Testing & diagnosis for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children


Determining whether your child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a process with several steps. There is no single test that can definitively diagnose ADHD, and many other conditions—including anxiety disorders, depression and certain learning disabilities—create symptoms that closely mimic ADHD.

Doctors use criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV, Text Revision to reach a diagnosis of ADHD. This set of standards ensures that all kids who may have ADHD are appropriately evaluated and treated.

Is there any lab test that can screen for ADHD?

No; there are no blood tests or other kinds of medical tests that can diagnose ADHD.

How does Boston Children’s Hospital begin the process of diagnosing ADHD?

Here at Boston Children’s, a developmental pediatrician, child neurologist, child and adolescent psychiatrist or other qualified medical professional will typically diagnose ADHD after an extensive evaluation with you and your child. 
  • We will usually start by compiling a detailed history of your child's overall health, academic performance, family life, social interactions and behavior. This process will involve talking to you and other family members, your child, her teachers and her primary care pediatrician.
  • Next, we will observe your child’s behavior and ask her questions about how she’s feeling at home, at school and with her friends.
  • Specific tests may then be used to rule out other potential causes of attention problems (for example, another kind of learning disability or psychiatric disorder), and other tests may be used to measure your child’s learning ability and skills in particular areas.

Because ADHD is characterized by a group of symptoms, getting a final diagnosis often depends on combining and balancing results from several different types of evaluations—including physical, neurological and psychological assessments. 

Here at Boston Children’s, you and your child will have access to all of the necessary specialists through our comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach. We are here to advise and support you at every step of the way.