Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex condition that has been traditionally associated with boys, but the reality is far more nuanced. It is estimated that ADHD affects both genders and individuals of all ethnicities equally or near equally, and yet the diagnosis rates do not accurately reflect this diversity.
Parents, therefore, play a crucial role in advocating for their child’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment, especially if the child is a girl or from a minority background. Parents know their child, and there are reasons to suspect that a child may have ADHD, then it is worthwhile to consider being your child’s advocate to obtain an ADHD diagnosis.
Why Parental Advocacy is Vital
Advocacy is not simply a privilege – it is a responsibility. The correct diagnosis can have life-altering implications. The gap in ADHD diagnosis across genders and among minorities needs to be bridged to ensure that all children receive appropriate medical and therapeutic interventions. Failing to do so can result in significant academic, emotional, and social repercussions.
The Challenge of Recognizing Symptoms
Despite this importance, it is not uncommon for someone – particularly children of color and girls/young women – to not receive an accurate diagnosis. The reasons for this are vast and varied, but some of the possibilities include:
- Subtle Symptoms in Girls – Girls often display less overt ADHD symptoms, which are typically masked by an ability to maintain better organizational skills or being less disruptive in class. This lack of hyperactivity may cause ADHD symptoms in girls to go unnoticed.
- Racial and Cultural Biases – Implicit biases can affect the judgment of educators and healthcare professionals, resulting in minority children being underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
One of the challenges for parents of children with suspected ADHD is that ADHD, as a condition, is typically first noticed by schools. Children may seem like they’re struggling to sit still or pay attention, and they alert the parents and look for ways to diagnose the child.
But if there are biases in things like teacher training, counselors, and other adults that are monitoring these children, then the ADHD may go unnoticed. Parents, then, are the ones that have to be aware in order to advocate for their child.
Steps to Advocate for ADHD Diagnosis
If you suspect that your child may have ADHD, then you will want to take the necessary steps to advocate for them. Some of the ways you can do this include:
- Consult Teachers and Counselors – Parents should maintain an open line of communication with their child’s teachers and counselors who can offer valuable insights into the child’s behavior and academic performance.
- Monitor Behavior at Home – Be observant. Take note of patterns that deviate from the norm such as forgetfulness, inattention, or disorganization.
- Schedule Evaluations – A thorough evaluation by healthcare professionals specializing in ADHD diagnosis is critical. Multiple evaluations can provide a more accurate diagnosis.
- Be Persistent – Some healthcare providers might be dismissive, especially if your child’s symptoms do not align with traditional ADHD indicators. Do not hesitate to seek a second or third opinion.
- Know the Diagnostic Criteria – Familiarize yourself with the diagnostic criteria for ADHD so you can be an informed participant in discussions with healthcare providers.
- Understand Treatment Options – Treatment usually involves a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes. An educated choice is always a better one.
- Support Groups – Support groups and parent forums offer invaluable advice and can provide recommendations for professionals experienced in diagnosing diverse populations.
There are many ways to advocate for your child, and just as you would if you suspected a health issue, it is a good idea to consider the same as a way to address your child’s mental health.
Advocating with an Open Mind
Now, it is important to note that suspected ADHD is just that – suspected. You want to be careful about influencing the results. Not all children with suspected ADHD will have ADHD, and you will need to be open to that possibility as well. A strong advocate is one that is also not pushing their preferred belief onto their child, and is instead simply doing what’s best for their long term care.
But you may find that your child does show the signs of ADHD, in which case your parental advocacy becomes important. Advocacy starts with awareness and is sustained by action. Parents are not just observers in this journey; they are active participants whose advocacy can be the tipping point in ensuring their child receives an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Especially when the child is from a community where ADHD is often underdiagnosed, such as girls or minorities, parents need to be the voice that questions, probes, and insists on equitable healthcare.
ADHD diagnoses can only be made by psychiatrists and approved professionals. But for those on Long Island that have a child that has been diagnosed with ADHD, Right Path Counseling can help your child with issues like anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and other issues that often arise in those struggling with the condition. Contact us today to learn more.