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Interpreting the ADHD Profile

The ADHD PROFILE (page 10) recognizes that ADHD is not a unitary disorder but rather a collection of symptoms which vary in intensity from person to person. The profile has been designed so that someone reviewing the results of the testing can see at a glance the severity of the core ADHD symptoms.

The symptoms of ADHD, (i.e., impulsivity, inattention, hyperactivity, etc.) are present in all of us. Whether they become a problem depends upon 1) how severe they are, and 2) what we are trying to do. For example, the ability to pay attention for extended periods is very important for an air traffic controller, but may be much less vital for some other line of work. Using the profile, it is possible to customize the ADHD test findings to a broad range of settings and tasks.

The ADHD PROFILE can be used to summarize current functioning as well as changes over time, e.g,, after taking medication.

Organization of the Profile: The symptom categories are presented across the top of the profile. The primary symptoms are Impulsivity, Inattention, and Hyperactivity. Inattention is further divided into Short-Term Attention, Sustained Attention, and Distractibility. Secondary symptoms of AHDH are also included, e.g., Reaction Time, Variability In Reaction Time, and Processing Speed. Parent and Teacher Ratings are summarized at the far right.

Interpreting the Profile: This is a “problem” profile in that the higher the percentile, the greater the problem. An impulsivity score of 93% means that the person is more impulsive than 92 out of 100 people of the same age. Consequently, in reading the profile, the higher the score the more problems the individual is likely to have.
There are no absolute cut-off scores between “average” and ADHD. As is customary in ADHD research, we have used the 93rd percentile to represent the beginning of the ADHD range, and scores between 75% and 93% are considered Borderline ADHD. However, the strength of the profile is that the scores are all presented, and the person using them can decide what “cut-offs” to use.

Descriptions of Tests:

  • photo TOVA The Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA) is a well validated and reliable neuropsychological test that has been specifically developed for use in screening, diagnosing, and treating neurologically-based Attention Deficit in children and adults. The standard version lasts 22.5 minutes, during which time the patient watches a computer screen and pushes a button each time he/she sees a symbol in a given location. (There also is an auditory version.) It measures the number of correct responses (Omissions, which reflect sustained attention), the number of incorrect responses (Commissions, which indicate impulsivity), Response Time, and Variability in Response Time (slow response time and high variability are characteristics of ADHD).
  • photo Gordon Diagnostic SystemThe Gordon Diagnostic System (GDS) is a computerized series of tests that is extremely well normed and validated on children and adolescents. There are subtests lasting eight or nine minutes for measuring impulsivity, sustained attention, and distractibility. One test of Impulsivity, is to have the person guess how long to wait between button pushes to earn a point. Impulsive people tend to respond before the six second period is up. Sustained Attention is tested by having the person watch flashing numbers (one per second) and responding each time a 1-9 sequence is presented. Distractibility is measured by repeating the Sustained Attention test, but this time there are numbers flashing in adjoining panels to distract the person.
  • Behavior ratings are obtained from parents and teachers with the Conner’s Questionnaire and the Child Behavior Checklist.
The APPA psychologists use the results of the objective tests and behavior ratings along with a clinical history and direct observations in making a diagnosis.
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