The Paediatric Assessment. How to get a professional assessment for school and behavioural concerns.

How Do You Diagnose ADHD?

There’s no single, definitive diagnostic test for attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) — no blood analysis, no brain scan, no genetic screening. An ADHD diagnosis is not a quick or simple task. On top of that, doctors vary in their abilities to diagnose and treat the disorder, so it’s easy to go down blind alleys before getting the proper evaluation and prognosis. The good news: if you approach the ADHD diagnosis step by step, you can avoid some common pitfalls — and control ADHD symptoms more smoothly with fewer frustrations along the way.

· February 1, 2021

How Do You Know If Your Child Has ADHD?

Often, the ADHD diagnosis begins with an “Aha” moment, when it dawns on you that a biologically-based disorder like ADHD may cause your child’s problems.

This Aha moment might come for parents when a teacher calls to report a child being disruptive in class or falling behind academically. Adults might be concerned about losing their job after being consistently late to work and frequently missing deadlines or meetings.

Whatever triggers your “Aha” moment, seek help at once. Without a prompt diagnosis, individuals with ADHD are apt to be branded “lazy,” “careless,” or worse. Such labels undermine self-esteem and lead to years of underachievement and family turmoil.

Above all, don’t panic. With appropriate treatment, people with ADHD do well. And don’t forget: ADHD is about biology and neurology; it is in no way your fault.

How is a Child Diagnosed with ADHD?

Most people follow an “Aha” moment with an appointment to see a paediatrician. That makes sense, but before agreeing to treatment, “ask how many other cases of ADHD the doctor has treated, and what the plans and outcomes were,” says Russell Barkley, PhD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina. If the doctor has handled only a few cases, you might be better off going to a paediatrician specialist who has significant experience with ADHD.

As a rule, most general practitioners are not trained in the peculiarities of ADHD and its overlapping conditions or are not equipped to perform the in-depth evaluation needed. One reason is time. It can take several hours of talking, test-taking, and analysis to diagnose someone with ADHD. Most general practitioners can’t give you or your child that much attention in a busy practice.

“Regardless of how experienced your [doctor] is,” says Barkley, “you should strongly consider a medical specialist if [your or] your child’s ADHD is accompanied by another diagnosed disorder, such as oppositional behaviour, anxiety, or if there are urgent issues involved.” Professionals trained in diagnosing ADHD routinely screen for these problems. Try our new Dr Flett app to access assessment forms and free assessment before the assessment.

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