Diagnosing ADHD in Children
There is no single test to diagnose ADHD. A doctor will make a diagnosis based on a physical exam, history of behavior, and specific symptoms. Your cihld’s pediatrician may refer you to a mental health professional who is experienced in childhood disorders such as ADHD.
History of Behavior. The doctor will ask for a detailed history of the child’s behavior. Parents should describe specific problems encountered during the child’s development, family history of ADHD, and any recent life changes that may have affected the child.
Physical Exam. A physical exam should include a hearing test to rule out any hearing problems. The doctor will inquire about history of medical problems, including allergies, sleep disturbances, poor vision, or chronic ear infections.
Diagnostic Criteria. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has specific criteria that must be met for a diagnosis of ADHD. These symptoms should have occurred in two or more settings (home and school) and not be due to a learning disability or another mental health disorder (bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia). These diagnostic criteria evaluate symptoms in comparison to what is considered normal for a child’s developmental level.
For a diagnosis of ADHD, at least six of the following symptoms should have been present for at least 6 months.
Symptoms of Inattention (at least six must be present):
Review Date: 01/27/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.