A study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic published in the journal JAMA Network Open found racial disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children.
The researchers observed 238,011 children born between 2006 and 2012 and found that compared with white children, Black, Asian and Latino children were “significantly” less likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis; they were also less likely to receive treatment. What’s more, Asian children were the least likely to receive treatment, the researchers noted.
The diagnosis and treatment of ADHD can help parents better understand their children as well as help them secure the resources—like special learning plans, medication and therapy—they need to succeed.
“I am not surprised by the research finding that children of color are diagnosed at lower rates than white children, because children of color are often identified as presenting with disruptive behavior problems, conduct problems, oppositional/defiance and learning deficits before considering neurodevelopmentally based explanations for challenges,” Mayra Mendez, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator for intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health services at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, said in a Healthline article.
Clinical practice guidelines recommend that preschool-age children diagnosed with ADHD first receive behavioral therapy, followed by medication beginning in elementary school.
This research should help mental health professionals, teachers, school nurses and support staff help narrow the gap in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.
Mendez said the reasons for the racial disparities found in the study are not fully known but underlying bias and cultural differences in terms of what behavior is acceptable in children may play a role. (Certain parents may be less concerned about certain behaviors than others and therefore not seek medical help.) Furthermore, because the study examined kids with private insurance, the sample of upper-income and possibly white populations may have been inflated, thus resulting in a smaller pool of racially diverse populations,” Mendez added.
There are many misconceptions about ADHD and education is key to debunking myths about symptoms and treatment.
“It is also extremely important to provide accurate, culturally sensitive and realistically available intervention options for parents as stakeholders who know their children best. Well-informed parents are more likely to weigh the options and approach information openly,” Mendez said.
To learn more, read “FDA Approves First Game-Based Therapy Device for Kids With ADHD.”