues, she should refer you to one who is. Also, ADHD often co-occurs with learning issues. The clinician should also consider that learning issues could be a factor and refer you to a specialist for testing if she can’t do it.
8. Have a follow-up meeting.
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the results and possible treatments. These might include changes in family routines, supports at school, ADHD medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.
9. Come up with a plan to monitor progress.
It’s important for a professional to assess how well any treatments or supports are working, and whether any changes should be made. If your child will be taking ADHD medication, he should be seen regularly. That way the prescriber can see if the dosage is effective and without side effects, or if it needs to be fine-tuned.
If your child receives an ADHD diagnosis, you might wonder what happens next. Learn about steps you can take to get help for your child with ADHD. Discover strategies you can try at home. And find ways to talk to family and friends about your child’s issues.