Children who are diagnosed with ADHD have difficulties with attentiveness and/or hyperactivity or impulsivity. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood. It affects about 3 – 5% of school aged children and is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls.
The diagnosis is based on very specific symptoms, which must be present in more than one setting.
- Children should have at least 6 attention symptoms or 6 hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms, with some symptoms present before age 7.
- The symptoms must be present for at least 6 months, seen in two or more settings, and not caused by another problem.
- The symptoms must be severe enough to cause significant difficulties in many settings, including home, school, and in relationships with peers.
Some professionals feel that ADHD is over-diagnosed and has become a label for kids who are highly distractible, very active and/or have a learning style that isn’t suited to traditional educational approaches. Sometimes kids who don’t have any psychiatric disorder but who have a temperament that makes them difficult to parent are mistakenly labeled as having ADHD.
At the same time, some of the symptoms related to ADHD overlap with those for depression, bipolar disorder, learning disabilities, anxiety and cognitive deficits. Therefore it is important to get a clearer picture of your child. If you notice your child struggling in any of the three main areas of attention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity, it is important to get a thorough assessment, which includes a visit to your child’s doctor and testing done by a qualified mental health professional.
In recent years, it’s also become clear that there are adults who struggle with ADHD, and who weren’t accurately assessed and diagnosed as children. For some adults this has had negative consequences, including failure in school, difficulties in the work place, substance abuse and legal troubles.
At APPLE FamilyWorks, we rely on valid and reliable measurement tools to help determine if an individual meets the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD. We are also experts in Temperament Assessment so we can differentiate between someone who has ADHD and someone who temperamentally just looks like someone with ADHD.
And we have trained licensed and pre-licensed professionals who know how to apply empirically-based treatment methods to help individuals with ADHD, and their parents (and teachers), cope more effectively with the challenges it presents. We also coordinate treatment with psychiatrists if medication is part of the treatment program. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you have concerns that you or your child may have ADHD.
For your general information, below are the professional diagnostic criteria for Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. It is always best, however, to have a mental health professional determine whether or not the diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder is warranted. We recommend you seek the expertise of a professional who can apply reliable assessment tools to make that determination.
DSM-IV Criteria for ADHD
Either A or B:
- Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:
- Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
- Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
- Often has trouble organizing activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
- Is often easily distracted.
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
- Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:
- Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
- Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).
- Often has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
- Often has trouble waiting one’s turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).
- Some symptoms that cause impairment were present before age 7 years.
- Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g. at school/work and at home).
- There must be clear evidence of significant impairment in social, school, or work functioning.
- The symptoms do not happen only during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder. The symptoms are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).
Based on these criteria, three types of ADHD are identified:
- ADHD, Combined Type: if both criteria 1A and 1B are met for the past 6 months.
- ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type: if criterion 1A is met but criterion 1B is not met for the past six months.
- ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: if Criterion 1B is met but Criterion 1A is not met for the past six months.