Advice from one parent to another when seeking an ADHD assessment for your child

February 22, 2024
Min Read
Written by:
Rachael Bailey
I am a mum. A mum to a bright, funny, and loveable 8-year-old superhero. My superhero has a superpower - ADHD.

We went through the ADHD assessment process with my son just last year, and since his diagnosis, he has gone from strength to strength, thriving educationally and socially. But our assessment journey wasn’t without its challenges, so I would like to share some of my insights from one parent to another to hopefully help you along the way.

Early concerns

As a family, we had always wondered if our eldest son was neurodivergent. We picked up on a few early signs, but we were never certain, as we often thought his behaviour was typical of boys - especially one who had endured the challenges of COVID-19 lockdowns.

ADHD was first suggested as a possibility by my son’s teacher when he was six years old. He had trouble sitting still in the classroom, was easily distracted, found it difficult to follow instructions, and fidgeted often. He would also steal Blu-tack from classroom displays so that he had something to fiddle with!  

We also noticed similar challenges at home, with my son finding it difficult to concentrate on daily tasks, showing frequent hyperactive behaviour, and having difficulty with regulating his emotions. However, we could not pursue a formal diagnosis until he turned seven years old.

Making this stage easier:

  • During this time, I found it helpful to have an initial meeting with my son’s school. Together, we discussed his challenges at school and implemented some strategies to help him as we waited for a formal assessment. For instance, he was allowed to have fidget toys to play with in the classroom to channel his excess energy more productively.
  • I also wrote down as much information as I could about my son’s strengths, challenges, and neurodiverse traits so that I had these ready for the assessment process.

The assessment process

When we first started the screening and assessment journey, I felt relieved that we may finally get access to the appropriate support for my son and have a greater understanding of his daily needs. When filling out the initial screening questionnaire, I had much greater clarity about how my son's brain worked. With each recognisable statement, things became clearer.  

My child's school also filled out the screening questionnaire, and together, these results enabled us to pursue a formal assessment. During the next stage of my son's assessment, we provided greater detail about his childhood and developmental background, as well as the daily challenges and signs of ADHD that he faced. Receiving a diagnosis of ADHD has enabled us to put the support mechanisms into place that our son requires.

Tips for navigating this stage:

  • Be open and honest with the medical professionals conducting the assessment, and don't be afraid to ask questions or voice any concerns you may have.
  • Remember that you know your child best, and your input is invaluable in forming an accurate diagnosis and support plan.  
  • Find out as much as you can about ADHD and the assessment process. By staying informed, you will be better equipped to advocate for your child and make important decisions about their treatment.  
  • Be accurate and honest when filling out assessment questionnaires, and use past documentation, if required, to jog your memory about developmental milestones.
  • Speak to other parents who have been through a similar experience for practical and emotional support.  
  • Work closely with your child’s school during the assessment process. Keep the school updated on the progress and any diagnosis or support plans that are put into place.

Talking to your child about their ADHD assessment

Explaining the ADHD assessment process to my son proved challenging, but we had always felt that it was important to keep him fully informed along the way. We had a conversation with him about what was happening and used age-appropriate and neuroaffirming language. We focused on the strengths and positives of his characteristics rather than highlighting any perceived weaknesses.

Based on my experience, here are some practical tips to consider when talking to your child about their ADHD assessment:

  • Start by creating a safe and non-judgmental space for your child to talk to you about their thoughts and feelings.
  • Use simple and plain language to explain ADHD and the assessment process to your child. The language you use must be appropriate for the age of your child.  
  • Always use neuroaffirming language when speaking to your child, focusing on their strengths and abilities instead of talking about “symptoms” and “deficits.”
  • Encourage your child to ask any questions and express any concerns they may have about the ADHD assessment process, and practice active listening as they talk to you.
  • Remind your child that you are there to support them every step of the way and that they can always come to you with any questions or concerns.

In my experience, speaking to my son openly about his ADHD has enabled him to become an advocate for both himself and his neurodivergent peers!  

Final thoughts

Going through the ADHD assessment process has given me the opportunity to learn more about neurodivergence and the strengths and challenges that come with it. It has also helped me to better understand my son, and shown me how to adapt my parenting style to suit his unique needs. Remember that the assessment process is designed to help your child receive the support they need, so try to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn.

Approved by ProblemShared clinician:
Rachael Bailey

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