The NICHQ’s Vanderbilt Assessment Scales are commonly used as ADHD-specific rating scales, but there are a few points to keep in mind:
- The scoring instructions begin with the following statement: “These scales should NOT be used alone to make any diagnosis. You must take into consideration information from multiple sources.”
- The assessment scales are validated in children aged 4 to 17 years-old.
- There are 2 initial assessment scales (1 for parents and 1 for teachers) and 2 follow-up assessment scales (again, 1 for parents and 1 for teachers.) We should use the follow-up scales only after an intervention (e.g., after a period of time on a stimulant medication.)
- The initial assessment scales have 55 questions for parents and 43 questions for teachers, but only about half of the questions apply to ADHD symptoms. The remaining questions screen for symptoms of 4 other common co-morbidities: oppositional-defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, and depression. Evaluating the initial assessment scales requires you to pay close attention (!) to the question number and its score (see below). (Note that the follow-up assessment scales only assess ADHD symptoms.)
- The clinical utility of the comorbidity screening scales may be helpful in determining which children likely do not meet diagnostic criteria for oppositional-defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, or depression (i.e., sensitivity is better than specificity.)