Getting An Assessment For ADHD in New Zealand

How To Comprehension Guide


You keep losing your keys, feel you can never finish anything at work, or maybe have had a family member say “Do you think you might have ADHD?.” ​Whatever the reason, getting a specialist assessment is the first step towards getting some answers and potentially explaining what you've been experiencing since childhood.You've had a child or adolescent assessed and diagnosed with ADHD only to find out it's genetic and wondered about yourself.

​Getting an assessment and diagnosis of ADHD often helps you to understand there is a reason for many of your current and past difficulties and can be an enormous relief.

Rather than getting a new job, there are many things you’ll have to undertake and share with your specialist.


There are two ways you can go about this:




  • See your GP and have them refer you (if you’re over 18 years of age) or your child (if they’re 18 years or younger) to be seen by a specialist in the Public Health System (which will likely involve a wait but is free).
  • Or go directly to a private specialist (which may be less of a wait, but will have a cost associated with it).

If you’re an adult wanting to get assessed for ADHD we’d recommend that first you see your GP for a referral. However, adults often end up seeing a private Specialist to get assessed for ADHD.


See your GP



They’ll guide you through this process for getting an assessment and make recommendations specific to your situation
(such as using insurance, the type of specialist, referring you to the specialist, and what you need to take with you).





Using insurance




​Some insurers are challenged in identifying the distinction between mental health and non-neurotypical conditions.
So they take the stance of excluding the whole lot.
Other insurers have recognised the challenges in the mental health support community and have relaxed their requirements.
Find out what different insurers cover in relation to the assessment and treatment of ADHD, from our friends at Willowgrove Insurance.


The specialist


The only medical professionals who are specialised to assess and diagnose ADHD are either a Paediatrician,
a Psychiatrist (Child and Adolescent or Adult), a Neurologist, or a Clinical Psychologist.
It may be worth noting that while Clinical Psychologists can assess and diagnose ADHD, they cannot
prescribe medication. They may be able to offer other services to support the management of ADHD if diagnosed.
A GP is not able to complete an ADHD assessment and diagnosis, as it’s a specialist mental health assessment
unless they’ve done further training in assessing and treating ADHD.


When choosing your specialist


You’ll be seeing this person regularly so make sure, once you’ve met them, that you’re comfortable sharing anything and everything with them.
Travel may also be a consideration given your regularity of seeing them.


Questions that you may want to consider asking them include:


  • How long have you been working with patients with ADHD?
  • What percentage of your patients have ADHD?
  • Have you received any training in the diagnosis or treatment of ADHD?
  • What is involved in the assessment—written tests/interviews?
  • Your typical treatment plan — behaviour modification, medication, alternative therapies?
  • What are the costs involved?
  • Do you accept my insurance?


Preparing to see the specialist




There is often a wait to see a specialist so book an appointment with this in mind, ahead of when you might need it (i.e. before school/uni term, beginning a new job, etc). Depending on whether you use insurance or not, the wait time to see a specialist can take up to six months. They’ll likely send you some forms and questionnaires that you’ll likely need to complete and send to them before the meeting.  They’ll review these before your first meeting with them.



ADHD Assessment Tools



A proper ADHD assessment should do two things:

Determine whether a person has ADHD and rule out other potential reasons for the symptoms, plus
Identify any other potential challenges — i.e. Anxiety, Depression, Dyslexia, Autism, Auditory Processing Disorder or OCD.
Depending on the complexity of your needs the Specialist assessment may take anywhere from an hour to more than eight hours and may require several appointments. The usual length of time in the appointment is 90 minutes but that is with having already done questionnaires and forms


Common assessments include:


*ADHD rating questionnaires (called psychometrics)
*Cognitive Assessments (assessing cognitive strengths, weaknesses, and IQ)
*Mental Health broad screener questionnaires (psychometrics to help narrow down the areas the Specialist will need to focus on in the assessment), and/or
*Neuropsychological assessment of the Attention system or Executive Functioning (functional tests completed by a Psychologist).


Things to take to your meeting with your specialist


  • Your fully completed questionnaires (send them in before the appointment so they can be reviewed and scored)
    fully completed questionnaires from others (i.e. a teacher – this also needs to be sent to your specialist before your appointment so they can be reviewed and scored)
  • Memory for a detailed developmental, social, and family history (taking your/your child’s Well Child/Plunket book and school reports is helpful), and or any supporting evidence (such as medical, psychological, school/employment records, or if you’re an adult, a copy of the results from our self-screening tool) to the appointment.


When getting assessed to find out if you have ADHD




your first session is likely to take 60-90 minutes, and a typical assessment for adult ADHD may take up to three hours.


Other information/observations they may request of you include:


talking to other people, like your partner or family member, and/or in the case of children, your specialist may want to talk to a teacher, coach, or daycare provider.

While they’re assessing you, or your child, they’ll  ask about your questionnaire responses – you may be asked to elaborate on aspects such as:


  • How often do you quit a task before you’re done?
  • How often do you misplace things?
  • How often do you forget appointments or other important matters?
  • Do you have trouble sitting still?
  • Do you struggle to relax?
  • How often are you distracted by things around you?
  • Development, health, family, and lifestyle history, and strengths, weaknesses, and some of the challenges you’ve been facing.


The specialist may also ask you about your medical history, as this is an important part of the evaluation. If you haven’t had a medical exam recently, one might be recommended to rule out medical causes for your symptoms. Also, look to see if any co-existing conditions are present. If the co-existing condition(s) isn’t treated then the treatment for ADHD may not be as effective.


Getting a diagnosis of ADHD


When it comes to an assessment, and potentially the eventual diagnosis of ADHD, psychiatric medical doctors
categorise ADHD according to a set of criteria that all appropriately trained specialist doctors and Psychologists use.  ​The diagnostic system used in New Zealand is called the DSM-V, and we share the use of this system with most of the English-speaking world (except Europe). ​Once your specialist is satisfied that their review is conclusive, they’ll share their thoughts with you. This may, or may not, result in you receiving a diagnosis of ADHD. However, if you get a diagnosis that confirms you have ADHD, this can be an enormous relief as it often helps you to understand there is a reason for many of your current and past difficulties.

They’ll share their thoughts with you about the diagnosis and a treatment plan to suit you as their patient.

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