There is no single medical, neurological, or attentional test that can reliably identify ADHD. However, specific patterns of results across several different tests can in combination help identify the condition. The particular combination of tests selected will depend on the clinician, but will likely include assessments of personality and problem solving styles, current fears and concerns, and intellectual functioning.
Psychologists are the only mental health clinicians that have specific training and expertise in using and interpreting psychological tests. Therefore, it is critical to find a psychologist who has experience working with people with ADHD to administer these tests. Since ADHD can have a big impact on school performance, the school district in which a child resides will usually pay for testing. Typically, parents have the option of utilizing the school psychologist or working with a private child psychologist to administer the tests and interpret the results.
Some of the following list of tests may be administered in an effort to assess the abilities and areas of challenge for an individual during the ADHD diagnostic process. These tests can be useful tools to help guide diagnosis and/or plan for treatment and intervention strategies. However the results of one test in isolation (rather than multiple tests) should never be used to diagnose ADHD.
Self-report instruments are commonly used to help identify ADHD in both children and adults. Self-report instruments are generally a series of questions to which a person responds about their own symptoms, thoughts, and feelings. Behavior checklists are sometimes referred to as "report by other" scales. As the name suggests, these scales are filled out by a person who spends a significant amount of time with the child suspected of having ADHD. Usually, a high score on both types of scales indicates a higher degree of ADHD-associated symptoms.
ACTeRS is a self-report instrument used to identify ADD children, both with and without hyperactivity using four factors: Hyperactivity, Oppositional Behavior, Attention, and Social Skills. This instrument is designed for use with kindergartners through eighth graders and comes in paper and pencil or computerized forms.
Brown Attention Deficit Disorder Scales - Adolescent Version
This 40-item self-report measure is a quick way to screen for adolescent ADD. The instrument highlights 6 target areas, the ability to: sustain attention, sustain effort to complete tasks, activate and organize work tasks, recall learned material, utilize short-term memory, and regulate moods.
Connors' Rating Scales - Revised
This instrument was one of the first rating scales developed to evaluate children and adolescents with ADHD. The Connors' system includes scales for parents/caregivers, teachers, and adolescents. Parent and teacher forms can be used for children and adolescents aged 3 to 17, while the adolescent form can be used for children ages 12 to 17. The 80-item parent form includes questions about behavioral symptoms in categories such as oppositionality, social problems, anxiety and inattention.
Copeland Symptom Checklist for Attention Deficit Disorders - Child and Adolescent Version
This checklist is designed determine whether a child or adolescent has symptoms characteristic of ADHD, their severity, and which functional areas are most affected. The checklist addresses 10 key areas, including: emotional difficulties, peer relationships, family-interaction issues, maturity level, distractibility, activity level, impulsivity, degree of compliance, attention-seeking behaviors, and cognitive and visual-motor achievement.
The Vanderbilt Assessment Scale
The Vanderbilt Assessment Scale has two components: symptom assessment and an assessment of impairment of performance at home, school, and other social settings. This rating scale is used by professionals to screen for ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety and depression in children. The parent rating scale version contains 55-items, while the teacher version has 43 items and focuses on behavior and observations at school.