Differential Diagnosis of ADHD in School-Age Children

Adelaide S. Robb, MD


September 26, 2006

In This Article


Typically, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) initially presents in young, school-age children. One of the first steps in diagnosing the condition is to evaluate the child for other medical and psychiatric illnesses that comprise the differential diagnosis. The workup may include laboratory, physiologic, radiologic, and psychological testing. While determining that ADHD is the primary diagnosis, the clinician may find the child has a comorbid medical or psychiatric diagnosis. For children with ADHD and a comorbid disorder, both disorders must be addressed in the comprehensive treatment plan so that children can be successful in their educational and social endeavors.[1,2]

This article will review the differential of 2 ADHD subtypes that have different ages of onset and differential diagnoses. For each subtype, we will include both the medical and psychiatric differential diagnoses and testing needed to confirm or rule out the differential diagnoses. We will also talk briefly about treatment strategies and priorities for comorbid medical and psychiatric diagnoses.


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