The ADHD Rating Scale & How is It Used in Diagnosis

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ADHD rating scales

An ADHD rating scale is useful in making a diagnosis, but it is only one aspect professionals use in determining whether a person has ADHD. The scales give a medical professional a means of measuring or quantifying various behaviors that could indicate the condition. The ADHD rating scale is just a starting point in diagnosis.

Some of the most commonly used scales are:

  • Parent completed Child Behavior Checklist;
  • Teacher Report Form;
  • Conners Rating Scales for children.
  • The Wender Utah Rating Scale which is often used for adults.

Scales are not an exact science and those filing them out must go with their own subjective judgement as to how much a behavior is being exhibited. This is why more than one person should fill one out for a child being examined.

For chldren, scales are filled out by teachers and parents, with each measuring various behaviors such as inattention or hyper activity. For adults, the individual might fill out the scale, with others who know the person doing so as well.

Interpreting the scales

Critics of the tests point to the subjectivity involved in rating the level of a person’s behavior, and they note that one teacher might see a behavior and one might not.

This is why mental health professionals want more than one person to do the observing and rating the scales. One scale has little meaning. Health professionals look for patterns of consistency in the scales to determine if a person has ADHD. Mental health officials agree with critics in that there are many conditions that can produce the same behaviors that ADHD people have.

The scales can help see if there is a problem, or a pattern to a person’s behavior.

Health professionals talk to a child’s parents, teachers, other adults and to the child to look for patterns of behavior, and the scales are just one part of that process. Any such examination should include a complete physical examination as well as an in depth interview with the child. All of these factors come together in making a diagnosis.

The Diagnosis

To get a diagnosis of ADHD, there are several things that must be present. Scoring high on a scale is just one of them. To have a diagnosis of ADHD the child must exhibit the symptoms in more than one setting, such as both at home and at school, or in the classroom and playground. Having symptoms, or behaviors, in only one setting would indicate something else might be causing the problem.

The behaviors must also be to the level that they either disrupt the person’s life or are far beyond what would be considered normal for a child that age. The symptoms must have been present for at least six months, developed before the age of seven and must not have any other disorder. Without all of these together, ADHD is considered not likely.


This post is part of the series: Adult ADHD, condition and treatment

This series looks at various aspects of Adult ADHD. The articles look into causes, conditions and possible solutions to the condition.

  1. How to Turn the Negative Symptoms of Adult ADHD into Positives
  2. Top 10 Facts about ADD and ADHD
  3. The ADHD Rating Scale & How is It Used in Diagnosis