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Can This New Approach Help Your Child With ADHD?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most common developmental disorders of childhood and can persist into adulthood. When it comes to ADHD there is a stigma around it. Blacks are less likely to be diagnosed with it even though they tend to show symptoms at the same rate as white people. When they are diagnosed, they are less likely to receive the treatments that can help them manage their symptoms.

“ADHD is not a privileged disability,” Paul Morgan, Ph.D., professor of education and director of the Center for Educational Disparities Research at Pennsylvania State University, says. “We don’t want a situation where ADHD is a condition for wealthy white families. We want to be helping children who have disabilities, regardless of their race or ethnicity. But what we’re finding is consistent evidence that white and English-speaking children are more likely to be identified — and that’s an inequity.”

However, there is one new tool put together by researchers that may help Black children and their families get the help they need with ADHD.

Researchers have created a six-stage process to help families of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) deal with the disorder.

“This framework is family-centered, focused on breaking down the barriers that families face from before diagnosis to preparing children with ADHD for the future,” Dr. Andrea Spencer, director of the Reach for ADHD Research Program at Boston Medical Center says.

“This framework can help serve as a model to develop engagement interventions that will be more beneficial to families,” Spencer adds.

The researchers developed the framework based on the experiences of 41 urban, low-income racial and ethnic minority families — who are most likely to face difficulties — as they went from diagnosis to treatment of their children’s ADHD.

  • Normalization and hesitation

  • Stigmatization and fear

  • Action and advocacy

  • Communications and navigation

  • Care and validation

  • Preparation and transition

Difficulties and conflicts can occur when parents and health care providers are at different stages in the process, which the researchers call stage mismatch.

Throughout each stage, interventions can be offered to support families and help them make a successful step to the next stage. Many Black parents in stage two note that they faced discrimination based on race or ethnicity intersected with ADHD stigma in their community, which led to delays in care. Those discriminations note a further need for interventions, which would target discrimination and bias among healthcare providers, as well as address misconceptions about ADHD within families and communities.

“Parents were successful when support was provided in a way that matches their own stage of engagement,” Spencer notes.

“Using the Six Stages framework could allow the health system to better match the needs of children with ADHD whose families are at different stages of their engagement process.”

The authors said future research to refine the model should examine: the experiences of families with undiagnosed and untreated children; age of diagnosis and years of treatment, and how families of specific racial or ethnic groups may progress differently through the stages.

What else can you do to support your child?

Although parenting a child with ADHD may come with some challenges and unconscious bias, your child can still accomplish success as long as you are patient, honest and transparent with them.

It also helps to remember the following:

  • Everyone responds differently to ADHD medication

  • Medication for ADHD is more effective when combined with other treatments

  • ADHD medication should always be closely monitored

  • If you choose to put your child on medication, that doesn’t mean they have to stay on it forever

Additionally, remember that treatments start at home. So, making sure your child is eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and making other smart daily choices can help manage any symptoms of ADHD.

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