How is ADHD diagnosed?

The majority of my referrals come from teachers, suspecting that a child in their class suffers from ADHD / ADD. And although teachers are not qualified to make this diagnosis, I have to honestly admit that 90% of the time they are right on the money.  So, heed the teacher’s call. Chances are that she’s not just trying to make your child’s life difficult or that she dislikes your child, but that her concern is genuine.  Trust that she has enough experience and know-how to be able to recognize the tell-tale signs such as distractability, impulsiveness and difficulty in maintaining focused attention.

Parents also often approach me saying that a GP or Psychiatrist has diagnosed their child as suffering from ADHD. The method of diagnosis used is usually a short interview with the child and a questionnaire completed by both the parents and the child’s teachers.  Now, although these are recognized methods of diagnosis for ADHD / ADD, I’m not entirely comfortable with using them on their own.  I would rather have the child seen to by a Neurologist who will take an EEG (Electroencephalogram) recording of the overall brain activity and analyse the data to try and detect abnormalities in the brain function.  The Neurologist will often insist on a full psycho-educational report from an Educational Psychologist.  The reason for this is to eliminate any other causes of distractability or poor academic performance, such as low IQ, poor self-esteem or learning difficulties.  In other words, during the assessment the Educational Psychologist will screen for everything other than ADHD / ADD while at the same time noting typical ADHD / ADD behaviour such as a lack of focused attention, being easily distracted, impulsively answering questions, difficulty sitting still, continuous yawning and /or continuous fidgeting.

If you suspect that your child might be suffering from ADHD (or ADD) I would suggest that you:

  1. Start by chatting to his / her teacher.  If the teacher expresses similar concerns …
  2. Take your child for a full psycho-educational assessment with an Educational Psychologist, who will (if he or she also suspects ADHD / ADD) …
  3. Refer you to a Peadiatric Neurologist, who will analyse the data from an EEG to confirm or refute the diagnosis.