How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

ADHD-copyADHD Screening and Evaluations

So let’s say you feel fairly certain that your child’s inattentive, hyperactive and/or impulsive behavior is a bit over the top and that he or she may have ADHD. How do you look into this?

Find a specialist

Do not see your pediatrician for this problem. While some pediatricians are knowledgeable about ADHD, their job requires them to treat a wide range of health issues, making it difficult to know the in’s and out’s of such a complex, nuanced condition. When it comes to ADHD – or any specific medical condition – finding a doctor with a narrow and deep base of knowledge is key.

Ask other parents, educators or a clinical psychologist for a recommendation, specifically for a psychiatrist. You can also search through your nearest hospital.


Once you initiate contact with a psychiatrist, you will likely be given a screening form.

Screening questionnaires are usually in the form of rating scales. Parents, teachers and any other adult who interacts with the child should fill out a rating scale. These scales list characteristics such as “Has difficulty playing quietly” or “Is easily distracted” and the person filling out the scale is asked to rate each behavior along a Never/Occasionally/Often/Very Often range.

Point values are assigned to frequency and severity of behaviors. The physician will calculate and average scores from the rating scales, and certain score totals help the doctor decide whether or not to go forward with a more in-depth evaluation.


If the doctor feels an evaluation is necessary, this includes taking a detailed account of the child’s medical and developmental history, as well as making observations of the child at home and school, looking at work samples and conducting interviews around the child’s behavior and performance.

The screening and evaluation process can be incredibly empowering for parents and children. Often children are relieved to know that there is a reason for their challenges, and find information about their condition helpful and hopeful. Upon completion of the screening and/or evaluation, make sure the clinician spends time with you and your child discussing ADHD and treatment options. You should walk away with answers to every question you have, as well as clarity around your child’s future.

Ask Heather

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