Diagnosis

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The first step in determining if a child has ADHD is to consult with a pediatrician. The pediatrician can make an initial evaluation of the child's developmental maturity compared to other children in his or her age group. The physician should also perform a comprehensive physical examination to rule out any organic causes of ADHD symptoms, such as an overactive thyroid or vision or hearing problems.

If no organic problem can be found, a psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, neuropsychologist, or learning specialist is typically consulted to perform a comprehensive ADHD assessment. A complete medical, family, social, psychiatric, and educational history is compiled from existing medical and school records and from interviews with parents and teachers. Interviews may also be conducted with the child, depending on his or her age. Along with these interviews, several clinical questionnaires may also be used, such as the Conners Rating Scales (Teacher's Questionnaire and Parent's Questionnaire), Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and the Achenbach Child Behavior Rating Scales. These inventories provide valuable information on the child's behavior in different settings and situations. In addition, the Wender Utah Rating Scale has been adapted for use in diagnosing ADHD in adults.

It is important to note that mental disorders such as depression and anxiety disorder can cause symptoms similar to ADHD. (Depression can cause attention prob

A special education teacher helps a student with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder with his math assignment. (Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

A special education teacher helps a student with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder with his math assignment. (Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

lems, and anxiety can cause symptoms similar to hyper-activity.) A complete and comprehensive psychological assessment is critical to differentiate ADHD from other possible mood and behavioral disorders. Bipolar disorder, for example, may be misdiagnosed as ADHD.

Public schools are required by federal law to offer free ADHD testing upon request. A pediatrician can also provide a referral to a psychologist or pediatric specialist for ADHD assessment. Parents should check with their insurance plans to see if these services are covered.

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