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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Is it ADHD? What Neuropsychological Assessment Shows Us

Saumya Sharma, Ph.D. is a licensed neuropsychologist who has been on staff at the Hallowell Center in Boston MetroWest, MA for 10 years. She performs both cognitive and academic evaluations and works with children and adults.


As a clinical neuropsychologist, I often wonder how primary care clinicians (PCPs) or pediatricians assess and treat ADHD.

The diagnosis of ADHD is complex – each individual is unique and symptoms vary! The reality is most physicians are quick to opt for pharmacological solutions (medication) when perhaps non-pharmacological/alternative therapies (lifestyle changes, coaching, neurofeedback, etc.) are more appropriate. Parents often tell me that they are hesitant to give medication to their children without really knowing if it is truly ADHD.

Neuropsychological measures are the only way to objectively assess the nature, extent, and severity of difficulties to assist with diagnosis and treatment.

While it’s true that a neuropsychological assessment is not needed for the diagnosis of ADHD, it can provide useful information to rule out alternative reasons for attention problems.

Why? The list of reasons why someone can have attention problems is very extensive. Psychological and psychosocial factors (e.g., depression, anxiety, parental divorce, trauma), neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., dyslexia, autism spectrum), medical reasons (e.g., sleep apnea, head injuries/concussions), and as well as other conditions can masquerade as ADHD.

A neuropsychological evaluation can also inform treatment planning, in terms of both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic considerations. For students, testing can be extremely useful to help them understand their unique learning style and develop study strategies, and, if needed, obtain accommodations for school and standardized examinations (SAT, ACT, etc.).

Read more: Neuropsychological Testing: What Is It and Why Do It?

Contact the Hallowell Center Boston MetroWest at 978 287-0810 to learn more.

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