A Snapshot of ADHD Diagnosis

A snapshot of ADHD diagnosis - personal experience with the screening process

ADHD diagnosis was a breeze for my son.

Don’t get me wrong, discovering what was eating my son didn’t come up all roses.  There were plenty of visits with counselors and some confusion leading up to the grand reveal.  But I’d have to say we’ve been blessed.  I make this claim because:

  • An experienced and insightful kindergarten teacher and a school counselor told me something was amiss
  • I was referred to a very good psychologist

Sounds like a near-zen experience.  I’d say things went well.  I’ve seen some horror stories on ADHD support group pages.  My heart goes out to these people.  Why does this process have to be so hard?

Here’s why: with ADHD, there is no factory-pressed, cookie-cutter way to reach diagnosis.  There aren’t blood tests; brain scans are an uncommon tool (which totally gets Dr. Amen on his soapbox – and rightfully so), and there are several kinds of professionals who can make a diagnosis.

See this informative article: Who Can Diagnose ADHD?  It describes the different types of professionals who can diagnose ADHD, and includes the pros and cons of each: psychiatrists, psychologists, your family doctor, nurse practitioner, neurologist, master level counselor, and social worker.  These are pretty diverse titles.

I’m going to share our experience because it went so darn well.  Hopefully the insight I provide will be helpful when you need to decide which type of professional to visit (hint: I’m a little biased).

Our situation wasn’t affected by other health situations (ex: diabetes).  After discussions with our son’s teacher, the school counselor, our family doctor and other counselors, we were referred to a clinical psychologist who is part of the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology.  I simply refer to him as THE SCREENER.  He is experienced in screening for ADD/ADHD, but also screens for learning disabilities, personality disorders, IQ, job skills, depression and other disorders.

I wanted to know if my son had ADHD, but I also hoped we could rule out another possibility: depression.  The counselor who referred us said, “Even if your son doesn’t have ADHD, the tests will tell you about his intelligence levels and give insight on how to parent him.”

The clinical psychologist’s ADHD testing included:

Not every clinical psychologist will use the same tests.  However, it gives a snapshot into what kind of might be recommended for your kiddo.

The screening is usually done in three sessions, about 1 to 1.5 hours each.  In our case, the psychologist broke them up into five sessions because our son was losing focus and getting sloppy with his answers.  I was pleased he did this because I felt it produced more accurate test results.  The assessment basically said my kid was smart, (IQ 124, 95th percentile) didn’t have depression, and had a heck of a hard time staying focused.

The screener felt my son’s test results were consistent with ADHD.  He referred my son to the family doctor for a low dose of medication.  I didn’t take him up on the medication (and he was NOT pushy about it), but I did follow his other recommendations:

Recommended reads by the screener:

It’s hard to find the right doctor sometimes.  If you are interested in using a screener, here are some search terms (from the screener himself):

  • Clinical psychologist
  • Assessment ADHD
  • Executive skills

Instead of using medication, we visited a nutritionist to figure out our son’s food sensitivities.  But that’s another topic entirely :-).


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Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor, I am a parent.  This information is not to be used as personal medical advice.  ALWAYS discuss health related concerns with your family doctor.  They know your medical history.




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