What is ADHD screening?
ADHD screening, also called an ADHD test, helps find out if you or your child has ADHD. ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It used to be called ADD (attention-deficit disorder).
ADHD is a behavioral disorder that makes it hard for someone to sit still, pay attention, and focus on tasks. People with ADHD may also be easily distracted and/or act without thinking.
ADHD affects millions of children and often lasts into adulthood. Until their own children are diagnosed, many adults don't realize symptoms they've had since childhood may be related to ADHD.
There are three main types of ADHD:
- Mostly Impulsive-Hyperactive. People with this type of ADHD usually have symptoms of both impulsivity and hyperactivity. Impulsivity means acting without thinking about the consequences. It also means a desire for immediate rewards. Hyperactivity means difficulty sitting still. A hyperactive person fidgets and moves about constantly. It can also mean the person talks nonstop.
- Mostly Inattentive. People with this type of ADHD have trouble paying attention and are easily distracted.
- Combined. This is the most common type of ADHD. Symptoms include a combination of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness.
ADHD is more common in boys than girls. Boys with ADHD are also more likely to have impulsive-hyperactive or the combined type of ADHD, rather than inattentive ADHD.
While there is no cure for ADHD, treatments can help reduce symptoms and improve daily functioning. ADHD treatment often includes medicine, lifestyle changes, and/or behavioral therapy.
Other names: ADHD test
What is it used for?
ADHD screening is used to diagnose ADHD. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
Why do I need ADHD screening?
Your health care provider may order an ADHD test if you or your child has symptoms of the disorder. ADHD symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe, and can vary depending on the type of ADHD disorder.
Symptoms of impulsivity include:
- Nonstop talking
- Having trouble waiting for a turn in games or activities
- Interrupting others in conversations or games
- Taking unnecessary risks
Symptoms of hyperactivity include:
- Frequent fidgeting with hands
- Squirming when seated
- Trouble staying seated for long periods of time
- An urge to keep in constant motion
- Difficulty doing quiet activities
- Trouble completing tasks
Symptoms of inattention include:
- Short attention span
- Trouble listening to others
- Being easily distracted
- Trouble staying focused on tasks
- Poor organizational skills
- Trouble attending to details
- Avoidance of tasks that require a lot of mental effort, such as schoolwork, or for adults, working on complicated reports and forms.
Adults with ADHD may have additional symptoms, including mood swings and difficulty maintaining relationships.
Having one or more of these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you or your child has ADHD. Everybody gets restless and distracted at times. Most children are naturally full of energy and often have trouble sitting still. This is not the same as ADHD.
ADHD is a long-lasting condition that can affect many aspects of your life. Symptoms may cause problems in school or work, home life, and relationships. In children, ADHD can delay normal development.
What happens during an ADHD screening?
There is no specific ADHD test. Screening usually involves several steps, including:
- A physical exam to find out if a different type of disorder is causing symptoms.
- An interview. You or your child will be asked about behavior and activity level.
The following tests are designed specifically for children:
- Interviews or questionnaires with people who interact regularly with your child. These may include family members, teachers, coaches, and babysitters.
- Behavioral tests. These are written tests designed to measure a child's behavior compared with the behavior of other children the same age.
- Psychological tests. These tests measure thinking and intelligence.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for ADHD screening?
You usually don't need any special preparations for ADHD screening.
Are there any risks to screening?
There is no risk to a physical exam, written test, or questionnaire.
What do the results mean?
If results show ADHD, it's important to get treatment as soon as possible. Treatment usually includes a combination of medicine, behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes. It can take time to determine the right dose of ADHD medicine, especially in children. Some non-drug therapies for children with ADHD have recently become available. They are only available by prescription and include:
- A small external device with a skin patch that is attached to a child's forehead. While the child is sleeping, the device delivers a mild electrical pulse that sends signals to the part of the brain thought to be involved in ADHD. It should only be used on children ages 7-12.
- A game-based device designed to improve attention and other ADHD symptoms. This device is designed to be used as part of a therapeutic program, which may include medicine, educational programs, and other treatments.
These therapies are still very new, and more studies are needed to figure out how effective they are. To learn more, talk to you child's health care provider. Your provider can also answer any other questions you have about results and ADHD treatments.
Is there anything else I need to know about ADHD screening?
You or your child may get an ADHD test if you have a family history of the disorder, along with symptoms. ADHD tends to run in families. Many parents of children with ADHD had symptoms of the disorder when they were younger. Also, ADHD is often found in siblings of the same family.
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The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.