Paediatricians and psychiatrists tend to have similar ways of assessing for ADHD. They go through developmental histories and complete checklists based on diagnostic criteria. A minor percentage may also use brain scans (called QEEG) to support a diagnosis. These tests are NOT diagnostic and their usage is somewhat questionable and controversial. Psychologists also go through developmental backgrounds and the diagnostic criteria and again some may do QEEG. However, psychologists are able to do much more detailed testing as they are qualified to administer psychometric tests such as IQ and academic achievement tests. There is also a little know speciality in psychology called neuropsychology. Neuropsychologists are qualified in assessing more complex cognitive skills such as attention, memory, visual processing, auditory processing and planning/organisation. This type of testing in children with possible ADHD can be extremely beneficial as it can really pinpoint the type of processing issues underlying any signs of inattention. That is, many children can present with inattention for a variety of reasons. A child who is struggling to hear or process auditory information may appear to be inattentive when spoken to, however the core issue is actually a basic sensory issue rather than a true attention issue. Thus, neuropsychologists can make very specific differential diagnoses unlike other clinicians who are not trained in the administration and interpretation of these higher level cognitive skills.
The best possible form of ADHD assessment should include neuropsychological tests of attention as this way the exact nature of the interest weakness can be specified. Many psychiatrists and paediatricians lump interest skills into one ‘basket’, however interest skills are very varied and multiple tests are needed to assess for different types of interest problems. There are interest skills for things that you hear (auditory attention), interest for things you see (visual attention), how much information you can absorb (visual and auditory attention span), how well you can sustain your interest to boring information (visual and auditory sustained attention), how well you can shift your interest between two streams of information (switching attention), and how well you can pay attention to two streams of information simultaneously (divided attention). Neuropsychological tests will focus on each individually. This allows for very specific and targeted therapy, particularly when it comes to cognitive training. Unlike medication (which is very hit-and-miss in regards to the types of interest skills they improve), cognitive training can be targeted at specific skills. Note: Much of this information was taken from the Sydney Cognitive Development Centre Website: http://www.scdcentre.com.au.