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How Does ADHD Multi-Source Assessment Work?

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

In a previous chapter, we discussed the signs and symptoms of ADHD that parents and teachers notice. In this section, we will be discussing the signs and symptoms that professionals use to identify and diagnose ADHD.

In the United States, the most commonly used diagnostic manual is called, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; APA, 2013). It describes ADHD as a childhood disorder causing developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, and/or hyperactive-impulsive behavior, which appear before the age of 12, and continue for more than six months. These symptoms have been previously defined and reviewed. 

To meet the diagnostic requirements, the symptoms must affect someone's functioning in a variety of settings (home, school, playground, extra-curricular activities, etc.). In order to gather information from a variety of settings, multiple reporters are needed. Within each setting, there can be many people who know specific aspects of the child's functioning. Therefore, clinical guidelines suggest a multistage assessment with a team of multidisciplinary professionals. This team may include teachers, healthcare providers, psychologists, and school counselors. 

The evaluation includes three main steps:

1. An assessment of academic, social, and emotional functioning;
2. Clinical interviews;
3. A complete medical evaluation and history.