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ADHD Criteria for a Diagnosis

Updated on March 19, 2011

What is ADHD?


History Questionnaire (This is the first in a series of steps to determining if ADHD is a possibility.)

Welcome. In this post I hope to address questions you have about the criteria for diagnosing ADHD. You will find questions that would be asked during a consultation in order to find out if ADHD is even a possibility. There really is more to this than a few questions about how much you sleep and how active you are, or whether or not you can pay attention.

This is an outline of CAADID. Part 1. It was developed by: Ph.D.'s - J. Epstein, D.Johnson, and K.Conner's. This is a basic description of the real booklet from what I can remember. Based on the answers in this booklet, it will be determined whether there is even enough criteria met, to further investigate the possibility of ADHD. If so, further testing will be done. Many professionals have a method of their own, in which they decide criteria for a diagnosis is met.

History is a key factor in diagnosing ADHD. One of the first things you will be asked is;

The most basic questions

What is going on in your life right now that would make you suspect ADHD?

You answer is your own. You could have recently had a child diagnosed with ADHD and you have always noticed similar tendencies that you have in common.

Someone who knows about or has personal experience with ADHD may have mentioned to you that you might have this disability. Whatever your situation, you will have to answer the questions and go through the same channels as everyone else if you want a clear and precise diagnose.

The person interviewing you will ask a series of related questions, mostly about your childhood. Who did you live with or who lived in your home when you were a child? You will be asked to give names, ages, and relationship status.

Where did you live? What did your father do? And what did your mother do? Were you Adopted?

After that point they will usually want to know about your mothers pregnancy. Since ADHD could possibly, in some cases, be caused by damage to the frontal lobe during pregnancy or during birth. Forceps were used years ago. Many doctors held to the possibly of damage to the head from using this method of delivery.

Adult ADHD with Dr. Porras

Gestational Risk Questions

It's important to remember any stories you may have heard about your mothers pregnancy with you. Was she ill? Did she take any kind of medication? Did she smoke, drink or use illegal drugs? Were you born prematurely?

They will ask questions that you may not have the answer to. If you don't know any of this stuff and you have the ability to speak with a parent, do so. They will ask you to anyway, if you have that option available. In some cases they will give you a workbook, which you can then take to your parents and they can help you complete it. It's sometimes interesting, once you start talking to your parents, how much stuff they can recall. It may jog your memory as well, and help to draw out details you may not have realized were even noteworthy.

Delivery Risk Section

It will be apparent to you, as you answer these questions, just how important seemingly minor details might be crucial to your diagnosis.

During delivery did any of the these things happen?

Were you in distress?

Did you suffer low birth weight? (this would be less than 5lbs)

Were you breech?

Were there complications that required longer than normal hospitalization?

Did you have blue baby syndrome? (Anoxia, lack of oxygen)

You will usually get to a chance to mention if there were any complications that were not listed in a space provided just for that.

Temperamental Risk Factors

This section will require any knowledge you can remember or attain from parents or family members who spent time with you. You will be asked questions like " as an infant or toddler, were you ever described as any of the following?

Very active? Impulsive? Fearful? Accident-prone? Short Attention span? Irritable? Poor adaptation when things changed, or slow to accept things when they were not what you were used to? Were you ever Colicky? Did you have temper tantrums often? How was your eating habits? How well did you sleep or did you not sleep? Unusual clumsiness? Were you a cuddly child or a distant child that preferred little contact?

In a space provided, again you will be able to write in any information that the questions did not cover.

EXAMPLE: "You were a very difficult child. Even the most insignificant things caused major disruption." My mother used this to describe me as a toddler to an adolescent. She also commented that, "You hardly ever slept." I still have very unusual sleep habits even with an otherwise routine schedule.

In the next section, the questions will move to the,

Developmental Risk Factors

Here you are going to answer the best you can, about what you know of your early development skills.

Were you slow to walk? Slow to talk? Did you have a difficult time being toilet trained? How about reading?

Was there anything else you remember having a difficult time with or anything you were told you had a difficult time with?

Environmental Risk Factors

As a child or adolescent, do you know if you dealt with any of the following?

Suffered significant loss or were you separated from a loved one?

Sexual or physical or emotional abuse?

Family violence?

Were you ever neglected?

Was there ever any extreme family stress?

Economic problems like financial or did the family suffer poverty?

Poor eating habits or diet?

Were you ever exposed to any heavy metals?

Extra space provided for any other traumas or related experiences during your childhood can be explained at this point.

Medical History

If you've ever taken a survey, went to a doctor's office, or had any kind of professional treatment, these next questions should be familiar.

When you were a child, did you have any of the following?





Fainting or blacking out?

Accidents because you were just not careful or paying attention? Careless Accidents.

Did you frequent the emergency room?

Have you had broken bones?

Were you ever hospitalized? For any reason?

Were you ever knocked unconscious?

Were you a victim of seizures?

Did you have any other medical problems that were not listed?

Elementary School Academic History

This part is important. The basic information is requested.

Where did you attend elementary school? Did you do,

above average? Average? Below average? Or, did you have to have extra help like, learning assistance or special education?

While in elementary school, did you:

Fail any grades? Get held back? Take special classes?

Were you ever evaluated by the school? Were you labeled in anyway by the school?

Did you have learning difficulties?

Get tutored?

Were you ever suspended or expelled from school? (possibly ask you why)

Did you have a harder time learning to read than others?

How about Math? Was math particularly difficult for you? More than others?

How consistent were your grades. Were they steady or erratic? Unpredictable?

Were you ever told you were not doing as well as you were capable of doing?

Were you ever told you had a learning disability?

What, if any, other problems or events took place during your elementary years?

Middle/High School History

Where did you attend middle and high school?

Again they are going to want to know about your over-all general progress. it goes back to whether you did above average, below, performed at your grade level or just average.

And the same questions are repeated in this section, with the addition of:

Did you graduate high school?

Have problems with writing?

Did anything significant happen to you during middle/high school years.

Psychiatric History

In looking over this section, it starts to get a little more complicated. Usually this is where you will formally be asked if you were ever diagnosed with ADHD as a child or an adolescent.

You will be asked if you have ever been professionally counseled. This would be 'yes', if you have seen a psychiatrist., psychologist, or counselor.

You will list who, when, where and why. You will also be asked at what age you started seeing them, when it stopped, if you benefited from it at all, and the reason you stopped.

They will want to know if you were medicated by a psychologist/ psychiatrist. . if so, what was it, who prescribed it, age you started, age you stopped, what was it for exactly, the dosage, and whether it benefited you any, Did you have any side effects?

You will do this for each medication you were prescribed.

Family History and Risk Factors

Do you know if anyone in your immediate family, ( brother sister, father, mother, or your children) have or you think may have ADHD, even if they were never diagnosed.

If so, you will be asked to list who. Were they diagnosed? How were they treated for it?

Do you know if any of your relatives had any psychiatric/psychological disorders such as,

depression, bipolar, anxiety or abnormally worrying, alcohol abuse, other substance abuse, conduct problems or in trouble with the police a lot, and learning problems. Next you answer whether it is on going or stopped and how they were related.


Educational History

The questions in this series will relate to you after the age of 18.

Basically you will fill in any school information you have.

Are you enrolled in any post high school education. That could be college or even a technical school.

Occupational History

If you are an adult with ADHD, this could be a long list. They basically want to know all the jobs you have had since high school. More than likely, you will run out of spaces before you even come close to listing all the jobs. It's possible you can't even remember half of them. Do the best you can.

List the: Job, Duties, Dates, Reason for leaving.

Social and Interpersonal History

Who lives in your home?

Relationship, Name and Age.

Do you have any kids that do not live with you?

Again, Relationship, Name and age.

By the time you get to the end of this list, you are going to have a headache.


Have you ever been married. If so, name, dates, reason for ending relationship.

It's important to be honest. No one will be judging you, so just tell the truth. If it was your fault, say so.

You'll be asked how many significant INTIMATE relationships have you had as an adult.


How healthy are you?

Have you had a physical, when?

List any other major chronic health problems.

After this section, it repeats the same questions as it did in the beginning, with the addition of, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

Head injuries, turrets' syndrome, hyper/hypo thyroidism, or a hormone imbalance

Do you have hearing loss, high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines, asthma, or glaucoma?

Have you had any other major medical issues.

Do you take medication, if so for what? What's the dosage?

Adult Psychological/Psychiatric History

Again, same questions as asked for middle/high school.

Who did you see, for what, and what treatment did you receive?

Age you started seeing the provider, age you stopped, how often, benefits, reason for stopping.

Co morbidity Screening Questions

During your adult life, have you ever went through a period of time that you were:

depressed, or sad more often than not, or lost enjoyment in things you once liked?

Considering hurting yourself, killing yourself, or hurting someone else?

Anxious, feel tension or worry more than usual?

Having eating disorders such as, eating too much, or to little?

You will be asked what substance you use: how often, age you first used it, last used it, heaviest usage, and current usage.


Did you use? Age 1st used,  Age last Used,  Heaviest usage,  Currently use?

alcohol: Yes, 13, 35, age 25, Don't drink.

You will do the same for illegal substances in the exact same manner.

Have you ever been in trouble with the law?

Do you have speeding tickets?....... How many?

Accidents?...... How many?

If you're a mother, did you smoke, drink, or do drugs during a pregnancy?

How about law suits?

Do people tell you that you have a short fuse or a hot temper?

Do you have sudden, or short mood swings?

Are you currently going through any major life stress?

If so, you will need to explain.

THE END of the history questionnaire. This will give the interviewer an idea of where to go next and what tests needs to be administered at this point.


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    • AttentionFlux profile image

      AttentionFlux 6 years ago from NC

      Sorry it took so long to answer. Yes, in response to this questionnaire missing parts. This is only part 1 in determining whether ADHD is a possibility. And yes, to the fact that some (dr's and therapists) think ADHD was caused by something prenatal or during delivery. Others feel that any kind of trauma increases chances two fold in dis positioning someone for ADHD. They want to rule out any kind of head trauma or drug abuse...etc. I was also administered a brain scan during different activities to monitor activity of different areas of brain stimuli. Not all Dr's or therapist use this method. That is one reason ADHD is so controversial. Diagnosis can be extremely unreliable and there's no standard method. This also leads to over and mis diagnosing. Again this was only part 1. Once this questionnaire was done, my Dr. decided that there was sufficient information to proceed with diagnosing ADHD. As for my daughter...she was diagnosed with one office visit. No scans or other. Just basic questions. The therapist said she had seen enough children with my daughters symptoms to confidently diagnose her as ADHD without hyperactivity. She is the spacey laid back ADHD. I had her retested the same way I was tested and sure enough, they still diagnosed her the same way. So...There is no sure fire answer. Just a million symptoms and a distinct feeling something is just not right, I guess. I don't know how average people respond to certain stimuli, but apparently I respond differently enough to give someone cause to think I act differently. On top of the that the scans proved it as well. I hope this answered some of your questions and gave you enough of an explanation about the criteria.

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

      Hi Attention Flux...I just read through this...and wondered if answering these questions give a definitive yes or seems like there is so much missing from this...and there seems to be more focus on ASHD being "caused by something" and not something you are born with. I have a lot more questions to ask, but may just email you on it.