CADDAC National Director


CADDAC has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about ADHD. We hope this list can help as a resource for anyone looking for answers on  ADHD. Feel free to share this resource and let us know what you think, we love you feedback.

What is ADHD?

Scientists agree that ADHD is a medical neurobiological disorder. It is an illness or deficit of the nervous system most often due to genetic or biological factors. ADHD is a chronic condition that can present at all levels of severity and rarely occurs by itself. There are three core symptoms: the inability to regulate attention, the inability to regulate activity, and difficulty with inhibitory behaviour resulting in impulsivity.

However, difficulty with regulating emotions is often an issue as well. It is important to note that symptoms of ADHD can vary from day to day and hour to hour, and while many people may exhibit these symptoms, it is the degree of presentation, the inability to regulate them and a level of impairment, that results in a diagnosis.

How is ADHD treated?

  • Treatment for ADHD should always include multimodal approach:
  • Educating Parents, Adults, and Children about ADHD
  • Counselling, CBT or coaching, learning strategies to cope
  • School accommodations in the case of children and students
  • Medication if required

How can I get a diagnosis?

The diagnostic procedure for children, adolescents or adults should be comprised of:

Medical history

An extensive interview with the patient and parents or significant other and the administration of various symptom rating scales - ideally more than one scale to confirm the results. The process includes evaluating symptoms and their degree of severity, while at the same time excluding any other possible reasons for these symptoms.

For a diagnosis to be made, symptoms need to be seen in more than one setting. This is necessary, because symptoms may be due to conditions in a particular environment, rather than being due to a medical condition.

During a complete diagnostic procedure, screening should be performed for other conditions that exist with ADHD called “co-morbid conditions.” Very few people have ADHD without any other co-existing conditions. Some of the conditions that we routinely see with ADHD are: learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Diagnosis can be made by a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist knowledgeable about ADHD.

Psychologists and clinics charge a fee above the provincial coverage. Some physicians or psychiatrists may also have minimal office charges as well.

When you call offices for an appointment, these are some key questions to ask:

Are they accepting new patients?

How long is their wait list?

How much to they charge over the provincial coverage

Does this physician do follow-up care?

You will want to ask your family doctor (or even just a walk in clinic) to fax them referral to get the process started.  It would be a good idea to call the doctor’s office in a few weeks to make sure that the referral has been received. Wait lists tend to be long and it would also be a good idea to follow up in a few months to see how things are moving. Sometimes they may have cancellations and can fit you in sooner than expected.

How can I get accommodations in school?

One option is to have your child assessed for ADHD by a developmental Paediatrician or a child and adolescent psychiatrist which are both covered under OHIP. We recommend that a specialized physician always do a thorough assessment for ADHD to assess the symptoms that fit the ADHD criteria and to rule out any physician conditions that may mimic the symptoms of ADHD.

Another option is to have your child receive a psycho-educational assessment from a qualified psychologist. This is a comprehensive testing that also testes for learning disabilities as well as ADHD symptoms. The psychologist will write specific recommendations for accommodations in their report if Learning Disabilities and/or ADHD are diagnosed.

This comprehensive report may assist with the student being recognized as an exceptional learner and developing an Individual Education Plan (IEP); however, before giving the report to the school, find out what your school board's policy is on identifying students as exceptional. Some boards and Ministries of Education recognize ADHD, while, unfortunately, others do not.

Some schools may offer psycho-educational testing through their school psychologist. While this can be a great help to some families financially, we urge parents to pay for testing out of pocket if at all possible. The diagnosis paperwork is therefore YOUR property and you have control of the information.

Private psycho-educational assessments frequently cost at least $2,000 since psychologists are not covered by provincial health care coverage. Some private insurance plans may cover a portion of this fee. This fee can sometimes be split under more than one family member or the testing can cross more than one year's allowable coverage.

Psychologists cannot prescribe medication but can offer other treatments and therapy; however, if medication treatment is desired the child or adolescent will also need to be seen by a physician or psychiatrist.

What are symptoms of child/adolescent ADHD? 

Inattentive Symptoms: Easily distracted, difficulty focusing, daydreaming, difficulty remembering verbal instructions, misunderstanding instructions, difficulty understanding others’ cues, difficulty making transitions between activities, difficulty with organizing belongings and work, losing things, easily overwhelmed, and trouble beginning tasks and completing projects.

Hyperactive Symptoms: fidgeting and squirming excessively, difficulty remaining seated, talking excessively and at inappropriate times, difficulty with quiet activities, risk-taking behaviours, and frequently touching objects. Possible symptoms of child/adolescent impulsivity include: interrupting conversations, blurting out answers in the classroom, beginning work before instructed, disturbing others, seemingly excessive frustration, taking others’ belongings, difficulty waiting in line, difficulty taking turns, and making impulsive choices.


What are symptoms of adult ADHD? 

Possible symptoms of adult ADHD include: not being able to focus on tasks that are dull, easily distractible, difficulty paying attention to detail, hyper-focusing on something you may find stimulating, difficulty and possibly frustration with transitions in activities (especially when in hyper-focus), forgetting things, losing things, fidgeting, internal restlessness, procrastination, interrupting conversations or blurting out random or inappropriate thoughts, making impulsive and/or risky decisions, difficulties with organization, difficulties finishing projects but frequently starting them, impatience, low frustration tolerance, mood swings, tuning out when spoken to, difficulty realizing how your behaviour affects others, difficulty with self-awareness, problems with self-esteem, problems with social interactions and relationships, excessive career/job changes or loss, problems with time management, and difficulty paying bills on time and managing money.


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