- About Learning Disabilities (LDs)
- About ADHD
- Related Challenges with LD & ADHD
ADHD Assessment & Diagnosis
Who Can Diagnose ADHD?
As ADHD is a condition that can be medically managed, it is often diagnosed by physicians (family physicians, pediatricians, psychiatrists). Some are more familiar than others on what ADHD is and how to identify and treat it.
Finding a Physician Knowledgeable about ADHD
Children: CanReach is a helpful resource to find physicians in different regions of Canada, including the Calgary region, who have specific training in identifying and treating ADHD. A list of pediatricians with specialized training in ADHD can be found in the CanReach website: https://wp.hmhc.ca/canreach/canreach-trained-practitioners/
Children should see a pediatrician (at any age) to address concerns including assessing delayed milestones, ruling out a medical basis for behavioural or emotional concerns, and/or managing medications. Parents/guardians will need to request a referral to a community pediatrician from their family doctor.
Adults: If you start the process with your family doctor, ask questions to see how knowledgeable the doctor is about ADHD in adults or if a referral to another physician, psychiatrist or neurologist with expertise in ADHD is warranted. Family physicians typically have less expertise in diagnosing and treating ADHD than pediatricians do for treating ADHD in children.
What's the Process?
Children: Once a referral is received, most physicians will request information prior to the first appointment. This information would generally include a detailed family history, diagnostic interview, rating scales, and for children, additional information obtained from school staff/teachers.
Adults: Physicians will likely start with a complete physical and a thorough physical history, family history, and a psychiatric medical history to determine if other conditions, such as anxiety or depression, exist.
Gather information to Share
For Children: Parents/guardians should prepare the following information for the initial pediatrician appointment:
-Individual Program Plans (IPPs)
-prior assessments (e.g., Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, Psychology, Psycho-educational).
Adults: Gather information about:
-Personal and family medical history
-School history, such as report cards and post-secondary information. They will want to see if there is a pattern to indicate ADHD symptoms by the age of 12 or younger.
If ADHD is diagnosed, a pediatrician, family physician, or psychiatrist would treat and manage ADHD medication.
Cost of Assessment & Treatment
Assessment: There is no cost in Canada for medical assessment of ADHD. Assessments and treatment by a health professional is covered by provincial health care plans in Canada.
Medication: Medication must be paid for by the patient, and is covered by most private health care plans. You will need to check with your health care provider to determine what percentage of the medication they will cover.
ADHD Diagnosis by a Psychologist
ADHD may also be diagnosed within the context of a psycho-educational assessment. Technically, a psycho-educational assessment is not necessary to diagnose ADHD, as the diagnostic criteria for ADHD are behavioral (e.g., loses things), and psychologists do not prescribe medication to manage ADHD. However, a psycho-educatonal assessment can also provide valuable information about a person’s learning profile that a medical assessment will not provide. You may choose to involve both a physician and a psychologist in the assessment process.
Benefits of a Psychologist Assessment
The benefit of involving a psychologist in the assessment is they can do a full psycho-educational assessment to determine if other disorders such as a Learning Disability exist, which is quite common. The assessment report will give you a picture of your full learning profile, including your challenges and also your natural strengths and aptitudes.
They can also investigate if other mental health issues co-exist with ADHD, such as anxiety and depression. Psychologists can provide treatment, such as counseling, for mental health issues.
A thorough interview with the individual and/or family, questionnaires and observations are often used to diagnose ADHD.
It may be necessary (and beneficial) to also do a psycho-educational assessment, particularly when there may be concerns about underlying learning difficulties. This would be important to fully understand all of the challenges that you or your family member is facing, including ADHD.
How to Find A Psychologist
Psychologists can be accessed through the school and health systems.
Private psychologists can be searched through the Psychologist Association of Alberta (PAA) website.
The PAA website has a referral list. On this website there are filters you can apply to help to determine their areas of specialty. Be sure to select ADHD, Learning Disabilities, psycho-educational assessment.
Choosing a Psychologist ADHD provides suggestions for how to find a psychologist and questions to ask.
Costs for Psychologists
Psychological services are not covered through provincial health care plans in Canada. Most private health care plans cover up to $500.00/year for psychological services. Some agencies provide sliding scale rates for psychological services if you qualify.