How to measure attention deficit?

Anybody out there know how to measure the level of attention in children and adults? I’ve searched the net for programs/ideas and found little other than counting backwards. With ADD so prevalent these days I would have thought there would be more diagnostic tools about.

One of the best ways of measuring this disorder is

Oh look! A badger!

hehe, furry.


Oh, right.

There is something very telling when you get to know a person who is really ADD/ADHD that makes you understand what it originally was (instead of the current usage, which is more like “impatient and bored”).

ADD is not something you should self-diagnose. In fact, in spite of what you may hear on radio talk shows or other anecdotal forums, ADD can only be properly diagnosed by a psychiatrist. NOT a psychologist, NOT a pediatrician, NOT a teacher or school administrator.

When our son was diagnosed, a triple-blind survey was used (sorry if that’s the wrong technical term). It’s a standardized questionnaire, with about 50 or so items on it, some of them repeated with different wording.

Questions are asked regarding the child’s behavior, anxiety, temper, etc. This is filled out independently by the parents, the teacher, and the psychiatrist, based on their observations in their various venues. My understanding of it is that if a certain number of high ADD answers crop up, especially in certain circumstances, then a diagnosis can be made. As far as measuring it, a lot of it has to be observational. An individual’s level of attention is going to vary depending on his/her surroundings, the level of anxiety they’re experiencing, other pressures that may come to bear, even their state of health at the time…many things. It’s not something that can be measured and quantified and set in stone, as it will vary from day to day, even hour to hour, and also from one venue to another.

In other words, a lack of attention can be noted, especially as it relates to what is considered “normal”, but the level of any individual’s attention is going to vary depending on the circumstances. I’m able to concentrate better at this particular moment than I was 30 minutes ago, because my wife and two kids were scrambling about trying to get themselves together and out the door.

Thanks Dave, I understand all that. I don’t wish to diagnose persons as ADD as your quite right it’s very complicated but I would like to measure a person’s concentration at a particular moment. I thought of writing a program that randomly prints 1 - 9 on the screen. The subject must press a key when a number repeats. At an appropriate speed it might show when attention momentarily wanders. Anybody with other ideas?

Actaully Steve that would probably HOLD the persons attention. Much better then, say, reading a book. The changing numbers would BE the distraction. (At least they would be for me). It’s going to be very hard to come up with a test to do something like that. For example, you could have them do a creative writing paper about a fantasy (for example). Watch them as ever minute or so they stop writing, have a blank stare and are suddenly in the fantasy, and then snap out of it, realize what they should be doing and start writing again. OTOH that same person could get so involved in the writing that they could wright for hours and have a wonderfully written paper (with no grammatical/spelling errors) that’s 20 pages long. People with ADD have a tendency to occasionaly hyper-focus (is that the term?) on things. Which is why they often arn’t diagnosed properly. That is, they seem to have problems concentrating on school work, but mom doesn’t believe that they REALLY have a problem because once they find something they like that can do it literraly for hours, skipping meals even. I personally wasn’t diagnosed until my sophmore year of college. I had been telling my mom that I had problems concentrating since I was in 2nd or 3rd grade but since I could play video games or work on model rockets for 4 hours at a time… My parents even had testing done because I had so many problems with school work, but for whatever reason they didn’t do anything about the results. (BTW I remember when I found the results years and years later and they specifacally said that I had attention problems. So when I went in to be diagonosed I brought those papers with me to show that I had problems all my life).

I’ll stop rambling now, I can’t even remember where I was going with this to be honest. (Oh yea, the test Steve R had. Like I said, I don’t think that would work. Your best bet is to observe them in different enviroments doing different things, and see what they’re doing. Go online and look for the diagnostic procedures in the DSM-IV (or maybe it’s the DSM-V now) check out ADD.ABOUT.COM for more info also)

Thanks Joey. I’m hoping the numbers thing will not be that stimulating. Any ideas how to ensure that?

Actually I have heard of some sort of program already in use for a couple of years that’s designed to measure this. (I don’t know the name, etc. but if you Google enough I’m sure you’ll find it.) Also, I’m not sure how widely it’s accepted as being accurate (or not). However, real diagnosis still depends on the criteria outlined above by DAVEW0071.

Conners’ rating scale for ADD/ADHD.

You’re welcome.

Dave’s post is mostly excellent, but this is simply wrong:

Psychologists, such as LCSWs and MFCCs, are perfectly capable of diagnosing ADD/ADHD. The only unique qualification of psychiatrists is that they are MDs, and can prescribe medication (this power is no longer exclusive to psychiatrists – New Mexico permits properly trained and certified psychologists prescribe certain psychoactive drugs, and other state bills are pending).

Thanks CS. I Googled for Conners and discovered what I really wanted were Continuous Performance Tests. Has anybody got one?

The conspiratorist in me wants to say that most ‘clinical’ measures
of ADHD were developed by pharmaceutical companies in some way or another. But that would be just silly, wouldn’t it?

Yes, it would.
Back to the OP - there are computer based diagnostic systems which are used by clinicians and neuropsychological researchers. They consist of very simple computer games which are nonetheless carefully designed to exercise very specific brain functions. Scores from a battery of such games can be useful in diagnoses of several neuropsychological disorders, including ADHD. One such system is CANTAB. Be aware that it is to be used by professionals and is VERY expensive.