Children with ADHD or ADD: Assessment Tests Information

ADHD and ADD are among the most prevalent neurobehavioral problems children struggle with in the United States. To learn more about ADHD and the diagnostic process for this condition, read on!

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Diagnosing Children Who May Have ADHD or ADD

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and its subset, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), are brain conditions that make it challenging for kids to sit still or pay attention in school. Both conditions can be associated with impairment in social, academic and emotional functioning. To be diagnosed with ADHD, children must meet the criteria for ADHD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-TR ( Some of these criteria include displaying strong inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive tendencies.

Symptoms of inattention include an inability to organize activities or material items, keep one's attention on a single task, listen or attend to details. Tendencies of hyperactivity-impulsivity include excessive talking or running about, commonly interrupting teachers or peers, difficulty playing quietly and frequent fidgeting. If a child displays symptoms of inattention without symptoms of hyperactivity, he may be diagnosed as having ADD. Though it's normal for children to become distracted or act impulsively on occasion, kids diagnosed with ADHD display these behaviors beyond the developmental norm for their age.

ADHD - How Does an Assessment Work?

As there are no definitive tests available to diagnose ADHD, the process of diagnosing school-age children generally involves several steps. The motivation for an evaluation may come from you or your child's teacher. If your child's teacher suspects that your child has ADHD, she may complete an ADHD rating scale based on her classroom observation and your child's academic performance. From there, the diagnostic process will include observation of your child from a social, physical and emotional point of view at school and at home. To further determine whether or not your child has ADHD, there will likely be a series of psycho-educational tests and a clinical interview.

Psychological Testing

The purpose of psychological testing for children who may have ADHD is to find out whether or not there are processing deficits in their brain and to clarify the nature of these deficits. Psychological testing can assess the intricacies of a student's cognitive strengths and weaknesses, which can help professionals discover whether your child mainly suffers from ADHD or from a different learning disability. There are a number of tests used to evaluate children. Examples are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV and the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test-IV.

Educational Testing

Educational tests are performed to learn more about children's achievement levels in several categories of learning. Educational tests can help professionals discern how a neurobehavioral disability, such as ADHD, is affecting your child's academic performance. Common educational tests are the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement-Revised. This series of tests examine what students have learned in the areas of reading, writing, math and general knowledge. These tests analyze academic proficiency, thus an individual may have a high IQ score and a low achievement score if she struggles academically or has not regularly attended school.

Interviews and Questionnaires

An important part of an ADHD assessment is a clinical interview with you, your child and a mental health professional. The interview is usually designed to give you and your child a chance to openly discuss his struggles. Mental health professionals will also look at information provided via questionnaires filled out by school personnel, pediatricians and family members. Questionnaires ask observers to summarize certain behaviors that your child displays over a period of time.

Beyond that, the professionals assessing your child may look for patterns in your child's school records over the past few years. Other types of tests, such as blood tests, electroencephalograms or brain scans are not typically considered necessary to diagnose ADHD.

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