Understanding ADHD | Parents & Caregivers of Children with ADHD | Evaluation and Treatment

Evaluation and Treatment

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Children and Teens

As there is no single test to diagnose ADHD, determining whether a child has the disorder takes many steps. A comprehensive evaluation is necessary to establish the diagnosis, rule out other causes, and determine the presence or absence of coexisting conditions. Such an evaluation requires time and effort. It should include a clinical assessment of the child’s school, social, and emotional functioning, as well as his or her developmental level. A careful history should be taken from parents, teachers, and the child when appropriate.

Teens with ADHD present a special challenge, as the academic and organizational demands upon them increase. In addition, they face typical adolescent issues: discovering their identity, establishing independence, and dealing with peer pressure.

Several types of professionals can diagnose ADHD, including pediatricians, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, and other medical doctors. A thorough medical examination by a physician is important. Only medical doctors can prescribe medication if it is indicated.

Regardless of who does the evaluation, use of the most current diagnostic criteria according to established professional standards of diagnosis is essential. During the evaluation process, the evaluating professional will request that the child’s parents and teachers complete various forms, checklists, and behavior questionnaires in order to gather comprehensive information. Read more about some of these assessment tools.

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How is ADHD treated?

Children and Teens

Effective treatment of ADHD in children and teens requires a comprehensive approach that professionals call multimodal. This means that the best outcomes are achieved when multiple interventions work together as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. The elements of a multimodal treatment approach include:

  • Parent training
  • Behavioral intervention strategies
  • An appropriate educational program
  • Education regarding ADHD
  • Medication, when necessary

Positive behavior intervention can be critical. The most important techniques are consistency and positive reinforcement, in which the child is rewarded for desired behavior. Classroom success may require a range of interventions, from making minor adjustments in the regular classroom to requiring special education programs. For many children with ADHD, medication may be an integral part of treatment. Both stimulant and nonstimulant medications are now available to physicians and parents.

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HAVE QUESTIONS? We can help. Learn more about ADHD and related conditions at CHADD’s National Resource Center on ADHD. You may also contact us by phone (800-233-4050) or use our Online Form (select "Questions about ADHD") and a health information specialist will provide a personalized response.