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ADHD Diagnosis

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

Introduction:
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get X-rayed or do a simple blood test that would indicate whether or not you are suffering from ADHD? Unfortunately, there is no quick test to establish a diagnosis. The process is a bit more complicated.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neuro- psychological condition that includes one or more of the following symptoms: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. ADHD is a condition a person is born with – it is not acquired in childhood, nor is it a result of bad parenting.

In most cases, at least one of the parents had the condition.

ADHD can interfere with academic performance, behaviour and social interaction for children, and information processing, job performance, mood and relationships for adults. ADHD also interferes with executive skills such as organization, behaviour control, prioritizing and decision making.

So How is ADHD Diagnosed?

Generally, assessing ADHD involves a thorough interview. In the case of a child, both the child and the parents will describe the symptoms that the child is exhibiting. Parents will also be asked questions related to the child’s cognitive deficiencies and academic difficulties. Behavioural, emotional and social problems will also be addressed to rule out other disorders such as anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, Asperger’s, central auditory processing disorder or any other learning disabilities for children, and post traumatic stress disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder or learning disabilities for adults. Whenever any mental disorder is suspected, a more thorough investigation is required.

There are a number of rating scales such as the Connors Rating Scale to assess ADHD and establish the severity of symptoms. The Connors Rating Scale includes three separate tests: self rating, parent rating and in case of a child, also teacher rating.

More advanced technologies such as a functional EEG assessment can be helpful in confirming a diagnosis. This type of testing can assess levels of brain waves related to focus and concentration. It can also point to dysfunction of the frontal lobes – a problem that all ADHD and learning disabled individuals suffer from.

Another method called CPT (Continuous Performance Test) can indicate more accurately levels of attention as well as a tendency for hyperactivity.

Assessing adults is not much different. When assessing adults, it is important to examine the person’s past in order to find out whether this person had concentration problems growing up, especially before the age of seven. It is also important to examine present job performance, since ADHD tends to interfere with productivity at work.

Clinicians typically refer to the DSM-IV – a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (published by the American Psychiatric Association) that describes in detail the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. See the links at the end of this article to find out more.

Neuro-cognitive Assessment

The purpose of this type of assessment is not necessarily for the purpose of diagnosing ADD/ADHD, but to identify weak areas and then train the brain to strengthen these weaknesses. We use an EEG assessment to establish how well the frontal lobes of the individual are functioning. This is one of the best ways to assess how capable the person is, to generate focus, concentration as well as executive functions (such as prioritizing, organizing, decision making, time management and impulse control). We also use a computerized skill test to establish how effectively a person is processing visual and auditory information.

During our assessment, we also use a neuro-cognitive training program see whether or not there is an improvement in EEG readings while using the program. In most cases, it is possible to see an improvement in cognitive function within 10-20 minutes. This can be very encouraging for the individual because it means that the person can be trained to improve his or her neuro-cognitive performance.

Summary

ADHD is a debilitating condition that can interfere with overall cognitive performance. In addition, it can affect a person’s mood and behaviour, executive functions, relationships, academics and work productivity. It can cause stress, depression and anxiety and adversely affect one’s self esteem. It is very important, therefore, to identify the condition and establish a treatment plan that will address all aspects of the problem. Medications such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Biphentine, Vyvance and others can prove helpful, but as is the case with any medication, it can also cause uncomfortable side effect. Fortunately, there are neuro-cognitive programs available to address the core neurological symptoms related to ADHD and learning disabilities and offer solutions to improve, or even resolve the problem without the need for medication.

To make an appointment to see a specialist at the ACE ADHD clinic in Toronto, please click the link.

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For more information on ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities (LD), please click here