The Complicated World of ADHD Assessment

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) events in New York City are giving the public a chance to learn about and discuss any number of topics: autism, neuroscience and religion, head injuries in sports, enhancing memory, sleep disorders. One helpful workshop attended by about two dozen parents of children and adolescents who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was entitled: “The Role of Neurological Assessment in the Evaluation and Treatment of ADHD.”

Evaluating ADHD is complex, mainly because in more than half the children, the disorder co-occurs with other disorders, including problems with learning, substance abuse, anxiety, and motor coordination. According to the presentation, as many as five percent of all children worldwide have ADHD.

While the workshop’s speakers, Pooja Vekaria, Ph.D., and Marsha Vasserman, Ph.D., both assistant professors of child and adolescent psychiatry, did an admirable job of explaining the various complications involving ADHD assessment, the parents at the workshop made it abundantly clear that they are frustrated by schools that aren’t meeting the needs of their children. During the workshop’s Q&A session, each parent was given ample time to lay out their child’s particular dilemma.

“I understand your concern in that your son doesn’t seem to fit in a specialized LD (Learning Disability) school or a regular school and that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of options in New York City,” said Vekaria, Ph.D., a clinical neurologist at NYU’s Langone Medicine Center’s Child Study Center. “It’s quite a difficult situation that society needs to address.”

The speakers began by noting that there is no single independent test to diagnose ADHD. Instead, extensive, lengthy evaluations are needed to form a diagnosis. The criteria for a positive diagnosis require at least five or six symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity for at least six months.  The symptoms should be present in two settings and interfere with or reduce the quality of the child or adolescent’s social, academic, or occupational functioning.

The speakers gave helpful hints regarding treatment and educational planning. They also made suggestions on how parents might want to approach explaining the need for evaluation and treatment to their kids. Other upcoming educational workshops in the series will cover topics such as identifying and successfully treating anxiety, a guide to adolescent depression, and summer success for children with ADHD.

At the end of the session, many of the participants approached the speakers to personally thank them for their advice and guidance.

–Bill Glovin

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