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What is ADHD?

There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other diagnoses, like anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms and even overlap with ADHD.

We like to think about ADHD like this:

It’s not that a child with ADHD cannot pay attention. It is that he/she has extreme attention and is paying attention to EVERYTHING.  The trouble is focusing on the task at hand. 

When consulting professionals to determine if your child has ADHD, the following criteria from the Diagnostical Statistical Manual V are considered.

DSM-5 DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR ADHD

Must meet criteria for Inattention, Hyperactivity/Impulsivity, or Both
1. Inattention
17 and younger: Six or more of these symptoms must be present for at least 6 months, be
inconsistent with the child’s developmental level, and have a negative effect on their social
and academic activities. To be endorsed, the following must occur “often”:
a. Fails to pay close attention to details
b. Has trouble sustaining attention
c. Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to directly
d. Fails to follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or chores
e. Has trouble getting organized
f. Avoids or dislikes doing things that require sustained focus/thinking
g. Loses things frequently
h. Easily distracted by other things
i. Forgets things
2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
Six or more of these symptoms must be present for at least 6 months, be inconsistent with
the child’s developmental level, and have a negative effect on their social and academic
activities. To be endorsed, the following must occur “often”:
a. Fidgets with hands/feet or squirms in chair
b. Frequently leaves chair when seating is expected
c. Runs or climbs excessively
d. Trouble playing/engaging in activities quietly
e. Acts “on the go” and as if “driven by a motor”
f. Talks excessively
g. Blurts out answers before questions are completed
h. Trouble waiting or taking turns
i. Interrupts or intrudes on what others are doing
ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Presentation (ADHD-PI)
ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation (ADHD-PHI)
ADHD Combined Presentation (Inattentive & Hyperactive-Impulsive) (ADHD-C)
Specify if:
Mild: Six or only slightly more symptoms are endorsed and impairment in social or school
functioning is minor
Moderate: Symptoms or impairment is between mild and severe
Severe: (Many symptoms are above required 6 are endorsed and/or symptoms are severe;
impairment in social or school functioning is severe)

(Source: American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5),
Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association)

Mom's Choice, ADDA, CHADD, ACO

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