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Working Memory and ADHD

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Does the Working Memory score on the WISC-IV (which measures auditory
attention span) diagnose ADHD?

A: No. There is no direct diagnosis for ADHD by looking at the WISC-IV scores alone, as it is not a diagnostic test. There are tests specifically to diagnose ADHD. Furthermore, there are many ADHD subtypes such as the predominantly inattentive; hyperactive-impulsive and the combined type. Moreover, most children who have been diagnosed with ADHD may have been on medication and there may be a difference here.

However, it has been found that children with ADHD usually have scores of Processing Speed and Working memory, which is lower than Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning. Based on the subsets, they appear to perform poorly on the Coding and Arithmetic subsets. If a child scores poorly in working memory and/or processing speed and the gap is large with verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning, it would be something to be concerned about and one may need to do further tests to determine or rule out developmental concerns. Speak to a psychologist for further testing.

For more information on this you may want to read the following links:

  • Working Memory Influences Processing Speed and Reading Fluency in ADHD

  • Understanding WISC IV for ADHD child

Hope the above information helps. Best of luck!


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