Diagnosis of Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder Requires Accurate Assessment
By Roxanna Rahban Does your child seem to ignore you, constantly lose things, and have trouble sitting still, completing homework, or following through on chores? Is he or she temperamental, fidgety, or socially immature? Or are you a daydreamer, forgetful, and disorganized? There are an increasing number of individuals who share the same experience every day and wonder how to make sense of this condition. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood behavioral disorders, which frequently continues into adolescence, and often persists into adulthood. For all who struggle with this disorder, ADHD leads to behavioral, cognitive, and emotional difficulties that can reduce the quality of relationships, self-esteem, occupational functioning, and personal achievement. Despite often having strong abilities and talents, such individuals are also often inefficient at performing long tasks and thus tend to experience much frustration. Without an awareness of this condition, it’s easy to end up labeled “lazy” and “careless” and one can suffer the seeds of shame and embarrassment. An initial step toward improving the quality of your or your child’s life is an accurate evaluation and diagnosis. Before jumping to the conclusion that you or your child have ADHD, it is important to be aware that there are other conditions that resemble ADHD, such as anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, medical conditions, and the effects of medications. Unfortunately, there is no single or simple test that can diagnose ADHD, such as a blood test or brain scan. In order to assess fully for the occurrence of all mediating factors, a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation should be performed. A thorough evaluation involves a clinical interview and developmental history, and an examination of educational and academic achievement, intellectual functioning, learning and memory, fine and gross motor coordination, and social-emotional functioning. A complete physical exam is also strongly recommended in order to rule out any medical problems. A neuropsychological evaluation for ADHD often includes feedback from a clinician about the assessment results, recommendations, and resources related to available treatment and support. Numerous interventions for ADHD have been proposed both in the research literature and in common practice. The two treatment approaches for children are stimulant or non-stimulant medications, parent education, and training on child behavior management. Effective psychosocial interventions for children include cognitive-behavioral therapy and classroom and home behavioral plans, such as rewards systems and strengthening frustration tolerance. Alternative treatments also include EEG biofeedback and changes in nutrition or diet, yet these treatments have comparatively received less empirical support and popularity. For adults, treatment has traditionally been stimulant or non-stimulant medication, individual psychotherapy, mindfulness meditation classes, school accommodations, and most recently, individual ADHD coaching. Multi-modal interventions have shown to result in the most beneficial outcomes. Although a neuropsychological examination is often a lengthy and expensive process, there are affordable professionals who are capable of assessing you or your child. The Psychology Assessment Center at UCSB conducts affordable, comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations of ADHD, learning disabilities, psychological problems, and other cognitive problems in individuals aged 5 to 65. Assessments are conducted by doctoral student clinicians in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at UCSB under close supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist. For more information about the Psychology Assessment Center and the services provided, please call (805) 893-5141, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or view the website www.education.ucsb.edu/pac.
Roxanna Rahban is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at UCSB’s The Gevirtz School.