Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health


Two important points to consider before pursuing an assessment for adult ADHD:

  1. Our assessment approach does NOT meet the current criteria as set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act for students seeking academic accommodations.  The diagnosis of ADHD by itself is not sufficient.  There must be evidence of specific learning disabilities (or other disabilities).  The explicit criteria for documentation are outlined in the Student Disabilities Services’ section of each educational institution’s website. 
  2. In some cases the results of our evaluation will NOT support a diagnosis of ADHD.  Our assessment may reveal other explanations for the presenting problems and symptoms that led someone to seek an assessment.  Hence, there will be cases in which the result of the evaluation is that there will be a referral provided for another program or type of care.

No single test can definitively prove whether someone has ADHD. We conduct a comprehensive assessment, including a thorough history of a person's functioning since childhood. Standardized ADHD behavior checklists and symptom rating scales help specify problematic behaviors in childhood and in adulthood. Ratings from others whom have observed the patient's behavior in different settings also are used.

We also look for other psychological and medical problems with symptoms similar to ADHD. These include, among others, sleep disorders, thyroid hormone imbalances and prior head injuries.

Our assessment for ADHD also includes neurocognitive screening that provides measures of cognitive skills, such as organizational abilities, time perception and management, emotional regulation, working memory, cognitive processing speed, and the ability to sustain attention. No test is adequate for identifying symptoms or life impairments associated with ADHD but can be useful in identifying areas of strength and weakness that may contribute to some life difficulties as well as, in some cases, potential indications that more extensive testing is necessary.

We also evaluate for the presence of co-morbid conditions that may accompany ADHD such as anxiety, depression, and substance use. In some cases, it may be determined that such conditions are the primary cause of a person's difficulties rather than ADHD.

The assessment process itself takes about four (4) hours from start to finish. This does not include time spent completing various forms and questionnaires prior to the assessment.

Approximately one week following the assessment, a 45 minute feedback session is held during which the test results are presented and explained in user-friendly terms and all questions are answered. Treatment options are described and discussed. Even when it is concluded that the presenting problems are not the result of ADHD, treatment options and appropriate referrals are offered in order to assist individuals in getting the help that they need.  A written report summarizing the results and recommendations from the comprehensive evaluation will be mailed to you about 4 to 6 weeks following the feedback session.

For adults with ADHD who can benefit from our services, we view the assessment as the first step in the treatment process. For most, the assessment results will provide concrete explanations for past and present difficulties at school, work and home. Very often this leads to a renewed sense of self-esteem and self-confidence. In cases in which it is determined that an individual does not have ADHD, the assessment can be helpful to clarify the difficulties a person has been facing and to determine what sort of referrals to pursue.

Once diagnosed, ADHD is usually very treatable. As discussed elsewhere on this site, treatment may include medications, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and skills training programs that help individuals develop effective strategies to minimize the negative impact of their ADHD symptoms while learning ways to apply their core strengths to attain more comfortable and satisfying life experiences.

The diagnostic assessments are conducted by senior clinical staff of the Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program or by advanced clinicians-in-training who are closely supervised by senior clinical staff.

In some cases, individuals have had past evaluations and/or testing for ADHD.  We will review past reports and other relevant information on a case-by-case basis to determine if a modified version of our full evaluation will be sufficient and will avoid unnecessary redundancy.

Click here for a brief assessment questionnaire developed by the World Health Organization (WHO)

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