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ADHD assessments: what to expect

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s a neurotype (brain type) that is either more inattentive than others, more hyperactive than others, or a combination of both. Often parents are unsure how ADHD is diagnosed, and as a result it’s a difficult process to navigate. Here are the essentials for parents to know before embarking on the process.

Who can assess and diagnose? Psychologists, Paediatricians, or Psychiatrists can assess and diagnose ADHD in kids and adolescents.

What is the assessment process? Essentially we gather information to answer the question – is your child more hyperactive (overly active) than other kids, or have more trouble with attention (inattentive) than other kids when there is no other explanation for this? So assessment involves

  • An interview looking at the levels of activity and attention

  • Information comparing this to what’s typical for the child’s age (usually questionnaires)

  • Observation of your child in one setting, and perhaps a second like a school observation if clarification is needed.

The interview also considers all the other factors in your child’s life to make sure there are not other explanations for what is happening.

What you might need

Information about other challenges like anxiety, learning difficulties, delays in development, or difficult life circumstances

Information about executive functioning (how well the ‘command centre’ of the brain is working to get tasks done)

What you don’t need

A cognitive assessment if there are no learning or development concerns

Specific tests of attention control, as they are not very reliable

So how do you choose who to see?

  • It’s really up to you, who you might already have a relationship with, and what waitlists are like. It doesn’t really matter. Some points to consider are that Paediatricians and psychiatrists prescribe medication, so to talk about that you’d have to see one of them.

  • Psychologists provide intervention to decrease the impact of ADHD on a child. This is usually through parenting strategies when kids are little, and cognitive behaviour when they’re older (like adolescents) – as they usually don’t want to keep listening to their parents by that point!


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