Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder - Diagnosis

The first step in diagnosing ADHD is to have the child see a pediatrician. A pediatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in the diseases and disorders of children. Because many of the symptoms of ADHD are normal and common in all children, the pediatrician is careful to determine whether the child is behaving normally compared with other children of the same age. The pediatrician may also conduct a physical examination to make sure that there is nothing physically wrong with the patient, which may be causing the inadequate behaviors.

If the pediatrician finds no problems during the physical examination, the child may be referred to someone who works with mental disorders, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. The specialist then conducts his or her own examination, which may include a medical, family, educational, social, and psychological history. The specialist is likely to hold interviews with the child and to have the child take certain standard tests. The Achenbach Child Behavior Rating Scales, for example, attempts to provide information about a child's behavior in different settings.

Diagnosis of ADHD can be difficult because its symptoms are similar to those of other disorders. For example, depression (see depressive disorders entry) and anxiety disorders can cause symptoms similar to those of ADHD. Federal law now requires all public schools to offer free ADHD testing upon request.

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