ADHD Assessment and Diagnosis in Canada: An Inconsistent but Fixable Process

Alan Edmunds, Shelley Martsch-Litt

Abstract


Canadian teachers in inclusive classrooms are encountering more students with ADHD-like behaviours and making more referrals for formal diagnosis of the condition. Previous research suggests that ADHD diagnoses are susceptible to highly inconsistent and arbitrary assessment processes/criteria (Sanford & Ridley, 1995), thus probably contributing to teachers’ lack of effective interventions. This study sought to establish whether Canadian ADHD diagnosticians were specifically identified, whether common diagnostic criteria/guidelines were used, and whether diagnostic processes were empirically grounded. One-hundred and seventy-six official documents from the prominent Canadian organizations vested in ADHD diagnosis were examined. The results revealed that various professionals provide ADHD diagnoses, that few organizations had clear diagnostic guidelines, and that few organizations outlined theoretical foundations for ADHD aside from references to DSM-IV-TR criteria. This evidence suggests a three-fold potential for compounding inconsistencies in ADHD diagnoses. Recommendations for standardized criteria and processes to remediate these pervasive inconsistencies are provided.

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