Rachna Varia, PhD  
Female, 50
Chantilly, VA

Specialties: Learning Disabilities, Family Dynamics

Interests: Learning Disabilities, Reading Disorders
Chantilly-Metro DC Area, VA
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If your car is making a screeching noise, do you only want the battery checked?

Jun 13, 2008 - 9 comments

child behavior


child psychological diagnosis




Learning Disabilities


Psychological Assessment


Child psychologist




rachna varia

We often get requests for "ADHD testing."

I understand that there is a lot of media attention (excuse the pun) on ADD, ADHD, impulsivity, inattention. However, symptoms of inattention or restlessness are common in many learning and emotional problems such as learning disabilities, anxiety, moodiness, and motivational issues.

So if I go to the car mechanic and ask him or her to check only my battery because of the screeching noise, I would be remiss in not also having the whole car looked at. The engine, brakes, and all that other car stuff that I know very little about but may in fact be part of the problem. Thus, I have to trust that the mechanic should look at the whole car so he can ultimately not only fix the screeching sound but also make the car run more smoothly.

After years of doing different types of testing, we have now made it a MindWorks policy not to do "just ADHD testing." If you really want to find out why your child is having certain symptoms that may be affecting him or her at school and at home, we need to understand how the child learns, processes information, rule/out learning disabilities, and make sure that anxiety or depression is not creating these symptoms.

In the past, when we have only done "ADHD testing" (an IQ test, a checklist for attention symptoms, and a computerized test for viglilance and reaction time), we are often left with unanswered questions about why the child is struggling to read or is not doing well in geometry.

Like everyone, I am always a little suspicious when the car mechanic needs to check the entire car and am afriad that he is going to tell me that I am going to have spend money on x, y, and z, when I was only expected x. However, our testing comes from a health based perspective, so that we are identifying the strengths in your child to help overcome and compensate for the possible relative weaknesses.

So, next time you call ask for ADHD testing, expect me (or one of the other clinicians) to talk about why we feel it is important to take a whole child approach and not just focus on the battery. : )

-Rachna Varia, PhD; Director of Testing
MindWorks, Clinical Psychology
Northern Virginia

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by Adam Tanase, D.C.Blank, Jun 14, 2008
Dr. Varia,

I love the car battery analogy! Well said.

Avatar universal
by Grammargirl159, Jun 15, 2008
Excellent! My son's kindergarten teacher was convinced that he had ADHD, but he actually has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It turns out that he is extremely intelligent, but to the point that he takes in too much information and "overloads" himself. Fortunately, he was accurately diagnosed by an excellent psychologist, and he is now excelling at school. Too many people--both teachers and parents--rush to label children with ADD/ADHD, when the problem is very different. Yes, it may take a lot more time (and sometimes money) to get to the root of the problem, but quickly labeling a child and putting them on meds for the wrong diagnosis is criminal. It also does a great disservice to those who truly do have ADD/ADHD and need greater understanding of their condition.

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by momtofourboys, Jun 15, 2008
I agree it is funny how when my 10 year old was in first grade the first time the school wanted me to put him on medication because they said he had ADHD (without even testing him) and a lot of emotional issues going on at home(his baby brother had open heart surgery back then I have tumors and hubby was in an motorcycle accident) Dillan was kicking me and fighting me to go to school. when I told the school I didn't believe that he had ADD/ADHD that too many kids have that an it isn't right, they laughed at me/ come to find out a Psychologist was sent in to treat him for his emotional issues and she looked at his worked and tested him in severa areas I told her I believed that he is Dyslexic and she agreed.  
this same school has over 1/2 the kids on medication for ADD/ADHD. we had our 3 younger kids switch schoools and there is only 64 kids and only 1 has ADHD
can't people think that some kids might not understand what is being taught to them so their minds wander off or else they really are too smart for what they are being taught and they are bored so they mess around?
I mean how many people can actually sit through a boring company meeting/lecture, a concert without moving or shifting thier bodies around or start to play with their hair or what ever?
just a thought and thank you thank you for bringing this up

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by 888mom, Jun 15, 2008
Does a car battery squeek?  Might be a squeeky fan belt or those brakes you mentioned...

Um, back to the serious side of things.... (I liked your analogy too)

My daughter has a recent diagnosis of PDD, and we were told she is too young to assess if she has ADD/ADHD, and that a diagnosis of PDD encompasses the ADD behavior.  Does this mean that they would not treat her for the ADD?  Or will they do that?  She's almost 3, which is probably way too young for any meds.  And 2/3 year olds are hyper as it is, without ADD.

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by jdesouza, Jun 15, 2008
Loved your blog. There is a lot of press about under diagnosing ADHD but I feel as if there should also be coverage about children wrongly diagnosed with ADHD. Understanding the real cause of the sqeek is critical.
Thanks for your blog.

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by sandee1818, Jun 16, 2008
Great post!
What are your thoughts on speech problems and ADD/ADHD ?  Do you think there is a connection?

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by sripley, Jun 16, 2008
Dr. Varia,
I agree that your analogy was great. I am searching for articles about cataract surgery but your post got my attention because I worked for several years at an auto repair shop. I think most of us have ADD/ADHD moments.

Avatar universal
by randomvisitor, Mar 10, 2009
Very nice blog. As a college student doing Pre-Med who thinks they have ADD, you can imagine how much people stereotyped me. Of course, they assume I am partying or I don't have good study habits or I don't know HOW to learn the material, etc. It has been so hard having people believe me. In fact, that is why I delayed ADD Evaluation for a long time. I always thought if I just focused, or just got tutored, or just did this, that I would build habits and work through it. Unfortunately, as much as we want to move the TV persay with our minds, biology is biology. And there is only so much one can do mentally and emotionally. So delaying the evaluation only hurt me more. My brother who has seen me study and knows I am smart and capable, has been my greatest supporter in going to get tested. He knows that I am the last person who is using ADD to mask my playfulness. As a non-partyer, non-drinker, extremely hard-worker and very smart, he sees that my intelligence is not being focused right. I am also a Neuroscience major and very passionate about Neurology/Psychiatry. So I am very well-informed about how emphatamines work, side effects, the signaling pathways and I have been observing myself for quite sometime now. So I finally made my 1st appointment for evaluation, and I am looking forward to finding a solution for my problems.

Avatar universal
by leochbattery, Aug 31, 2011
I think I will check the engine, tire and batteries. More information from Leoch International, http://www.leoch.com

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