When Assessment is Needed

Many parents or individuals seek out ADHD/LD assessments. Often, they have been referred to testing specialists by teachers, counselors, or physicians.

How do I know if I, or my child, should get testing?

Below are the criteria for ADHD, as defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5.

ADHD is a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. It can be characterized by either/both of inattention and hyperactivity:

1. Inattention. For those 16 and under, six or more of the following, for at least 6 months and to a degree that is impacts social and school/work activities: For those age 17 and up, at least five symptoms are required.

  • Often does not pay close attention to details, or makes careless mistakes
  • Often cannot sustaining attention in tasks
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often does not follow through on instructions at school, home, or work
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Often avoids or does not like tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • Often loses objects that are important for tasks or activities 
  • Often distracted by things around them, or by their own thoughts
  • Often forgetful in everyday activities

2. Hyperactivity and impulsivity. For those 16 and under, six or more of the following, for at least 6 months and to a degree that negatively impacts social and school/work activities: For those age 17 and up, at least five symptoms are required.

  • Often fidgets or squirms when sitting down
  • Often gets up out of one’s seat and wanders around when it is inappropriate to do so
  • Often runs around or climbs things when it is inappropriate to do so–or, in adolescents and adults, very often feeling restless
  • Often unable to engage in recreation quietly
  • Often becomes uncomfortable when it is required to be still for an extended time–or, thought of by others as being “hard to keep up with”
  • Often talks excessively, such as interrupting or being unable to wait for their turn to speak
  • Often has difficulty waiting their turn, or waiting in lines
  • Often interrupts others or intrude without permission
  • Often does not pay close attention to details, or makes careless mistakes

When These Symptoms Arise

  • These symptoms would have started before the individual was 12 years old.
  • Several of the behaviors have to be present in two or more settings (home, school, work, socially, etc.).
  • The behaviors interfere with social, school, or work functioning.
  • There is not another serious disorder present, and the person is not using substances that cause these problems.

Below are the criteria for Specific Learning Disorders, as defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5.

Specific learning disorders are characterized by difficulties in learning and using academic skills. A specific learning disorder may be present if the person has at least one of these symptoms, and the symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months and have persisted despite attempts to intervene with the difficulties.

  • Inaccurate or slow and effortful work reading (e.g., reading single words aloud incorrectly, slowly, or hesitantly; frequently guessing words; difficultly sounding out words).
  • Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read (e.g., reading text accurately but not understanding the sequence, relationships, or deeper meaning of what is read).
  • Difficulties with spelling (e.g., adding, omitting, or substituting letters).
  • Difficulties with written expression (e.g., making multiple grammatical or punctuation errors in sentences, poor writing organization, written expression lacks clarity).
  • Difficulties in using numbers or making calculations (e.g., poor understanding of numbers, counts on fingers to add single-digit numbers, gets lost doing arithmetic calculations).
  • Difficulties in mathematics reasoning (e.g., in applying math concepts, facts, or procedures to solve problems).

These difficulties are substantially below what is expected for the individual’s chronological age, and cause interference with academic or occupational performance.

Questions about testing and assessment

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