Who can diagnose and treat ADHD?

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

The experts who should diagnose ADHD are health professionals who are highly trained and experienced in diagnosing the condition. Watch ADHD specialist Ned Hallowell, MD, discuss the various specialists most qualified to diagnose ADHD.

Dr. Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Practitioner

Clinical psychiatric evaluations for a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) will include interviews with significant others or family members. These interviews will allow the clinician to gain a more complete perspective on patient history, including general health, developmental progress, school or work experiences, current daily behaviors, and any current issues with work or personal or professional relationships.

Dr. Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine Specialist

Given that teachers are the first to observe the ADHD symptoms in the child in classroom setting, they are often approached by evaluators to rate their observations of the child’s behavior on standardized evaluation scales to compare it to that of other children the same age and gender.

A neurologist, a brain and nervous system specialist, can diagnose and treat ADHD. In fact, kids with ADHD symptoms are often sent to a neurologist or a developmental pediatrician to find out if the symptoms are from ADHD or from some other medical problem in the brain. Once a diagnosis is made, neurologists, psychiatrists, or developmental pediatricians can prescribe ADHD medications and monitor and/or adjust them as needed.

A neurologist is able to diagnose and treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because neurologists are medical doctors, they can perform medical tests, verifying that your ADHD symptoms are not caused by an underlying medical condition. They can also prescribe medications for ADHD treatment. Some behavioral specialists, like psychologists, are unable to prescribe medications.

However, there is one downside of seeing a neurologist for ADHD treatment. Neurologists cannot offer behavioral therapies or counseling for ADHD. If you are interested in these therapies, you will need to visit a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed therapist for those services.

Neurologists can diagnose and treat ADHD however it is best to be under the care of a psychiatrist for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Lara Honos-Webb, PhD
Psychology Specialist

When your child's teacher tells you your child has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), realize that the call from the teacher is not a diagnosis. Teachers are not qualified to make a diagnosis. A diagnosis of ADHD requires a sophisticated data collection procedure from both parents and teachers and a trained mental health professional. Many other diagnoses need to be ruled out. If this procedure has not been followed, then it's not appropriate for the teacher to make this claim. There are many reasons a child might have difficulty concentrating or be disruptive in class—the label of ADHD should be the last possible explanation explored, not the first.

Ask the teacher, "What are we going to do to support my child?" In many areas of life, when we see a person having a problem, we look for ways to support the person and identify basic skills that can be improved. If you put a child without practice out on a basketball court, you wouldn't diagnose her with Basketball Playing Deficit Disorder—you would recognize that she needed practice and some basic skills in order to effectively play basketball. What does this mean for your child? Children need to learn how to learn. Not every stumbling block in education is brain dysfunction. Your child may simply need much repetition, practice of basic skills, and coaching to excel in school.

Dr. Polly Dunn, PhD
Psychology Specialist

If you or your child’s teacher suspects that he or she is having trouble with inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity, then a thorough evaluation is needed to determine the nature of their difficulties. A psychologist can conduct this evaluation in consultation with your child’s pediatrician. A full psychological evaluation to diagnose Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) will often include the following:

  • A thorough interview with both the parent and child (and ideally their teachers).
  • A review of the child’s psychological, academic, and medical records, including confirmation of a recent exam by their physician to rule out any medical issues or hearing or vision impairments that could be contributing to their symptoms.
  • A mental status examination.
  • An intelligence test.
  • A test of academic achievement.
  • Rating scales about behavioral and emotional problems completed by the child, their parents, and their teachers.
  • Rating scales about ADHD symptoms completed by the parents and teachers.
  • A continuous performance task.
  • Behavioral observations of the child in the clinic and in their school environment. If a school observation isn’t feasible, then structured clinic observations of the child completing academic work.
  • And last but not least, any other test or measure that appears warranted given the child’s specific situation, symptoms, or test results.

If you think that your child may have ADHD, get in touch with your child’s pediatrician for a full physical evaluation (including vision and hearing screenings). Then find a child psychologist in your area to conduct a full psychological evaluation with your child. Some school systems even have psychologists available to assist with the evaluation at a reduced cost. Best of luck!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.