Assessment and Diagnosis

The assessment of ADHD can be done by a child or adult psychiatrist, psychologists, paediatricians or a nurse practitioner who specializes in the field of ADHD.

Currently ADHD is diagnosed through an individual assessment interview where the practitioner meets with the individual to review their history as well as using standardized rating forms to assist in diagnosis.  These forms are usually filled out by the individual, as well as family, school teachers, or close friends.   During the interview all spheres of life are assessed to identify challenges a person might exhibit with self esteem, peers, School, home, peer, and self esteem histories are also assessed to discover the challenges posed in different environments.

Some research currently is using Brain scans in conjunction with the standardized forms for diagnosis, but at present there are no neurological, psychological, computer tests, or blood tests that can specifically identify ADHD.  Science is not at the stage of identifying ADHD in this manner.

The clinical interview involves assessing the different areas of a person’s life.  The developmental history of the person and family history are very important in looking at ADHD indicators.  ADHD is highly genetic and often can be seen throughout families in different severities.  As well school, home, peer, and self esteem histories are assessed to discover the challenges posed in different environments.  Medical histories are essential in order for clear diagnosis, medication possibilities, and psychosocial concerns. There are a few medical disorders that can mimic ADHD, such as:  iron deficiencies, hypothyroidism, sleep disorders, and undiagnosed hearing impairments.  Therefore current check- ups with the general physician are important in the diagnosis of ADHD.   All of this information then helps clinicians form treatment plans that are all encompassing.

Besides ADHD, clinicians will also assess for other challenges that are often associated with ADHD.   Children, youth, and adults with ADHD may also have other types of challenges such as learning disabilities, mood regulation, anxiety, fine and gross motor challenges, sensory, sleeping and nutrition issues.  Psychosocial issues include poor peer relations, low self esteem, and defensiveness leading to oppositionality.

How a person is coping in their environments indicates the severity of the ADHD disorder.  Clinicians use the DSMIV manual and the CADDRA as the guidelines for diagnosis.  Presently the DSM IV is being revised to incorporate the signs and symptoms associated with Adult ADHD.  The revised manual for mental health disorders should be available by the spring of 2012.

To meet diagnostic criteria according to the DSM IV:

There are 3 types of ADHD

  1. ADHD primary inattentive
  2. ADHD primary hyperactive
  3. ADHD combined type (both inattentive & hyperactive/impulsive)

On the symptom check (SNAP or ADHDRS) list you need

6/9 positively endorsed symptoms of inattentive for Primary Inattentive type

6/9 positively endorsed symptoms of hyperactive/impulsivity for Primary Hyperactive type


A combination of 6/9 inattentive and 6/9 hyperactive impulsivity for Combined Type ADHD.

Symptom check list forms found at :


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