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Diagnosis of ADHD

1-minute read

If you are concerned that your child may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the first step is to see a doctor. The diagnosis can only be made after a detailed assessment of the child’s behaviour, including interviews with parents or carers and the school.

The diagnosis is usually made by a specialist paediatrician or child psychiatrist after referral from a doctor.

To make a diagnosis of ADHD, a specialist will need to be sure the ADHD symptoms:

  • began before the age of 7 and have persisted for 6 months or more
  • are present in more than one setting (for example, school and home)
  • have caused significant impairment, at school, home or socially
  • are unusual for the child’s age and developmental level
  • are not better explained by another mental or physical condition, family circumstances or stress.

A diagnosis of ADHD can be controversial, and some health professionals have been concerned that it has been overdiagnosed in recent years. Other problems, such as a traumatic family environment, brain injury or disability, can sometimes cause children to behave in ways that seem like ADHD.

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Last reviewed: November 2016

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