What to Expect at Your Child's ADHD Evaluation

Teenage boy distracted from reading
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For many parents, making an appointment and getting your child tested for ADHD can be a major step that may create a flurry of feelings and questions. You might wonder what you need to do to prepare, how long it'll take, what sort of information the healthcare provider might need, and what the testing involves.

Testing is Really an Evaluation

The term “testing” is quite misleading. No medical test is currently available that can definitively determine whether or not someone has ADHD.

Testing for ADHD really means being evaluated for ADHD. Your child’s evaluation will involve a great deal of information gathering. Once the professional evaluating your child has all the necessary information, he or she will then make his or her best judgment regarding the presence of ADHD.

Before the Appointment

Before the initial appointment, you may receive several behavior checklists and questionnaires to fill out and bring to your first meeting with the doctor. These forms will include general information about your child and family, as well as your child's developmental, medical, and behavioral history. Complete all these forms and bring them with you to the first appointment.

Parent Interview

A major part of your child’s evaluation will involve the parent interview. One way you can prepare for this interview is to think about and write down a list of your specific concerns regarding your child.

Think about when and where these problems occur—home, school, in the neighborhood or community, in after-school activities, with other peers. Do these problems occur more often or to a degree that is beyond what you think is typical of other children the same age?

Other items that can help you prepare for your interview include:

  • School documentation: Talk with your child’s teacher and jot down a list of her concerns as well. Bring any educational assessments or other school evaluations with you to the appointment. You will be asked to sign a consent form giving the doctor permission to talk with the teacher, who will also be asked to fill out behavior checklists, but it's often helpful for you to share this with the doctor as well.
  • Document the history: In addition to the current concerns, think about the history of these problems. When did they first begin? How long have they been occurring? The doctor will also want to gather detailed information about your child’s medical history and development. You can bring your child’s medical records to the appointment with you. The doctor may also ask for written permission to contact your child’s pediatrician. Think about whether there are things about your child’s development or medical history that may be relevant. Write them down so you remember to share these during the interview. If you are unsure whether something is important, jot it down anyway. It's always safer to share more than too little.
  • Note family issues: It's also important for you to share with the doctor any issues around the family that may be affecting your child. Has the family experienced any recent changes or losses—a move, change in school, divorce, health problems in the family, or death? Other issues may be going on that are more sensitive and difficult to talk about. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to share these. In order to make an accurate diagnosis, it's important for the doctor to be aware of any factors that may be contributing to your child’s difficulties. Write down any family problems such as marital stress and conflict, episodes of excessive physical discipline, suspected sexual abuse of the child, a family member with alcoholism or substance abuse issues, and any other chronic family tension.
  • Additional evaluations: Be sure to let the doctor know of any other professional evaluations or assistance your child has received. Bring those reports with you to the appointment. The doctor may also ask for permission to contact these professionals for more information, so bring their names and contact information with you.

By organizing and writing down these concerns, you will be better prepared for the parent interview and the doctor will be more informed to help your child. Ideally, both parents should be involved in creating this list of concerns and also involved in the parent interview with the doctor.

Though this evaluation is due to the problems and frustrations your child is experiencing, take some time to jot down a list of your child’s strengths too. This will help give the doctor a more well-rounded picture of your child.

Child Interview

In addition to meeting with you, the doctor will also meet with your child. He'll ask about your child’s understanding of why he or she is visiting the doctor today, as well as his or her perceptions regarding the referral concerns. This part of the interview serves as an informal evaluation of your child’s behavior and developmental skills. Children often behave differently in one-on-one situations that are new and unfamiliar. The doctor is well aware of this and realizes that symptoms may not be present during the interview at the level that is creating concerns for you and the school.

Educational and Psychological Testing

Educational (IQ and achievement) testing and psychological testing, while not used to diagnose ADHD, may be indicated if there is concern regarding a specific learning disability or other emotional and/or developmental issue. If this is the case, the doctor will discuss this with you.

Physical Exam

A pediatric physical examination and neurodevelopmental screening of your child may also be performed in order to rule out any other medical conditions that may be producing the ADHD-like symptoms. Sometimes formal speech and language assessments are also recommended.

How Long the Evaluation Will Take

Expect the evaluation to last at least two to three hours—and longer if your child also needs educational or psychological testing.

What to Bring to the Evaluation

Be sure to bring these items with you to the evaluation:

  • Your complete list of notes
  • Report cards and notes from the school
  • Names and contact information for teachers and any other adults involved in a supervisory role with your child, such as in after-school programs
  • Any prior testing results such as IQ testing, achievement tests, personality assessments, and any previous ADHD evaluations
  • Individualized education plans (IEPs), if available
  • Medical history and contact information for pediatrician
  • Insurance information


HealthyChildren.org. Diagnosing ADHD in Children: Guidelines & Information for Parents. American Academy of Pediatrics. Updated January 9, 2017.