Many people complain of being easily distracted or unable to sit for long periods of time; however, careful and comprehensive evaluations are used to determine whether an individual meets clinical criteria for ADHD. According to the DSM-V, an ADHD diagnosis is met when a specific number of symptoms are evident in the areas of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive. Further, these symptoms must be present in multiple settings and interfere with various areas of functioning (e.g., academic).
Process of ADHD Testing
Testing will usually begin with a comprehensive interview involving the child and/or adult, teachers, parents, and any other informants that would provide helpful information. In addition to an interview, rating scales measuring attention/hyperactive/impulsive symptoms are administered to these parties. Self-reports are also used, as well as, behavioral observations in various settings. Other rating scales (e.g., social, emotional), are utilized to rule out other possible causes of ADHD (e.g., anxiety, mood disorder).
The evaluation will generally consist of an intelligence test administered directly to determine ability levels in areas such as verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, memory, and information processing. Specific testing to measure attention, focus, and impulsive responding will be administered. If there is a question of academics being hindered in light of attention problems, specific academic tests will be administered. Other areas will be tested as necessary.
DSM-V Symptoms of ADHD
Some possible symptoms of inattentive type include: making careless mistakes, difficulty attending, difficulty listening when spoken to, failing to complete tasks, difficulty with organization, avoiding tasks requiring sustained attention, losing items, becoming easily sidetracked, and being forgetful.
Some possible symptoms of the hyperactive/impulsive type include: difficulty staying seated and still, feeling restless or excessively running around when not appropriate, excessively noisy and/or talkative, difficulty waiting for a turn, and frequently cutting people off in conversation to speak.
American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. Arlington, VA., American Psychiatric Association, 2013.