Learn about ADHD Testing in Charlotte.
Who Should Get Tested for ADHD?
People who have poor academic achievement, or are under-achieving, should be tested. People with low cognitive abilities, or, gifted abilities, are especially good candidates for testing. Gifted children may appear to have attention problems but are actually bored with the slower pace of the classroom. People with lower cognitive abilities may be felt to have attention problems when in fact their other cognitive abilities place a limit on the information they can encode. There can also be other neurologic conditions present (e.g., pediatric brain tumor, concussion) that can mimic ADHD, and the neuropsychologist is looking for these when s/he sees your child. Similarly, having been exposed to abuse, anxiety, or depression can mimic attention problems. Testing and the evaluation that goes with it provides a very in-depth look at other factors that may explain attention problems.
What Tests are Administered and What Do They Assess?
ADHD testing can take between 1-2 hours (this does not include a clinical interview that also occurs with parents or the adult with ADHD). As a neuropsychologist I generally screen each domain of cognitive functioning briefly, to ensure that what we are calling an attention problem is not a problem in some other domain (e.g., learning, memory, other types of “executive functioning” aside from attention, visual spatial problems, language, achievement/reading, speed of thinking). I also administer some psychological screening measures which are brief (namely questionnaires). Then I sample different types of attention (working memory, selective attention, alternating/divided attention, and sustained attention) to figure out where the attention problem breakdown is. To assess selective and sustained attention, I use a computer-based test called the Conners’ Continuous Performance Test which is a bit like a computer game!
Using this test helps me identify whether the problem is more a problem with selective or sustained attention, or some combination. Sustained attention means the ability to maintain a consistent focus, and selective attention is the ability to focus on relevant stimuli and ignore competing demands. This really tells us about the person’s capacity to manage information, as well as their strategy and approach. The test gives some insight into how the person exhibits the core symptoms of ADHD, inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity, depending on the types of errors made. This is a visual task. This test, and all other similar continuous performance tests, have the following common thread: you are presented with a repetitive, boring task and you must maintain your focus over a period of time in order to respond to targets or inhibit response to foils. I will tailor my other tests to the needs of the person being assessed. The tests are good predictors of day to day cognitive or brain functioning.
What are the benefits of ADHD testing?
You can provide support for educational accommodations and better determine if a disability is present (i.e., if the attention problems cause substantial limitations in learning). You can obtain an objective measure of cognitive functioning which can be repeated in response to intervention. You can obtain a baseline for interventions. The testing can tell us whether a person is over-reporting or under-reporting symptoms. Sometimes we feel that the symptoms are quite significant when in fact in certain areas we perform like a normal person! And, for some people, the testing can be fun! You will learn about your brain and its strengths and limitations.
When should you do ADHD testing?
It is a good idea to do ADHD testing (also known as neuropsychological testing) when there are problems with academic success, or low academic achievement. It is also good if you plan to participate in a program of intervention or wish to become eligible for educational accommodations. While ADHD testing is not needed for a diagnosis of ADHD, it is necessary to receive accommodations in school or extra time on standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, or MCAT.
The testing is not given in isolation. It is part of a neuropsychological / psychoeducational evaluation which is accomplished with an interview AND standardized tests. The tests administered are mostly using paper and pencil, although a few computer-based tests are administered (see my description of the continuous performance test above). During the interview the psychologist obtains information about your background, medical history, physical status, and current concerns in order to best understand test results and make useful recommendations.
Where should I (or my child) be tested?
A licensed psychologist or neuropsychologist is the professional appropriate to do this testing. If you use a neuropsychologist, you have the added benefit of using a professional who has additional neurology-like training (experience in working with people with neurologic syndromes) and who might be able to pick up on whether there is something more going on than ADHD, in some cases. There are a number of neuropsychologists in Charlotte. It is highly recommended that you use someone who is both a licensed psychologist AND board certified in clinical neuropsychology. Be a savvy consumer and ask about the person’s credentials. Use someone who has conducted many ADHD assessments.