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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Diagnosis

There is no single test to diagnose ADHD. For a child, a pediatrician may make the diagnosis, or may make a referral to a specialist. For adults, a mental health professional generally performs the evaluation.

The clinician will ask about symptoms related to ADHD. Since, in children, many of these characteristics are more likely to be seen in a school setting, the clinician will also ask about behavior in school. To help collect this information, the evaluator will often interview parents, teachers and other caregivers or ask them to fill out special behavioral checklists.

Since other conditions may cause the symptoms of ADHD, the medical history and physical examination are important. For example, the doctor may look for trouble hearing or vision, learning disabilities, speech problems, seizure disorders, anxiety, depression, or other behavior problems. In some cases, other medical or psychological testing may be useful to check for one or more of these conditions. These tests can sometimes help clinicians and teachers develop practical suggestions.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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