Mental Health

How Do CAMHS Assess for ADHD: Understanding the Process

Explore the CAMHS process for ADHD assessment in children and teens. Learn criteria, tests, and expectations during evaluation in our comprehensive guide.

Written by

Jacqui Walker

Published On:

Jan 30, 2024

Man consulting how do CAMHS Assess for ADHD
Man consulting how do CAMHS Assess for ADHD
Man consulting how do CAMHS Assess for ADHD

Navigating the ADHD diagnosis journey can feel like wading through a sea of uncertainty. You're looking for clarity and you've probably got tons of questions swirling around your head. How does CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) step in to assess for ADHD? It's a crucial question, as understanding their process is key to getting the support you or your loved one needs.

Getting an ADHD assessment can be confusing, but don't worry – you're not alone. Recognising why this information is vital could be the first step in transforming someone's life. Think about it: knowing what awaits on the road ahead makes the journey less daunting, right? So let’s unwrap this together and get a grip on how CAMHS works when it comes to assessing ADHD.

Why should you even bother learning about their assessment process? Well, because knowledge is power! With clear insights into what to expect, you'll be better equipped to navigate any twists and turns along the way. Plus, it's always comforting to have some insider info up your sleeve when embarking on something this important.

What is ADHD

What is ADHD

Understanding ADHD begins with recognising it as a neurodevelopmental disorder. You might have heard it referred to by its full name: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Individuals with ADHD exhibit a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

Let's break down these symptoms further:

  • Inattention: This isn't just about having a hard time focusing. It also encompasses difficulties in sustaining attention, organizing tasks, and following through on instructions.

  • Hyperactivity: Those who are hyperactive might seem like they're driven by a motor, often fidgeting, tapping, or talking excessively.

  • Impulsivity: Making hasty decisions without considering the consequences can be a hallmark of impulsivity.

ADHD affects people of all ages but it's most commonly identified in children—often causing disruption in school and at home. The condition can carry into adulthood, potentially leading to issues at work and in personal relationships.

Now you're probably wondering how common this is. Well, statistics from various studies suggest that roughly 5% of children globally are affected by ADHD. That said, there's been an increase in diagnoses over the years which could be due to better recognition of the symptoms.

Mistaking high energy levels or curiosity as ADHD is one common error. Not every child that seems overly energetic or easily distracted has the disorder; kids naturally have varying temperaments and energy levels.

If you suspect someone has ADHD, remember: early intervention can make a significant difference. Coping strategies and behavioural therapies can help manage symptoms effectively. Medication may also play a role but it’s not always necessary or suitable for everyone.

To incorporate practices relevant to understanding and managing ADHD into daily life involves structured routines, clear expectations, positive reinforcement techniques—and patience lots of patience! If you're looking for tailored advice specific to your situation consulting healthcare professionals who specialise in ADHD is always recommended for the best route forward.

The Role of CAMHS in Assessing ADHD

Initial Evaluation

When you're wondering if your child might have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) becomes a pivotal point of contact. Your journey starts with an initial evaluation, where mental health professionals gather broad information to understand the concerns about your child's behaviour. They'll ask questions to get a well-rounded view of how your child functions day-to-day. Think of this step as setting the stage—it helps clinicians decide which specific assessments are needed to form a clearer picture.

Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)

You may not be familiar with the Mini-Mental State Examination or MMSE, but it's often used as part of the assessment process for ADHD. It’s a quick screening tool that checks for cognitive impairment. Although not diagnostic for ADHD on its own, it gives CAMHS professionals insight into whether there are any additional cognitive factors at play. They’ll evaluate aspects like attention and concentration—key areas affected by ADHD.

Behavioural Observations

Observing how your child behaves in different settings is crucial for assessing ADHD. CAMHS specialists might visit schools or request videos from home environments to see firsthand what's going on. They look out for patterns like impulsivity, difficulty staying seated, or not waiting turns—all tell-tale signs that could indicate ADHD.

  • In school: How does the child interact with peers?

  • At home: Are routines followed or resisted?

These observations complement other assessment tools by providing real-world context.

ADHD Specific Rating Scales

Several rating scales specifically designed for identifying symptoms of ADHD come into play here:

  • The Conners scale: Widely used and respected among professionals.

  • The SNAP-IV: Helps differentiate between subtypes of ADHD.

Parents and teachers fill out these questionnaires that probe into various behaviours associated with ADHD such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity over different contexts and situations.

Interviews with Parents and Teachers

Gathering insights from those who know your child best forms an integral part of the assessment process:

  • You'll share anecdotes illustrating daily challenges.

  • Teachers provide academic performance details.

This collaborative approach ensures all pieces of the puzzle are considered when evaluating potential ADHD.

Medical History and Physical Examination

A thorough medical history check is vital as many conditions can mimic or exacerbate symptoms similar to those seen in ADHD:

  • Past medical records are reviewed.

  • A physical examination ensures no underlying physical issues are contributing to behavioural symptoms.

It’s all about ruling out other possible causes before arriving at an accurate diagnosis.

Psychological Assessments

The final piece involves comprehensive psychological assessments which may include IQ tests along with other standardised tests designed to measure various aspects of functioning:

  1. Tests measuring executive function skills assess abilities such as planning and organising—often challenging areas for children with ADHD.

  2. Memory tests can identify differences in short-term versus long-term memory capabilities which offer further clues towards diagnosing disorders including but not limited to ADHD.

Psychological assessments help paint a broader picture beyond just observable behaviours thus ensuring a multi-faceted approach towards understanding each individual case thoroughly.

By breaking down this complex process into understandable parts you now have better insight into how CAMHS assesses for ADHD—a multifaceted endeavour aiming at giving each child the right support they need!

Diagnosis of ADHD by CAMHS

Diagnostic Criteria

When you're navigating the waters of ADHD diagnosis with CAMHS, it's crucial to understand that they operate within a specific framework. This framework ensures that every assessment is thorough and fair. You'll find that CAMHS professionals use a detailed checklist to match your experiences against established diagnostic criteria. They look for patterns of behaviour indicative of ADHD such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity across different settings like home and school.

DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD

The DSM-5 is a manual used widely in the mental health field, including by CAMHS teams assessing for ADHD. It lists several symptoms under two main categories:

  • Inattention (such as difficulty sustaining attention or following through on tasks)

  • Hyperactivity and Impulsivity (like fidgeting or talking excessively)

For an accurate diagnosis, six or more symptoms from either category must have been present before the age of 12, persist for at least six months, be apparent in two or more settings, and not be better explained by another condition.

ICD-10 Criteria for ADHD

On the other hand, the ICD-10 takes a slightly different approach than the DSM-5. It focuses on three main groups:

  1. Inattentive type

  2. Hyperactive/impulsive type

  3. Combined type

In this system used by some CAMHS services, there is an emphasis on how these behaviours significantly disrupt daily life activities.

TypeNumber of Symptoms RequiredAge of OnsetInattentiveSix (for children)Under seven yearsHyperactive/ImpulsiveSix (for children)Under seven yearsCombinedSix from each category (for children)Under seven years

Differential Diagnosis

It's paramount that CAMHS differentiate between ADHD and other conditions that may have overlapping symptoms such as Autism Spectrum Disorders or mood disorders. They'll also consider factors like sleep problems or family stress can mimic or exacerbate ADHD-like behaviours.

Assessing Impairment and Functional Limitations

Assessment doesn't stop at ticking boxes next to symptoms; it extends to evaluating how these behaviours affect your day-to-day life:

  • Academic performance: Is homework always a battle?

  • Social interactions: Are birthday parties more like challenge courses?

  • Family life: Does getting ready in the morning often lead to World War III?

These questions help gauge the level of impairment caused by potential ADHD-related behaviours.

Diagnostic Decision and Formulation

After gathering all this information through observations, interviews, questionnaires, and sometimes neuropsychological tests – you've got yourself what experts call 'formulation'. This comprehensive profile determines if you meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis which then guides treatment options tailored just for you.

Remember to keep track of any changes in behaviour over time—this can provide invaluable insights during follow-up appointments with your clinician!

Additional Assessments and Screenings

When exploring the possibility of ADHD, it's crucial to understand that other conditions can co-exist or even mimic its symptoms. That's why CAMHS professionals often recommend additional assessments to get a clearer picture of what you're dealing with.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Screening

Given the overlapping traits between ADHD and ASD, distinguishing one from the other can be challenging. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Behavioural Observations: Specialists look for social communication challenges and repetitive behaviours, hallmarks of ASD.

  • Development History Review: They'll delve into your early developmental milestones.

  • Standardised Tests: Tools like the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) may be used.

Remember, an ASD screening doesn't label you; it helps tailor the support you need.

Intellectual and Learning Disability Assessments

If there's a concern about how you're processing information or managing schoolwork, learning disability assessments come into play. These typically include:

  • IQ Testing: To gauge your overall cognitive abilities.

  • Academic Assessments: Evaluating specific skills like reading, writing, and maths.

With these insights, CAMHS can pinpoint any specific support or interventions that might benefit you in educational settings.

Executive Functioning Assessments

Executive functions are those mental skills that help us manage life's daily tasks. When assessing for ADHD:

  • You may encounter tasks measuring working memory or flexible thinking.

  • The Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) is one common tool used.

Gauging these skills ensures strategies are put in place to bolster areas where you might struggle such as organising tasks or managing time effectively.

Other Comorbid Conditions Screening

ADHD rarely walks alone—it often brings friends like anxiety or depression along for the ride. Hence:

  • Mental health screenings are key to identifying these hidden guests.

These screenings ensure a comprehensive approach so that every aspect of your well-being is considered when developing a management plan tailored just for you.

Armed with all this data from various assessments, CAMHS professionals can provide a holistic view of your situation. It’s not just about labelling; it’s about understanding all facets of your unique profile to offer the most effective support possible.


Navigating the ADHD assessment process with CAMHS can seem daunting at first, but understanding what to expect demystifies it. Let's delve into how you can effectively engage with this process and ensure the best possible outcome.

Incorporating practices relevant to managing ADHD involves consistent routines and potentially environmental adjustments both at home and in educational settings. The best route often includes:

Remember these steps don't just aid in assessment; they're cornerstones of effective long-term management of ADHD. By embracing these practices, you'll not only navigate the assessment with more ease but also lay down a solid foundation for dealing with ADHD beyond the diagnostic process.