Frequently, parents will come in to tell me that they got "the diagnosis" with the emphasis on the word "the" as if there is only one diagnosis out there.  Of course, I look puzzled when I ask about "what diagnosis" and they tell me "ADHD."

When I ask how the ADHD was diagnosed, usually I hear that a medical practitioner (physician or nurse practitioner) looked at the Connors rating scale and spend about 20 minutes with the child and parents.

It's then that I usually start to wonder about “the diagnosis,” whether other variables were considered.

Take young Emma, age 7.  Emma recently got “the diagnosis.” Her Connors rating scales certainly highlighted areas of ADD concern. However, when I evaluated Emma it struck me was how there were certain tasks that caused her great difficulty. For example, when I asked her to repeat a simple span of digits in a reversed order (even two digits, such  as 5 -3), she looked at me blankly and had absolutely no idea what I was asking. Even after bending the rules of standardization to try and get her to understand what repeating backwards meant, Emma had no clue how to respond.

Another example of difficulty was when I asked Emma, how many pieces there were after cutting and orange in half? Emma answered " four,” seemingly not understanding what was being asked.

Was the fact that she had such difficulty with these tasks ADHD?  Did “the diagnosis” explain her confusion?

While Emma may have had a helping of ADHD (actually I'm not so sure of this), she certainly had a large spoonful of language processing issues and clear confusion when asked to understand aspects of language. This confusion, from my point of view, was not explained by the simple "diagnosis."

The take away point is to be careful when accepting “the diagnosis” on ADHD.  There are many factors at work that need to be understood.