Early diagnosis of ADHD is very important. But there is a big difference between suspecting you or your child has ADHD and knowing for certain. Parents, teachers and individuals are cautioned against diagnosing ADHD themselves.
If you think your child has ADHD you should first contact your GP to discuss your concerns and seek a referral. Your doctor will usually refer you to a child psychiatrist, psychologist or paediatrician for assessment. See our guide – The A to Zee of ADHD which lists those who diagnose ADHD.
There is no blood or other biological test to determine its presence. Diagnosing ADHD, and any coexisting difficulties, is complicated and much like putting together a puzzle. An accurate diagnosis requires an assessment by a well-trained and experienced professional (usually a psychiatrist or psychologist).
The professional will compile a case history, including when symptoms began and for how long they persisted. Parents and teachers usually help with this assessment for those under 18 years old; and you may be asked to fill out questionnaires. In adults, information from an external source, such as a parent or sibling will usually be used to assess the individual’s history and the effects of symptoms at different stages of the person’s life.
Assessments often include medical and psychological evaluations, but at the very minimum they will involve a clinical interview – each specialist differs in their approach. However, this does not mean that diagnosis is not accurate and/or valid. There are strict diagnostic criteria for ADD/ADHD which draws the line of demarcation between ADHD and other conditions. Also, ADHD will affect everyone differently, and people with ADHD often have additional coexisting (or comorbid) difficulties or disorders, such as learning disorders, so assessments must be flexible and adapt to the specific individual.
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