Testing for Attention Disorders

Parents of kids with attention challenges know how devastating they can be to grades and life. And researchers generally agree that they represent an authentic neurological disorder. But the search for distinctive biological evidence of attention challenges has been, well, challenging.

The NY Times reports on an invention, the Quotient A.D.H.D. system, that purports to offer an objective diagnosis of A.D.H.D. without the use of a checklist of questions for parents and teachers that has historically been used to diagnose the disorder. The system was developed by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Martin H. Teicher. Dr. Teicher reported on the research that led to the development of the test in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 1996.

One psychologist interviewed for the Times article said that he wouldn’t use the Quotient test alone, but that the results are a helpful tool and can be particularly useful for convincing reluctant parents to use medication. Among other reported benefits of the test are the ability to screen out those who hoping to get a Ritalin prescription for fun or for increased productivity, as well as for fine-tuning dosages of stimulants (because the stimulants are fast-acting, children can be re-tested after taking medication to determine its effectiveness).

Not everyone is convinced the Quotient test should be used to figure out the appropriate medication dosage for kids, however. Says James M. Swanson, a developmental psychologist and attention researcher at the University of California, Irvine:

“It’s essentially a dull, boring task,” he said of the Quotient system, “so do you want to medicate your child to pay attention to dull, boring tasks?”

Overall, development of diagnostic tools like the Quotient system is encouraging. And Dr. Teicher recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health for further study, which will include research into the Quotient system, as well as other options, like brain imaging.

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One Response to “Testing for Attention Disorders”

  1. Thoughts from Be Amazing Learning Says:

    […] based on a clinical evaluation of reported behavior. We’ve previously posted on recent efforts to develop a clinical test for attention challenges, and there is research as well that indicates that ADHD may be a genetic […]

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