How Do We Identify ADHD?
Although toddlers and preschoolers, on occasion, may show characteristics of ADHD, some of these behaviors may be normal for their age or developmental stage. These behaviors must be exhibited to an abnormal degree to warrant identification as ADHD. Even with older children, other factors (including environmental influences) can produce behaviors resembling ADHD.
The criteria set forth by the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) are used as the standardized clinical definition to determine the presence of ADHD (see DSM-IV Criteria for ADHD). A person must exhibit several characteristics to be clinically diagnosed as having ADHD:
- Severity: The behavior in question must occur more frequently in the child than in other children at the same developmental stage.
- Early onset: At least some of the symptoms must have been present prior to age 7.
- Duration: The symptoms must also have been present for at least 6 months prior to the evaluation.
- Impact: The symptoms must have a negative impact on the child's academic or social life.
- Settings: The symptoms must be present in multiple settings.
The specific DSM-IV criteria are set forth in the following chart.
|DSM-IV Criteria for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder|
Source: American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
Source: Adapted from U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs, Identifying and Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Resource for School and Home, Washington, D.C., 2008.
Page last modified or reviewed by athealth on January 28, 2014