ADHD News & Research

Study: ADHD in Preschoolers Most Accurately Diagnosed with Multi-Method, Multi-Informant Evaluations

Symptoms of ADHD in preschoolers are most accurately evaluated using combined measurements of electroencephalogram (EEG) data, the Conners’ Kiddie Continuous Performance Test (K-CPT), and the Disruptive Behavior Disorder Rating Scale (DBDRS), according to a new study.

January 11, 2022

The best approach for clinical evaluation of ADHD symptoms in preschool children includes a combination of the Disruptive Behavior Disorder Rating Scale (DBDRS), the Conners’ Kiddie Continuous Performance Test (K-CPT), and electroencephalogram (EEG) data, according to a Journal of Attention Disorders study.1

The study included 70 preschool students (38 with ADHD and 32 with typical development (TD)) who were administered the K-CPT and wireless EEG recording in different conditions. The K-CPT is “a standardized task-oriented computerized modality that measures a child’s objective performance in terms of attention,” while “EEG is increasingly considered the ideal device to obtain biomarkers for characterizing neurodevelopmental disorders.”

The main findings were as follows:

  • A combination of DBDRS, K-CPT, and slow-rate task-related central parietal EEG data provided the most discriminative validity for diagnosing ADHD in preschoolers.
  • DBDRS scores from parents and teachers of preschool students with ADHD were high (indicating worse performance), as were K-CPT scores mainly on reaction time, response time consistency and vigilance dimension.
  • Slow-rate task–related central parietal delta power synchronization was found to be a significant neural biomarker of ADHD in preschoolers.

Evidence suggests that DSM criteria can be applied to preschool children, but it can be difficult to obtain robust behavioral history from observers who aren’t the parents. This study is the first to investigate the validity of a multi-method, multi-informant evaluation to differentiate ADHD from TD in preschool children. Identifying ADHD in preschoolers and providing behavioral training programs can yield long-term beneficial outcomes for those individuals and their families.

1 Chen I-C, Lee P-W, Wang L-J, Chang C-H, Lin C-H, Ko L-W. Incremental Validity of Multi-Method and Multi-Informant Evaluations in the Clinical Diagnosis of Preschool ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. December 2021. doi:10.1177/10870547211045739