In an interview with the Health Channel, Dr. Yadira Torres, Psy.D., Psychologist & Clinical Associate with Child Psychology Associates, explains how ADD and ADHD diagnoses are done for children.
Dr. Torres says that when she talks about ADD or ADHD inattentive type, she’s talking about those children who are really struggling in school because that is the environment in which the most accurate diagnosis can be made. In order to receive a diagnosis for ADD or ADHD, the behavior has to occur in more than one setting. If your child gets a little hyper around the holidays or at parties, then your child is probably not going to be diagnosed with ADHD. When these behaviors are occurring at home and school, then that behavior is occurring in a variety of settings and is more likely to point to ADHD.
Some characteristics of ADHD, that Dr. Torres outlines, are an inability to sit still or making careless mistakes on their schoolwork, as though they are just trying to get through it as quickly as possible. They might be able to focus on something like video games for hours at a time but when you put something more cognitively challenging in front of them like school lessons or work, they will try to avoid the tasks altogether. They are generally just extremely restless.
Dr. Torres warns that just because a child is jittery, does not mean they necessarily have ADHD and that sometimes, ADHD gets diagnosed in children who may have a different disorder. “Early childhood symptoms of depression and anxiety can look like symptoms of ADHD,” Dr. Torres says. “Taking your child to a pediatrician, a neurologist, or a psychologist to get further evaluated is the best move for parents who suspect their child may have ADHD.”
To be diagnosed with ADHD, Dr. Torres says it is quite strict. “We look at their cognitive, we look at their working memory, their executive functioning, their planning, their organization through a variety of measures,” Dr. Torres says. These assessments are done in a one-on-one setting with a psychologist. Their performance is interpreted in comparison to other children their age.
Watch the full segment of Dr. Yadira Torres talking about ADD and ADHD in children, here: https://youtu.be/d0XXHWfEhjo