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How Early ADHD Testing Can Benefit a Child

Students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often have beautiful, wildly imaginative minds. With early ADHD testing, diagnosis, and interventions, these students can excel in the classroom and beyond. When left unaddressed, ADHD could hinder their learning, confidence, and mental health. This possibility makes recognition of ADHD symptoms and proper diagnosis essential. In fact, the sooner a child’s ADHD symptoms can be diagnosed and addressed through behavioral therapy, executive skills coaching and (often) medication, the more success they will experience in their life.

How early can a child get ADHD testing?

Parents can seek a diagnosis before a child is eight years old. However, the most extensive array of testing options and benchmark data is available for children aged eight years and older.

When ADHD meets traditional, western education

The ADHD brain doesn’t align well with traditional, western education methods. The linear, listening-heavy approach lacks the inputs an ADHD mind responds to best.

This reality may cause students with unaddressed ADHD to have issues relating to comprehension, retention and appropriate classroom behavior.

Students with ADHD are not troublemakers or defiant by nature. Their behavior issues are often manifestations of frustration. It’s not that students with ADHD won’t listen, focus and sit still. The fact is, an ADHD brain struggles to do these things easily. Understanding what ADHD is and how it impacts a student is an integral part of addressing it.

Understanding and recognizing ADHD

Parents may believe a child has ADHD if they cannot focus on a task or have “too much energy.” While these can be signs of ADHD, they can also be signs of an active child with no learning disability.

The symptoms students with ADHD exhibit are developmentally appropriate in children, teens, and young adults. Why? The frontal lobe of the brain, where executive functions take place, is not fully developed until a person matures into their 20s. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder resulting in part from delayed development of the frontal lobe. These overlapping factors mean evaluations must delve deeply into a student’s situation.

When diagnosing ADHD, it is important to distinguish if a child’s struggles with executive functioning:

  • Impairs their ability to learn foundational academic skills
  • Affects relationships in negative ways
  • Contributes to on-going cross-setting disruptive effects

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the cause of ADHD and its risk factors are still unclear, but scientists have identified that genetics plays a key role.

ADHD diagnosis for children

Groves Academy uses licensed psychologists to conduct the ADHD screening process. They look at multiple aspects of a child, including:

  • Cognitive abilities
  • Executive functioning
  • Learning
  • Memory

The psychologists also evaluate rating scales, completed by teachers, tutors, coaches and other adults. These provide insights into a child’s presentation/symptoms across settings such as home and school.

Ultimately an ADHD diagnosis empowers both the student and the parent. It provides insights for a better understanding of the situation and a documented foundation for accommodations.

Explaining the ADHD evaluation process

ADHD evaluation is an intensive undertaking.

In a typical scenario, a Groves Academy psychologist first meets with the student’s parents for approximately 30–60 minutes. During this meeting, they go over the child’s history and understand patterns of concern.

Next, the psychologist begins ADHD diagnostic testing with the child. Their work takes approximately five hours to complete and includes evaluation of cognitive abilities, academic skills, executive functioning, and social/emotional/behavioral wellbeing.

Post evaluation, the psychologist prepares a report documenting the ADHD diagnosis (if applicable). Parents receive the report during a 1-hour follow-up meeting. The report provides answers, tools, and solutions, so parents leave empowered and prepared to advocate for their child.

Undoubtedly, ADHD testing is a rigorous process designed to provide an accurate diagnosis. However, there are particular challenges that parents should understand.

The challenge with ADHD testing

ADHD testing is effective, but the psychologist’s report may not 100% match a parent’s observations of their child. Here’s why and what parents should understand before reviewing the ADHD testing report.

ADHD testing takes place in a highly structured, one-to-one supervised setting. This environment removes distractions that can contribute to a child’s attention issues or struggles with executive functioning. As such, the report findings could be a few degrees different from what a parent, teacher, coach or other adults observe. That’s okay. It would be highly unusual for a student with ADHD to not exhibit signs of ADHD during testing. Any perceived differences between the report and real-world experience rarely change the ADHD diagnosis.

Treatment and intervention after an ADHD diagnosis

The most effective treatments for ADHD include combinations of behavioral skills therapy/training, medication, and parent training.

There are several options available to address the specific learning needs of a student with ADHD. These include an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan at their current public or private school, tutoring help (the Learning Center at Groves Academy) or enrollment in a specialized school (our school).

ADHD management is an ongoing process of refinement. It’s common for students with ADHD to engage with Groves Academy in different ways and at various times throughout their school years. Some students come to us for tutoring; others enroll in our school and many transition between the two as needed.

Students can achieve their best with ADHD testing

Students with ADHD often achieve great things in the classroom and life. They are amazing kids with fantastic potential. What they need to succeed is early ADHD diagnosis and ongoing support navigating an education system that does not cater to their learning style.

Groves Academy assists students with learning disabilities like ADHD to thrive and be their best selves. We help students manage and appreciate their learning style using the best available testing, evaluations, interventions, curriculum, support, and practices. From our school to the Learning Center at Groves Academy, we support neurodiverse learners.

If you have questions about what you’ve read, we encourage you to visit GrovesAcademy.org and see how we approach early ADHD testing and diagnosis.

Jenn Ehalt | Psychologist - Psy.D., LP
Jenn provides clinical assessment of learning and attention concerns as a member of The Learning Center's Diagnostics Team. After working as a therapist in college counseling for 8+ years, Jenn is excited to engage in full-time assessment as a way to help younger students proactively identify learning concerns, embrace their neurodiversity, and more readily access resources that will help them as they grow. Prior to working at Groves, Jenn was a full-time therapist in the Counseling Center at Gustavus Adolphus College for eight years. She worked with students experiencing a wide range of mental health concerns, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, adjustment and identity concerns, grief and loss, and disordered eating. Jenn is a member of the Minnesota Psychological Association. Her Favorite Book is "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
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