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The ADHD Book of Lists: A Practical Guide for Helping Children and Teens with Attention Deficit Disorders, 2nd Edition by Sandra F. Rief

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1.15 Diagnosing ADHD in Children and Teens

The diagnosis of ADHD is not a simple process. There is no single laboratory test or measure to determine if a person has ADHD, and no particular piece of information alone can confirm or deny the existence of ADHD. Nevertheless, ADHD can be diagnosed reliably. Perhaps in future years, we may see the use of genetic testing, brain imaging, or other more conclusive tools and methods recommended to be used for diagnostic purposes, but currently this is not the case.

The Diagnosis

  • The cornerstone of an ADHD diagnosis is meeting the criteria described in the most current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013 (List 1.3), which replaced the previous editions (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, 2000).
  • The diagnosis is made by gathering and synthesizing information obtained from a variety of sources in order to determine if there is enough evidence to conclude that the child meets all of the criteria for having ADHD. Basically, the clinician needs to determine the following:
    • The child has a significant number of specific symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or both.
    • The symptoms are to a degree that are out of norm for what is developmentally appropriate (compared to other children that age).
    • The symptoms are evident in at least two settings (typically home and school) and negatively affecting the child's life. ...

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