If a person is suspected of having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), what are the next steps to take? Both children and adults can be diagnosed with ADHD, though children are diagnosed more often than adults.
There are many different ADHD screening tests that assess if a child or an adult has ADHD. ADHD assessments are uniquely designed for children and adults and include several different rating scales. ADHD screening tools can help medical professionals confirm whether someone has the condition, allowing them to make an official ADHD diagnosis.
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ADHD Screening Methods
To screen a child for ADHD, medical professionals may first want to talk to the child’s parents, caregivers, family members and even teachers to gain unbiased perspectives about the child’s symptoms. The same can be said about teens, though they may be asked directly about their symptoms. To screen adults for ADHD, it may also be helpful to talk to a partner or another person close to the adult about their symptoms.
- Common Types of Screening Methods for ADHD:
Regardless of a patient’s age, there are three common types of screening methods for ADHD:
- Interviews: An ADHD clinical interview may be conducted after a physical examination. The purpose of a physical exam is to rule out any other potential conditions that cause similar symptoms to ADHD. During an interview, a patient and their loved ones may be asked questions about their symptoms.
- Behavioral tests: Behavioral tests are usually written tests that compare the person being tested to people of the same age who do not have ADHD. This is done to assess the person’s behavior.
- Psychological tests: Psychological tests serve as a way to evaluate how a patient thinks and to give doctors a general idea about their intelligence.
Child Rating Scales
Child rating scales have been used as a diagnostic tool for ADHD since the 1950s. These scales are essentially child ADHD assessments that ask children and their loved ones questions about their emotions and behavior. Regardless of the particular ADHD screening test, each scale is scored based on a child’s answers.
Scales have predetermined cutoffs to determine if a child may have ADHD. It should be stated that child rating scales are not foolproof — children may score positive for ADHD by one scale but score negative by another. It is important to take a child’s physical examination, clinical interview and other tests into account before making an official ADHD diagnosis.
- Conners CBRS:
The Conners ADHD test is a rating scale meant to assess adolescents between the ages of 6 to 18. The Conners CBRS has different versions for teens, parents and teachers. The test consists of different subsections that address a child’s authority problems, oppositional problems, learning difficulties, hyperactivity and other traits associated with ADHD. A score of around 60 indicates the person may have ADHD. Teens or children can also view their score in percentile form to see what others have scored.
- Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Rating Scale:
The Vanderbilt ADHD screening also involves different forms for children, parents and teachers. This scale is traditionally used to assess children from the ages of 6 to 12. The Vanderbilt test screens for typical ADHD symptoms as well as symptoms of a conduct disorder on parental forms. Additionally, a child’s teacher may be asked about whether the child meets criteria for a learning disability. The Vanderbilt parent assessment includes 45 questions and the teacher assessment has 43 questions. Questions are scored on 4–5 point scales. Higher scores generally indicate more severe ADHD symptoms, with some exceptions.
Adult Rating Scales
Adult ADHD screening is slightly different from the scales used to assess children for ADHD. A typical adult ADHD assessment includes self-reporting symptoms, unlike most child scales. It is important to note that because adults self-report their symptoms, there is potential for more subjective answers. Therefore, it is highly recommended that a person’s partner, spouse, close relative, co-worker or boss also take an assessment to verify the person’s self-reported answers.
- Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS):
The adult ADHD self-report scale has several different versions. The original version consists of 18 questions and can help identify adults who show symptoms of ADHD. A later version, called the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) screener, has six additional questions that address symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The test is scored based on how frequently a patient exhibits ADHD symptoms.
- Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Symptom Assessment Scale for Adults:
Another adult ADHD scale is known as the Brown Attention Deficit Disorder Symptom Assessment Scale (BADDS) for Adults. Adults use the BADDS scale to self-report their symptoms of ADHD. This assessment may be given separately or following a clinical interview. The BADDS scale has 40 items that assess different symptoms related to attention, effort, memory and activation. This test also asks an adult about their lifestyle and how they generally function. The assessment is scored from 0 to 3, based on frequency.
How to Prepare for an ADHD Screening
There are a few ways children, teens, adults, parents and others can prepare for an ADHD screening. Patients may be given scales, assessments or questionnaires before their appointment with a physician.
In order to prepare for an initial visit, the person being screened for ADHD must bring their medical history and contact information for anyone else taking a questionnaire. They must also provide permission to contact these people. Additionally, patients should bring test results (such as IQ test results), past ADHD evaluation results, personality tests, grades and other items that can offer further insight.
Belliveau, Jeannette. “ADHD Rating Scales: What You Need to Know.” Healthline, July 14, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2019.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). “Clinical Practice Tools.” (n.d.). Accessed September 27, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “ADHD Screening.” April 3, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019.