Assessments: ADD/ADHD

Assessments for Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD/ADD)

Many bright, successful students struggle with academic tasks because of cognitive processing difficulties associated with ADHD. This label is misleading and the diagnosis is often misunderstood. Many students with ADHD are very intelligent and creative, succeed in many ways and have no symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity. However, for many children, adolescents and adults, this cluster of impairment in the management system of the brain is definitely a real problem.

Is it ADD or ADHD?

ADHD is the “official” diagnosis but there are actually three distinct sub-types of symptoms of ADHD, which can be quite confusing.  The three sub-types of ADHD are:

• Predominantly Inattentive Subtype (often referred to as “ADD”)
• Predominantly Hyperactive Subtype
• Combined Subtype

Students with the Predominantly Inattentive Subtype are often not diagnosed in elementary school, because they show no outward signs of difficulty. However, as academic tasks become more rigorous and the demands for attention, memory and organization increase, students with ADHD of the Inattentive Type become easily frustrated and discouraged. This may not be noticed until high school, college or even graduate school.

Tests for ADD/ADHD

There is not just one objective test for diagnosing attention disorders. Rather, a trained professional relies on information from multiple sources in order to determine whether the client’s symptoms create consistent problems in ways that most people of the same age and ability do not experience.

Dr. McPhee often works together with the student, physicians, teachers and family to determine whether ADHD may be contributing to learning problems. Cognitive tests of short term memory, working memory and visual and auditory processing, provide concrete data about the impact of this neurologically-based syndrome. Assessment results can be used as a baseline measure of how much ADHD is impacting the student which is helpful for tracking progress and change over time.

Once the evaluation is complete, a comprehensive written report is provided to the parents or adult student. Included in the report are diagnostic conclusions, referrals and recommendations. Academic accommodations may be recommended when appropriate.


Click to watch ADHD expert Dr Thomas E Brown of Yale describe how ADHD can be accurately diagnosed in children and adults.