National Center for Learning Disabilities

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How to Diagnose ADHD

ADHD Symptoms and DiagnosisSigns of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often occur in combination with reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic and language problems, as well as social and emotional problems. Sometimes it can be hard to determine if a child’s behavior is the result of ADHD, learning disabilities, or other disorders that can impact learning and behavior. That’s why it’s so important to have a careful and comprehensive evaluation done by qualified medical and educational professionals. These might include:

  • Physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Special educators
  • Related service providers (e.g., speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists)

At the Doctor’s Office

A medical practitioner is the only professional qualified to formally diagnose ADHD. To qualify for the diagnosis, a child must display symptoms of the disorder for at least six months. It’s important to know that there is no single test for ADHD. There are many steps in diagnosing ADHD, first of which is a complete physical exam and discussion of medical history. The doctor will want to make sure your child doesn’t have other medical issues that may look like features of ADHD.

Diagnosing ADHD does not happen during a quick office visit. It is a process that includes both examination and investigation. Doctors will observe your child’s behavior and ask that parents fill out questionnaires and share information about the duration, frequency and severity of ADHD symptoms. Teachers may also be asked to share report cards, work samples and anecdotal information about learning and behavior in school.

It is important to remember that most young children and many older students will have problems with learning and attention-related behavior from time to time. And these struggles do not necessarily mean that the person has ADHD. The process of discovering what signs and symptoms are related to LD and which are characteristics of ADHD is rarely easy. For these reasons, it is important to work with your child’s physician and educators and make any decisions only after a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary evaluation has been completed.