ADHD and Autism Assessments for Adults

While there are no definitive “tests” for ADHD or Autism, what testing can do is help confirm the diagnosis and identify any hidden emotional or other issues. The testing itself involves sessions consisting of clinical interviews and assigned homework assessing cognitive style, attention span, memory, organizational style, specific aptitudes, executive function challenges, and mood. When the testing is completed, it usually adds solid information to the often ambiguous diagnostic process.

ADHD Assessment notebook

ADHD Impact

ADHD impacts each client differently, depending on their characteristic strengths and challenges. ADHD symptoms describe problems controlling what a person engages in, the moment-by-moment selection of mental and physical activities, which are more at the whim of what is naturally engaging or not for the person.

ADHD Diagnosis

ADHD diagnosis requires a comprehensive clinical interview covering both ADHD criteria and alternative explanation for symptoms. Neuropsychological evaluation or other tests of brain function are not required for the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) clinical diagnosis of ADHD.

No single inventory of symptoms or symptom scale is sufficient to make a diagnosis – it remains up to the clinician to determine if the criteria is met, no matter how the information is gathered. Diagnosing ADHD also requires ruling out other presenting conditions such as anxiety, depression, trauma, autism, or cognitive issues due to aging or menopause.

ADHD or Trauma or Both?

An important part of making a correct diagnosis includes differentiating ADHD symptoms from trauma symptoms.

ADHD symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Struggling with instructions
  • Difficulty with organization and doing things in order
  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Talking excessively
  • Losing things needed for tasks
  • Interrupting or intruding upon others

Trauma symptoms may include:

  • Irritability, quick to anger
  • Increased arousal, edginess, agitation
  • Avoidance of reminders of trauma
  • Feelings of fear, helplessness, uncertainty, vulnerability
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Dissociation, feelings of unreality or being “outside of one’s body”
  • Continually feeling on alert for threat or danger
  • Unusually reckless, aggressive or self-destructive behaviors

Symptoms overlapping ADHD and trauma may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating and learning
  • Easily distracted
  • Often doesn’t seem to listen
  • Disorganized
  • Restless
  • Hyperactive
  • Difficulty sleeping

ADHD or Autism or Both?

ADHD and Autism also have some overlapping symptoms and proper diagnosis needs to differentiate between them.

ADHD symptoms may include:

  • Impulsivity
  • Short attention span
  • Poor working memory
  • Poor planning skills
  • Time blindness
  • Depression when understimulated
  • Little sense of danger
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Unmotivated for uninteresting tasks

Autism symptoms may include:

  • Taking things very literally
  • Having the same routine and getting anxious if it changes
  • Being uncomfortable with eye contact
  • Liking to carefully plan things before they happen
  • Not understanding social “rules”
  • Noticing small details that others do not notice
  • Getting upset due to physical touch
  • Getting very anxious about social situations

Symptoms overlapping ADHD and Autism may include:

  • Sensory issues
  • Hyper-fixations
  • “Stimming”
  • Auditory processing disorder
  • Talking excessively
  • Finding it hard to make friends
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Interrupting conversations
  • Rejection sensitivity
  • Executive function challenges
  • Sleep problems

How Elaine Can Help

I offer ADHD and Autism assessments to adults who would like to get clarity on their diagnoses. These assessments are completed over approximately 4 individual therapy sessions for ADHD and approximately 5 individual sessions for Autism (not including the intake session). Self-assessment instruments are assigned as homework. Additional fees are charged for therapist’s time spent on scoring and producing a report.

I co-taught a workshop “Adult Autism and ADHD Screening for Master’s and Doctoral Level Clinicians” with Dr. Leslie Carter in October 2022 to hundreds of clinicians worldwide and have trained groups of clinicians in various US states. I offer consultations to clinicians wanting to improve their assessment skills. My fees are posted. Please contact me for additional information.