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A Beginner's Guide to the Vanderbilt ADHD Symptom Rating Scale

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 11/23/2010

The Vanderbilt ADHD symptom rating scale is a useful tool for assessing the impact of ADHD in some children. Here's our guide to get you up to speed on this invaluable approach to finding out how ADHD can affect your child.

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    What Is It?

    If you are looking for more information as to how ADHD impacts a child from ages 6-12, then the Vanderbilt ADHD symptom rating scale may be your answer. This rating scale is designed, not as a diagnostic tool, but as a means of providing detailed information into the academics and behaviors of students who have already been diagnosed with ADHD. This scale is used to see how the disorder affects a child’s performance in school, at home, and in social settings as well. It is developed by the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Tennessee.

    There are two different types of rating scales in the Vanderbilt. They are the teacher scale and the parent scale. They take about 10 minutes to complete. The teacher scale has 43 questions and the parent scale has 55 questions.

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    Parent Scale

    The parent scale asks parents to rate certain behaviors on a scale of 0 to 3: 0 means never, 1 means occasionally, 2 means often, and 3 means very often. The parents are asked to rate their child’s behavior as they see it from their own perspective at home. They are provided with a list of statements such as “has difficulty paying attention to what needs to be done" to other statements like “argues with adults," and they rate their experience accordingly.

    The scale that the parents need to fill out is trying to get an accurate description of how the child acts at home and in social settings. The parents are also asked to rate their child on how they feel they are doing in school and how well they feel they are getting along with others.

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    Teacher Scale

    The teacher scale is very similar to the parent scale in that it uses the same rating system. The statements that the teacher is asked to rate the child’s behavior on are very classroom specific. There are statements such as “leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected" and “actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules." They are then asked to separately rate their academic performance in reading, math, and writing, as well as their classroom behavioral performance.

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    What the Scale Does

    Remember that the Vanderbilt ADHD symptom rating scale is not used to diagnose students with ADHD. It is designed to help pinpoint specific academic and behavioral concerns that come from having ADHD. It helps to determine if their ADHD is causing difficulties with learning and social skills. Although it is not designed to be used as a diagnostic tool, many health professionals will use these scales to screen for symptoms of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorders, anxiety, and depression. The feedback on this assessment is instant and provides immediate information on the student’s academic and behavioral performance.

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