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  • Writer's pictureHeather Kuhl, Psy. D., LMFT

How do I know if my child has ADHD?

Children with ADHD often have difficulty with these tasks as well as other important areas of functioning such as working memory, emotional regulation, starting tasks, planning projects, and focusing on one thing at a time. Further, these difficulties can lead to problems for children at home, school, and with friends. 

A child with ADHD may experience symptoms from one or more of the following categories: inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity.  

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), The ADHD child test shows three subtypes of ADHD based upon these symptoms including:

  • Primarily Inattentive Type (previously known as ADD)

  • Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive type

  • Primarily Combined Type (symptoms of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive type)

To qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, there must be evidence of 6 of the 9 symptoms of inattentiveness or hyperactivity-impulsivity (or 12 for combined type). Symptoms for ADHD – Primarily Inattentive Type from the DSM-5 include:

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).

  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).

  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked).

  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized work; has poor time management; fails to meet deadlines).

  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).

  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).

  • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).

  • Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).

The symptoms of ADHD – Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type include the following: a

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat.

  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g., leaves his or her place in the classroom, in the office or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining in place).

  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate. (Note: In adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless.)

  • Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.

  • Is often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g., is unable to be or uncomfortable being still for extended time, as in restaurants, meetings; may be experienced by others as being restless or difficult to keep up with).

  • Often talks excessively.

  • Often talks excessively before a question has been completed (e.g., completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation).

  • Often blurts out answers before a question has been completed (e.g., completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation).

  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission; for adolescents and adults may intrude into or take over what others are doing).

Another important aspect of ADHD is symptoms must be present in at least two settings such as home and school. Further, there must be clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with or reduce the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning. This is important because most children at some point in their lives have difficulties with sitting still, paying attention, focusing on one thing at a time, and following through with instructions. What may be normal for many children becomes problematic when it consistently gets in the way of ones functioning and success at home or school. 

However, before jumping to the conclusion that your child may have ADHD, consider that many other medical or mental health issues can mimic ADHD. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published new guidelines for ADHD suggesting that many children with ADHD often have other co-occurring medical or mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, sleep apnea, substance abuse, autism spectrum disorder) . Therefore, proper diagnosis is crucial. 

A psychological evaluation is one of the most effective approaches to properly assess for and diagnose ADHD. By incorporating historical information (medical, family, academic, developmental, and psychiatric history) and measures of cognitive, academic, emotional, and behavioral functioning along with feedback from parents and teachers, a psychologist can accurately assess if these symptoms are due to ADHD or more likely the result of other conditions such as anxiety, learning disorders, autism spectrum disorder, or an auditory processing disorder. 

Aside from diagnosis, the most important component of a psychological evaluation is to generate recommendations and suggestions to implement at home and/or school to create better opportunities for success. A diagnosis can also be used to advocate for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan at school to ensure appropriate accommodations are provided to support the student. Lastly, psychological evaluations identify areas of weaknesses but also provide insights into one’s strengths which are crucial to understand and build upon when working to create a roadmap for success. 

Find the Best Child ADHD Testing Near Me

Dr. Heather Kuhl specializes in psychological evaluations with children and adolescents and is waiting to answer questions you may have about how testing could help your child.  Call Dr. Kuhl today at (954) 391-5305.


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