Ever since sharing my daughter’s Inattentive ADHD diagnosis, I regularly get messages and emails from people asking, “I think my kid might have ADHD too, how do I get them assessed?”
I’m not an expert, of course, but I thought I’d share what our process was so that I can hopefully help anyone else in the same boat (or point them to this post when they message or email). I remember being so lost, and I really would have loved someone to hug me and say, “Go this way…” and gently push me in the right direction. And I want to say, this sounds like we were ‘wanting’ an ADHD diagnosis, which isn’t true, but we were wanting answers, and tools to get through life more easily … and for us that was a diagnosis of Inattentive ADHD.
Before I jump in, I also want to say this; You are not alone. Parenting through this and emerging from this unknown period is heartbreaking and scary, but it’s also a really beautiful turning point, filled with hope, and learning about your child, and finding the tools to understand and support them. You are not alone.
Getting an ADHD diagnosis
I wanted to share my experience with the process it took to get help, and eventually a diagnosis. I am sure there are various ways to get answers, but this was our journey. This part of the diagnosis and ADHD journey feels overwhelming, and to be honest, expensive. The best thing you can do is be prepared, so not to waste time and to save money by avoiding double-up appointments.
Start by talking to your child’s teacher
And not just in the ten minute parent/teacher meeting. Schedule a 30 minute meeting, and sit down to discuss your child in depth. While some children with ADHD can have really obvious symptoms, kids like my daughter had mastered masking her symptoms (surviving class by copying other kid’s work, and doing whatever was needed to get by, as well as trying to be ‘unseen’ by her teachers). After meeting teachers year after year, and getting no real answers, we had a teacher that saw the signs. I asked her to please work with me in getting her help – and by that I meant taking the time fill out the Conners Assessment questionnaire (more on that in a bit).
Make an appointment (a long consult) with your GP
You’ll need your child with you for this appointment. I went in without my child first to explain what was happening, and then brought my child in. You’ll need to request a referral to a Pediatrician and it’s a good idea to also get a mental health care plan to use for a child psychologist.
Make an appointment with a Paediatrician
Generally this is a really long wait for this, depending on where you live. Ask to go on the wait-list. I generally say, if this is true for you too, that I live nearby and if anyone cancels last minute I can easily get there for the appointment. Bring anything you can to support your family for this appointment. Things like school reports, NAPLAN results (for us, my daughter got almost close to zero in her testing, so while I don’t really respect the NAPLAN testing, it was part of the process for me in realising that we needed support), and also while you’re waiting, keep a diary (if it doesn’t add stress to your already full life) of things that are happening that you want to discuss. For us it was daily explosive behaviours, lack of comprehension, hyper-focusing, delayed social skills etc. It’s often overwhelming in an appointment, and emotional, so having notes sometimes helps, as does having someone to support you.
During this appointment your Paediatrician might mention Conners Assessment. This is a lengthy questionnaire that you will answer, and your child’s teacher will answer in order to assess your child for ADHD (they match up where you both see issues – it’s really interesting – definitely ask to see the results). This can often cost a little extra on top of your appointment, for us it was $80. When I met with my daughter’s teacher, and I asked her to help me, I asked that if she could take the time to fill out the Conners assessment questionnaire completely. I asked this specifically because years prior to my daughter’s diagnosis we had realised something wasn’t quite right and tried to seek help – not knowing what we were looking for – we went for an IQ test (expensive, and lengthy but insightful too). During this testing we were given the Conners questionnaire and so was my daughter’s teacher at the time. The psychologist we were seeing was disappointed with the effort the teacher put in, with one word answers and no real insight (my responses showed high levels, and the teacher’s results didn’t quite match). The testing back then still flagged ADHD, but we were told it was only just on the scale and that we didn’t really need to do anything. So that is why when I sat down with her teacher all those years later, I politely asked that she help by taking the time to truthfully, and considerately complete the questionnaire with any insights she had.
If you’re on the Tweed or Gold Coast and looking for a compassionate, highly intelligent and understanding paediatrician, please reach out. I know his waitlist is long, but he is also very worth the wait.
Make an appointment with a child psychologist
This person needs to be someone that your child gets along well with, and most of all trusts – ask for recommendations from friends, or even in local community groups. We found an amazing woman who uses play therapy, and is just so gentle and understanding. If you have a lengthy wait for your Paediatrician, you can start seeing your psychologist before them and getting tools and support for your child’s behaviour. A Psychologist can also do the Conners assessment, which is what I would do. It means that you can turn up to your Pediatrician appointment with the results of the Conners for them to assess, and almost fast track the whole process.
We’re just over 18 months past my daughter getting diagnosed, and our lives have definitely changed. We’re still learning and growing each week, but I’m so grateful that we sought help. I hope this helps a little.