Rating scales frequently are used as the “tests” to determine whether or not the child has ADHD (as if ADHD can be diagnosed like a broken bone). (“Yep, it says here on these scale that your child has ADHD.”)
The fact of the matter is the vast majority of kids struggling (for various reasons) with school would have elevated spikes on scales like the Connor’s Rating Scale, one of the commonly used scales in ADHD assessment. It would be a rare day that a child with a reading or writing disability is able to adequately pay attention in school.
There are a so many variables that contribute to compromised attention in the classroom. Let’s look at a few of these in no particular order: (Kid commentary follows the variable)
- Language processing. (“I get overloaded with too much language and it makes me zone out.”)
- Weak vocabulary knowledge (“Too many words make my head ache.”)
- Poor fine motor skills. (“She wants me to write what? I’m out of here and going off to explore the universe again. First stop Jupiter. ”)
- Weak reading skills (“These long boring stories really make me lose attention. I can’t read them. There are a lot of stupid words on the page that I just skip over.”)
- Spatial style preferred (“Give me more Legos!!!!”)
- An energetic (perhaps chaotic) classroom environment. (“Hey, we’re all bouncing around in here.”)
- Deadening worksheets (“Planet Jupiter is calling again.”)
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
My basic point is that kids can have a cluster of these variables leading them to look awfully disordered in the attention arena. High scores (in the negative direction) on scales such as the Connors will result.
I am not suggesting that rating scales aren’t helpful. They are very helpful and tend to offer insight into variables not easily seen during the more structured assessment.
I am just cautioning you not to think you got “the test” or “the diagnosis” based primarily on the Connor’s, the Vanderbilt or whatever.
There’s much more that needs to be understood beyond the rating scales.
Planet Jupiter is looking better every day.