Affordable ADHD Testing for 12 year old

We have strong suspicions that our 12yr old daughter might have ADD/ADHD. Looking for a facility to get her tested for an affordable fee, since our insurance doesn’t cover mental health, and has a $8000 deductible. 
Going through her public school isn’t an option since they only test kids that struggle academically, and our daughter doesn’t. 
Any recommendations are welcome and appreciated. 

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We had our child evaluated at Kaiser. ADHD is generally considered a medical condition, not a mental health condition. I'd push back on your insurance. Without knowing if it's a HMO or PPO, etc., it's hard to tell you where to do, but there's a clinic at UC Berkeley that is more affordable, but they are full for the moment, with a waiting list opening up later.

We did ADHD testing through our pediatrician. You might have different testing in mind but the ADHD testing we had was extremely subjective and only included evaluation forms that we shared with teachers and we did one ourselves. The assessment is called "NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Scale" and you can find the funds online. Hopefully others will chime in about other testing because it sounds like you might have had something different in mind. My suggestion is that if you are looking to get your child ADHD tested and possibly supported with medication, set something up with your pediatrician. 

I have a 12 yo girl with likely ADHD (just missed the diagnostic cutoff from Kaiser). I am not sure what use it would be to get a formal diagnosis unless I wanted to pursue medication for her. I would think your pediatrician could presribe something based on symptoms, if that is what you are hoping for. My daughter really hated KP's testing, felt like she was stigmatized and it created a lot of anxiety. I wouldn't put it through her again and I regret doing so.

Otherwise, what we tell our daughter is that she has a lot in common with kids disagnosed with ADHD, and we talk about it openly. I subscribe to ADDitude and it helps me frame it.

I would disagree with your characterization of ADHD as a mental illness. It's a neurological condition, I think.

Usually that's something that your general pediatrician would do. A lot of us (I am one) start with the Vanderbilt questionnaires, which are available free online.  I don't know if insurance could refuse to pay for a general pedi visit if the diagnosis is ADHD. But even if they can do that (I think it's unlikely) if your pedi is like most of us they could ask you a brief question about her dry skin, or acne, or allergies, or whatever and put that as the diagnosis for the visit.

Hello, ADHD is diagnosed by a pediatrician, a child psychiatrist or psychologist, based on behavior rating tools and input from adults in the child's life (parents, teachers, typically). There is no test for ADHD--it's usually confirming symptoms that persist over a period of time and impact ability to function. While ADHD can affect mental health, it's considered a neurodevelopmental condition so you should be able to access help through your insurance provider. Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns--if they are not a developmental pediatrician, ask for a referral. A developmental pediatrician can guide you through the process of determining if your child has ADHD. If your child is diagnosed, you can use that diagnosis to qualify your child for services through your school district, although it doesn't sound like she needs any academic supports or interventions. 

Best of luck to you and your daughter! 

There are a lot of great educational resources available online, on online learning communities like outschool etc.  These focus on ways of understanding the difference between how ADHD brains and more neurotypical brains process information and work. 

I got a diagnosis as a kid. They prescribed ritalin (methylperidine). It was awful, and I only took it once. That's pretty much the only thing that a medical diagnosis can do for you. I wish now that I'd focused on strategies. Get her an official diagnosis and prescription later when she actually has challenging important work to do, and when you do, consider the amphetamines like adderall and vyvanse; the ritalin-style drugs shut down the creativity IMO. But if she has the strategies in place, the medication will be optional and value-add, rather than a requirement to function.

My child also was not struggling academically and therefore not “the squeaky wheel.” I argued and elevated that my child was struggling in their social emotional learning and that because they were a good student, we should not have to wait for them to fail academically too (an ounce of prevention…). 

After the not-thorough school district eval (used some wrong tools apparently), we used our right to a third-party evaluation. Caregivers have a right to dispute the evaluation and get a third-party evaluation at no charge to the school or the family. School district has to agree to it but ours did. The subsequent evaluation was done by the CDE (CA Dept of Ed) Diagnostic Center. The team was truly top-notch in their expertise, especially in understanding that ADHD etc. do not always present as academic failure. They were thorough, professional and supportive for both home and school with strategies (home life was unbearable). we did this several years ago so I will add the caveat that this amazing staff could have changed but at least it’s worth looking into the diagnostic center as an option. Also adding that with or without that formal diagnosis, there are plenty of resources like CHADD and ADDitude that you can dig into to find out if it seems like ADHD, or just some ADHD like behaviors, and how to support your child with them. In the end, even though we got that formal diagnosis, there weren’t a whole lot of supports that were helpful at school. May be a few (and honestly it’s tough to get the compliance with an IEP or 504). But these other sources and groups were better at helping with strategies, which was ultimately what we needed.

Could you start with her pediatrician? If your kiddo has had the same doctor for a while, her doc will likely be familiar with some of the things you're noticing. That's the route we took with our daughter. Our pediatrician knew our kid and her struggles pretty well was willing to give meds a shot if we were interested (and we were). Not sure what ADHD testing would net you, most schools don't seem to care where the diagnosis came from (for 504s, anyway). Good luck! 

My son wasn't struggling academically and he was assessed by the school district.  By law you have a right to formally request that they evaluate your daughter: 

You can write a formal letter request and that gets the ball rolling.  Unfortunately, I've heard that even before Covid, the assessment offices at the school districts are backed up where scheduling evals are up to a year or two away.  So, many go the private route.  I know when I was researching I saw a program through UC Berkeley during the summer that took a few kids.  Also another university in San Francisco that also did discount evaluations through their school of psychology.  Those are some places you might want to start, but you should put in a letter to school district to get that piece started for school accommodations or a 504 plan. 

You don’t need testing for ADHD.

Why would you want an official determination of a diagnosis?  Well… many reasons, but usually to get treatment, which is medications and psychotherapies and educational services.

Even if you get a neuropsychological evaluation, if you want medication, a psychiatrist or pediatrician is going to do their own evaluation.  Plus the physician will need to do ongoing medical monitoring of growth, etc. as part of medication approach. So neuropsych testing is often an extra, unneeded, and expensive step that delays care because it can take weeks to months.  (Watch out for NPs, they have way less training.)

Ask your child’s pediatrician.  If the pediatrician feels your child needs more evaluation, they can refer you.

If you have concern about learning disabilities (which often run with ADHD), the school is absolutely required to at least determine a need for assessment.  They will tell you that it is not needed, because evaluations cost the district money.  Push hard and don’t take no for an answer.  (But again - no need for neuropsych testing.  Even if you get an outside report, the school is required to do their own evaluation.)

Other than that, save your money, save your time, and get your child help faster by going straight to your child’s doctor.  

- from a Mom who learned the hard way 

Perhaps you're already aware of this, but the school is required to perform an evaluation if you request one and if they suspect your daughter has any type of "disability". If she is a quick learner but is struggling with organization, inattention, or hyperactive or impulsive behavior at school, that could still warrant evaluation. If you've already made a written request and the school has denied that they're seeing any evidence of ADHD symptoms at school, I would be curious about that because ADHD typically shows up in a school-based setting. Unless the school is totally out to lunch or overloaded by higher-need kids, I would actually find it reassuring if they denied concerns about your daughter's functioning.