ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by an ongoing pattern that includes one or more of the following types of symptoms: 

  • Inattention, including difficulty staying on task, maintaining focus, and keeping organized 

  • Hyperactivity, including frequent or constant movement, restlessness, and excessive fidgeting or talking 

  • Impulsivity, including frequently interrupting others, making decisions without considering consequences, or challenges with waiting turns, impulse control, and delayed gratification 

Early and accurate diagnosis can lead to effective intervention and support strategies, enhancing the quality of life for children with ADHD and their families. 

A pediatric neurologist evaluating a young child for ADHD.

Recognizing the Signs of ADHD 

Common symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities. 

  • Frequent careless mistakes in schoolwork or other activities. 

  • Trouble with organizing tasks and activities. 

  • Avoidance or reluctance to engage in tasks requiring sustained mental effort. 

  • Forgetfulness in daily activities. 

  • Poor listening skills and trouble with following directions. 

  • Fidgeting, tapping, or an inability to stay seated. 

  • Excessive talking and interrupting others. 

These symptoms must be present for at least six months and must interfere with social, academic, or occupational functioning to warrant a diagnosis of ADHD. 

The ADHD Testing Process 

  1. Initial Evaluation: The evaluation process typically begins with a comprehensive interview with the child’s caregivers. This interview gathers detailed information about the child's behavior, development, family history, and suspected ADHD symptoms and their impact on daily life.  

  2. Behavioral Questionnaires: Caregivers, teachers, and sometimes the child themselves will complete standardized questionnaires that assess ADHD symptoms. Commonly used tools include the Conners’ Rating Scales and the ADHD Rating Scale-IV. 

  3. Medical Examination: A physical exam is conducted to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing symptoms similar to ADHD. This step ensures that the diagnosis is accurate and not confounded by other health issues. 

  4. Observation and Interviews: Direct observation of the child in various settings, such as home and school, can provide valuable insights into their behavior. Additionally, interviews with teachers and other caregivers help build a comprehensive understanding of the child's functioning across different environments. 

  5. Psychological Testing: In some cases, psychological testing may be conducted to assess cognitive abilities, executive functioning, and other areas relevant to ADHD. These tests can help differentiate ADHD from other conditions with similar symptoms, such as learning disabilities or anxiety disorders

Criteria for Diagnosis 

ADHD is diagnosed based on criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 requires that symptoms be present in two or more settings (e.g., home and school) and that they interfere with or reduce the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning. The diagnosis is categorized into three types: Predominantly inattentive presentation, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation, or combined presentation. 

The Importance of an Interdisciplinary Approach 

An interdisciplinary team approach to ADHD diagnosis ensures that all aspects of the child's development and behavior are considered. This team may include pediatricians, pediatric neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and educational specialists. Collaboration among these professionals can facilitate a more accurate diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plan. 

Next Steps After Diagnosis 

Once a diagnosis is made, developing a tailored treatment plan can help to ensure a child thrives at home, in school, and in their community. Treatment may include a combination of behavioral interventions, educational accommodations, and, in some cases, medication. Behavioral strategies might involve organizational skills training, caregiver training programs, and more. Schools can provide accommodations such as extended time on tests, preferential seating, and individualized education plans (IEPs) to support the child's learning needs. 

Services at Cortica 

At Cortica, we offer comprehensive services for children diagnosed with ADHD. Our interdisciplinary team provides individualized care that addresses each child's unique needs. Our services include behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), occupational therapy, and medication management. We work closely with caregivers to develop personalized treatment plans that support the child’s growth and development in all areas of life. 

Navigating the process of ADHD testing and diagnosis can be challenging, but understanding each step can help caregivers advocate for and support their child. By collaborating with healthcare professionals and educators, caregivers can ensure their child receives the comprehensive care and support they need to succeed in all areas of their life.