Unlocking ADHD volunteer Jae shares her unconventional route to getting an ADHD diagnosis on her own, and offers advice to university students who are looking for avenues to get an ADHD diagnosis.
My journey towards getting a diagnosis started with my own suspicions that I had ADHD.
Still, I needed to get a formal diagnosis. The way forward wasn’t clear for me at the time. I’m a full-time student studying at NTU. I also kept this all from my parents and family up until the day I received my assessment report. I wanted to avoid an “I told you so” moment from my family — if I made a big deal out of taking the assessment, but it turned out that I did not get diagnosed with ADHD.
Thus I needed an option which was financially affordable, and which would not take too long. This is probably the case for many youths who suspect they have ADHD and are trying to get a diagnosis.
Typically, there are two routes to getting a diagnosis. One is through the public healthcare system, by getting a referral from a polyclinic to a psychiatrist at the Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOC) for assessment at subsidised rates. But this can take several weeks to months. The other is through a private clinic, but this is considerably more expensive.
As a student, I tried to make use of the services that educational institutions provide in supporting their mental health and wellness.
How I got my Diagnosis
My University’s Well-being Centre (NTU)
I first dropped an email to my University’s wellbeing centre (counselling services) to make an appointment. I explained that the lack of focus and inability to stop procrastinating had been taking a toll on my studies and sleep cycle, and I was looking to get some help with that. They called me shortly after to set up an appointment.
I had about 4-5 sessions with my counsellor, ruling out things like a lack of interest in my field of study, burn out and a potential change in career paths or majors. We also explored studying techniques and other tips to help get me started on work. However, we mostly saw little to no changes even after I applied them.
It was at this time that I had also booked an appointment with NUS CHPC (https://fass.nus.edu.sg/psy/clinical-and-health-psychology-centre/) for an assessment. Their process works a bit differently from conventional assessment centres because the clinic is staffed by Master of Clinical Psychology students as their training clinic. All the work done is supervised by experienced clinical psychologists. Below is a screenshot from their website on how to book an appointment with them.
They had taken up my case and I was waiting for my intake session with the intern.
University’s In-house Psychiatrist
Back at school, my counsellor had given me a referral with my school’s psychiatrist, potentially to see if medication would help. During this time, I had gone for my assessment with CHPC and was waiting for the report (~8 weeks). I told my psychiatrist about the assessment. While he mentioned that he highly suspected ADHD, as there was no real urgency at the time (it was summer break), we opted to wait for the report, which came back with my diagnosis as having ADHD-PI.
Alternative Avenues for Testing
As you can see from my experience, it’s possible to start one’s journey towards getting a diagnosis beyond polyclinics and private clinics, especially if one is a student.
NIE Wellness Centre [NTU]
The wait time can be from a few weeks to a few months. It usually runs concurrently with their intern intake cycle — 2 intakes a year, January and July, so appointments only start shortly after.
Current NUS students are required to have a letter of referral from the University’s Health Centre or Counselling Services before registering with them. Non-NUS students are considered members of the public and can register directly.
Registration only opens twice a year
18 years and above to be considered an adult
JCU Psychology Clinic
21 years and above to be considered an adult
SMU – Provides counselling services (https://www.smu.edu.sg/campus-life/student-wellness/staff), no in-house psychiatrist
Counsellors available, but no in-house psychiatrists.
For full-time students of local universities, the cost of an ADHD assessment through the public route might be covered under the insurance that you were required to take up as part of your enrollment. For instance, when we called the insurance providers for NUS and SMU, they noted that it would likely be covered. This may be another good way to defray the costs of getting a diagnosis for you.
I was desperate for an answer as to whether I had ADHD, there was no doubt about that. But as a student, there was no way I could get my diagnosis through a private clinic. Though wait times would be shorter, it is generally more expensive, only for an assessment to potentially come back as inconclusive.
The University Clinics were of great help. The wait times can be dissuading, and there is a certain degree of uncertainty as to whether or not they would accept your case. They are much more affordable, totalling to about $400 ($300 for assessment + ~$100 for intake and report review session), and at the end of the day you’ll receive a report which can be used as a foundation for seeing a psychiatrist or to receive academic accommodations from schools.
I’ll admit, I was afraid of the stereotypes surrounding stimulants. I didn’t want to be seen as a desperate University student looking for an easy way out. I got lucky with CHPC accepting my case, my counsellor making a referral to see the psychiatrist, and overall a smooth journey to diagnosis (for the most part – aside from that one assessment centre that essentially told me because I, a fully grown 21 year old with decent grades, wasn’t running around opening her doors, therefore I didn’t have ADHD).
I know of friends and people who are seeking a diagnosis and are just looking for some form of help so that they can start facing the battles that every other neurotypical faces, instead of spending time battling themselves. I know so many of us are able to relate to the day-to-day struggle, but the added stress and drain from trying to get a diagnosis is exactly why I want to let people know that there are other avenues for testing, and that they aren’t alone.
If you liked Jae’s story and found it helpful, please share it with others.
For more personal stories about ADHD journey in Singapore please click here.