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Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy blood test or throat swab to diagnose ADHD!!! (I promise you – we wish there was). The ADHD diagnosis is made through detailed patient and parent interviews and in-depth subjective and objective testing. Additionally, ADHD-like symptoms may be caused by or occur in conjunction with other conditions such as anxiety or depression. These conditions need to be evaluated for and ruled out as well.

ADHD symptoms must be INTERFERING with the child’s life in at least 2 different environments.

  • At school, ADHD can present as major behavior problems or significant academic struggles. Teachers may note difficulty with sitting during circle time or comment on “spacing out.” Many times, children rush through work or forget many questions on a worksheet.  They may frequently overlook the questions on the back of a piece of paper or simply always forget to bring home the necessary materials to do homework. While all children occasionally have these behaviors, ADHD causes a distinct and consistent behavior pattern that prohibits academic progress.
  • Socially, a child may have difficulty making or keeping friends because they act impulsively, constantly interrupt others, or can never wait their turn.
  • At home, a child may be completely unable to sit at the dinner table for an age-appropriate amount of time. They may never be able to follow 3 step directions their parents ask of them.

What’s next?

So, if a teacher (or several teachers), parent, school counselor, or our older patients feels like there may be an attention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity issue, we are here to help. We first determine if there is enough concern to investigate further, then we use a combination of resources to decide if symptoms truly are ADHD.

  • Report cards and any standardized testing are important to assess how the child’s behavior interferes with achievement.
  • Vanderbilt Surveys are questionnaires with approximately 30 questions focused on easily observed behaviors and the degree of interference. Both teachers and parents complete these forms. They are not diagnostic but help guide the process.
  • Psychoeducational testing is an in-depth test performed by a specially trained psychologist to evaluate the student.  During this several hours test, the student is asked to perform many different tasks that help determine where their strengths and weaknesses lie.  This is usually considered the “gold-standard” test. This test can also diagnose learning differences like processing problems, dyslexia, and math issues along with emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive –compulsive disorder. Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to convince the schools to provide this testing due to limited resources in the school systems.  We have a list of many people in the community who provide this testing, but if it isn’t covered by insurance, which it usually is not, it can cost $1500-$3000.
  • PEDIA IQ test, a condensed psychoeducational test at a lesser cost, is now being offered at Northside Pediatrics for 6 to 16 year olds.  It is very good at picking up children with ADHD but may not be as sensitive at identifying learning disorders, so we need to be selective in determining which children are best suited to use this evaluation. Please talk to your provider to see if your child may be a candidate for this test.

Once all the data is gathered, a consult (45-60 minute appointment) should be scheduled. We will help explain the results of any evaluations and what the proper course of action might be. We may refer you to a specialist if conditions like depression or anxiety are uncovered. Also, we tend to use a specialist in children in Kindergarten or younger. Kids under 6 can be diagnosed with ADHD but the evaluation and management is different than that of older kids. Make sure to talk to your pediatrician if you are worried about ADHD for you toddler or preschooler.

Next time we will discuss ADHD management and medications, so make sure to check back in.