Medical Studies

Does your child have ADHD?

The share children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) is between 4.9 percent and 9 percent (depending on your selected source).  Non-Hispanic Whites are the most likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Between 2009 period and 1998, the average number of children aged 5-17 ever diagnosed with ADHD increased from 6.9% to 9.0% of the population.

Is this evidence of a growing problem or evidence of over-diagnosis?

To answer this question, one needs to know how ADHD is diagnosed.  Today, I review a number of these methods.

According to WebMD, Some common rating scales used to assess children with ADHD include:

  • The Vanderbilt Assessment Scale. This is a 55-question assessment tool. It reviews symptoms of ADHD according to the DSM-IV criteria. It also screens for co-existing conditions such as conduct disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, anxiety and depression, and more.
  • Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC). This scale assesses such things as hyperactivity, aggression, and conduct problems. It also addresses anxiety, depression, attention and learning problems, and lack of certain essential skills.
  • Child Behavior Checklist/Teacher Report Form. Among other things, this scale assesses physical complaints, aggressive or delinquent behavior, and withdrawal.

Another is Connor’s Global Index – Parent Edition (CGI-P).  The CGI-P is a 10-item questionnaire that examines common problems children have.  Problems are rated on an integer scale from 0 to 3, where 0 means never had this problem, 1 indicates “Just a little true”, 2 means “pretty much true”, and 3 means “very much true”.  Using the numerical values of these responses, on can calculate a total CGI-P score.  One can also calculate a restlessness index (the sum of questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8) and an emotional liability score (the sum of questions 5, 9, 10)

A questionnaire more targeted to identifying ADHD is the ADHD Risk Score IV (ADHD-RS-IV) questionnaire.  This questionnaire consists of 18 questions measuring ADHD risk, where responses selected on a similar 0-3 integer scale as the GPCI P.  The scale consists of 2 subscales: inattention (9 items) and hyperactivity-impulsivity (9 items).  The inattention (IA) score is equal to the sum of the odd-numbered questions and the hyperactivity-impulsivity (HI) subscale is equal to the sum of the even-numbered items.

If you want to calculate your own or your child’s ADHD risk score, you can use this helpful spreadsheet.  By filling out the first worksheet, the next two worksheet of the spreadsheet will calculate the HI, IA, and total risk scores.  One can use the estimated risk scores to determine where you child falls (on a percentile scale) relative to other children of a similar age and gender.

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