Interviewing Children

In the evaluation of children, parents play a crucial role in providing relevant information, but the child's input is also essential. Since many executive functions impaired in ADHD involve cognitive processes not noticed by others, it is crucial that I interview the patient. Even young children can provide important information about their experience to a clinician skilled at asking relevant questions and listening carefully to responses.

For children whose schooling is mostly in a classroom with one teacher, information from that teacher may be very helpful. Such teachers usually can describe the child's responses to different types of tasks, and can compare the child's performance to that of many other children of the same age. Often elementary schoolteachers can also furnish valuable information about how the child gets along with classmates and how the child interacts with teachers and other adults on the school staff. Yet teachers alone cannot and should not make or deny a diagnosis of ADHD. In some children symptoms of ADHD are less obvious in school than elsewhere.

Observations from teachers are usually less valuable for the evaluation of junior high or high school students, who rotate among six or seven teachers each day. Unless the teacher is also an advisor, coach, or mentor of some kind to the student, he or she will usually see the child only for one period each day, perhaps less, and typically will have five different groups of perhaps twenty-five to thirty-five students daily—so is often not able to report about any one student in sufficient detail.

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