Young children often have varying personalities and energy levels, and as a result may display normal behaviors that appear to be signs of ADHD. Due to this, and the fact that symptoms can vary from child to child, the disorder can be quite difficult to diagnose. There is no single test to make a diagnosis, but health professionals will most likely use the following to come to a conclusion:
In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, your child must meet the criteria published in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Health professionals use the DSM in the process of diagnosing a child. A shortened version of the DSM criteria in checklist form can be found on the CDC website. In order for a child to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, they must have 6 or more signs from one or both of the categories:
In addition to the DSM criteria, children must also meet a few other criteria to receive a diagnosis. They must have several ADHD symptoms in two or more settings such as at home, school, or while participating in other activities. Symptoms must clearly demonstrate an interference with behavior/functioning at school, home, etc. Symptoms must not be explained by other medical conditions or mental disorders. When evaluating a child, health professionals pay attention to his/her behavior in different situations. How they behave in certain academic, social, and home settings can be indicative of ADHD or a larger, underlying learning disability.
Some children may have other conditions with signs and symptoms that resemble those of ADHD or even have other illnesses alongside ADHD. These conditions could include: