ADHD Screening Referrals

Some parents have their child screened for ADHD because they notice symptoms at home. But it’s also common for children to get referred for a screening by a teacher. The behaviors of ADHD, such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, can be easier to notice in a school environment.

Getting a referral does not mean that your child has ADHD. It just indicates that the teacher has noticed some symptoms often associated with the disorder. If you’ve received a referral from your child’s school, talk to the teacher about what they’ve observed, then make an appointment with a specialist.

Who Diagnoses Children with ADHD?

Typically, psychiatrists and psychologists are the ones to diagnose ADHD. Some developmental pediatricians and speech pathologists make ADHD diagnoses as well.

To have your child screened for ADHD, you’ll need to make an appointment with one of these specialists. They have the training to differentiate ADHD from other conditions which may resemble ADHD, such as vision or hearing problems, learning or language difficulties, mood disorders like anxiety or depression, and autism spectrum disorder.

The ADHD Diagnosis Process

Specialists look for specific symptoms described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5) when diagnosing ADHD:

  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity: Fidgeting, talking excessively, always in motion, etc.
  • Inattention: Easily distracted, forgetful, doesn’t follow through on instructions, etc.

A child is only diagnosed if they meet a certain symptom threshold in one or both categories. In addition, the symptoms must be present in two or more settings and the specialist must confirm that there isn’t another mental disorder or health condition that may explain the symptoms.

In addition to observing the child to see if these symptoms are present, the specialist will conduct a physical and neurological exam to rule out other possible causes.