What Is The Conners ADHD Rating Scale?

By Dylan Buckley|Updated May 13, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Dr. Sonya Bruner, PsyD

For many people, what therapists do may seem almost magical. A simple conversation with most therapists can open doors to helping you work through your struggles and hardships. However, these skills did not come from a magic hat. They have been developed from years of education and experience. Therapists are uniquely qualified and trained to help you address a wide range of mental health concerns and other life problems.

Therapists have an array of valuable tools that help them assess and diagnose symptoms of various disorders in their patients. For example, your therapist may use the Conners rating scale to measure certain behaviors or symptoms associated with ADHD.  

The Conners rating scale is a questionnaire that is typically geared toward younger individuals, although older individuals around 18 years old may be diagnosed as well. It is designed to help parents, teachers, and other authority figures determine if their child may be struggling with ADHD. However, because this assessment tool is designed for children and teens, it is normal for parents to wonder about its accuracy, functionality, and applicability for their child.

If the Conners rating scale has been brought up when discussing treatment options for you or your child, let’s explore further how this assessment can help.

What Symptoms Might Be Associated With ADHD?

Before using the Conners rating scale to assess symptoms of ADHD or related behavioral disorders in children, it is imperative for adults to clearly reason why they are considering the possibility that their child may have this disorder.

ADHD has prominent symptoms that are categorized into two different presentations. The first type is the inattentive form of ADHD, for which six (or five for people over 17 years) of the listed behaviors occur often:

  • Forgetting important tasks and events (such as daily chores or homework)
  • Not actively listening when someone is talking
  • Not following directions and making careless mistakes during monitored tasks
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Having problems with keeping workspaces and tasks properly organized (time management issues are typically present as well)
  • Losing focus during important tasks before giving up
  • Losing or misplacing important things that are required daily (such as glasses, books, and keys)
  • Avoiding or ignoring tasks that require mental focus because they become unenjoyable

The second type is the hyperactive and impulsive form of ADHD, for which six (or five for people over 17 years) of the listed behaviors occur often:

  • Having a problem staying seated in school or at home
  • Having trouble waiting for their turn in an activity
  • Talking too much and having thoughts or conversations that are all over the place
  • Moving as though they are always full of energy or always onto the next thing quickly
  • Taking over activities, interrupting conversations, or taking and using people's things without permission
  • Cannot play or do things quietly or calmly
  • Running, climbing, or playing in areas where it is not appropriate
  • Blurting out responses and finishing sentences
  • Squirming, fidgeting, or constantly playing with hands and feet (i.e. unable to stay still)

Before you consider different tests to assess if your child may have ADHD, it is important to see if your child exhibits any of the aforementioned behaviors. To provide your child with the necessary help and course of treatment, it’s recommended to bring your child to a therapist.

 The Next Step: The Conners Rating Scale

If you believe that your child may benefit from a behavioral assessment tool, the Conners rating scale has been shown to be effective. It is a useful tool in helping therapeutic specialists learn more about the symptoms your child exhibits.

The Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scale (C-CBRS) is designed to help identify behavioral, academic, and social issues in children and young adults aged 6 to 18. It is commonly used as a tool to gauge behaviors associated with ADHD in those who fall within this age group. While both presentations of ADHD can be assessed through this test, other behavioral and mental health issues that can be evaluated include…

  • Aggressive behavior and the potential to use violence
  • Difficulty with certain subjects (possibly pointing to behavioral issues or learning disabilities)
  • Emotional distress or self-esteem issues
  • Perfectionism
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Anxiety or separation anxiety
  • Issues keeping or making friends

The test itself comes in two different lengths and has several versions for different authority figures such as parents or teachers. You will typically take the long version during the first evaluation. The long version compiles a list of behaviors and potential issues. Some of the common behaviors you may be asked to evaluate include:

  • Defiance
  • Restlessness or inability to stay still
  • Emotional resilience, such as if their feelings are easily hurt or if they are easily frightened by classmates
  • Avoidance of tasks such as homework or school work
  • Difficulty in organizing and conducting activities
  • Selective interest, such as if they only pay attention to things that really interest them
  • Over-fixation on small details but has difficulty in understanding the big picture

The short version is often used afterward to track a child's progress in those varying areas. A behavior that a child never engages in would be noted as “never true”, giving them a score of zero on that specific question. Reciprocally, a behavior that a child engages in frequently would be noted as “always true”, scoring them a three for that question. Scores of one and two fall between the two extremes. All questions are totaled for an overall score.

A big benefit of this assessment tool is that the test is great at recognizing other behaviors besides ADHD. Comorbidity, a term that describes a situation in which someone is dealing with side by side mental health disorders, is found to be higher in those dealing with ADHD. Studies have shown that around 93% of patients with ADHD also have two or more comorbid disorders. These disorders include PTSD, panic disorder, and depression. It is important to evaluate both this possibility and the range of symptoms of your child to address their needs effectively. It may be beneficial to consider concomitant psychosocial interventions that provide a holistic approach. If you are unsure about where to go from here, speaking with a mental health professional can help you understand the many options available to help care for your child.

Using Your Conners Rating Scale Effectively

If you have gained access to a test, it may seem common sense to believe you can use the assessment and interpret the results on your own. However, consider that there are individuals with much experience in accurately interpreting the results. If your child is exhibiting symptoms of ADHD, connecting with a mental health professional is key. A licensed therapist can answer any questions you may have. Speaking with a licensed therapist can also help you protect your own mental health, so that you are most equipped to help your child. Additionally, BetterHelp has a dedicated platform to serve children from 13-18 years old. This platform may offer them insight and information into important mental health resources.

As a parent, how can you start this process of connecting with mental health professionals? The next best step is to reach out to a therapist who specializes in child psychology and who can speak more with your child to get an accurate diagnosis. A lot of parents know that this is easier said than done. Mental health resources are not always available near you, or your child may not be able to form a strong enough relationship with available therapists to reap the benefits that therapy has to offer. Additionally, trying to find time in your schedule as a parent can be hard to do given all of the responsibilities crammed into your week. You may not be able to arrange a regular schedule for therapy sessions outside of work and school hours.

Once you have completed testing, the best way to work around all of these barriers is to visit an online therapy platform. For example, BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that can efficiently connect you with licensed therapists who specialize in a wide variety of practices. With this service, you don’t have to worry about running out of counselor options or trying to move around your schedule to squeeze in sessions. All you have to do is find a time that works right for you with a counselor who can meet your needs, then connect with them from the comfort of your own home. Below, please see reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from parents experiencing a range of challenges.

Counselor Reviews

“Douglas comes up with clear solutions and I appreciate that. I didn't want a therapist to tell me to talk about my day and how does that make me feel and that it's normal to have these feelings. I know it is normal to feel angry sometimes, but I wanted to understand how to recognize it and address it. So if you need constructive conversation with fast results for everyday annoyances and (especially effective child rearing advice!) I think Douglas is your therapist.”

“After only one video session and some messaging, I can tell she is very good at what she does. I needed help with ADHD and coping and so far I think we are on a great path!”

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