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Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

African American Youth More Likely To Be Diagnosed

 If you are an African American youth you are more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder then a white child.  Boys are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed.  These diagnoses can affect the child for the rest of their lives.

Concerns about black males being diagnosed more readily have stirred debate of the diagnosis process. The World Health Organization has also chimed in on the debate suggesting that the higher diagnosis rate in boys is due to subjective bias of the referring teachers.

Clinicians cannot say why African American children seem to be diagnosed with the conditions more than white children but they agree that extensive testing should be done before diagnosing a child with ADD or ADHD. Most diagnosis of the disorder comes before the child is 7 years old.

The disorder s can  be characterized by hyperactivity, impulsiveness, short attention span, restlessness, inattentive, lack of focus or a combination of the factors.

Dr. Ann Taylor, a psychiatrist with the Charleston Dorchester Community Mental Health Center said diagnosing a child or adult with ADD or ADHD is not a simple process, a complete battery of interviews and tests that must be completed before a diagnosis is rendered. “The first step is a referral,” she said.  Those referrals usually come from parents or a teacher who notices certain disruptive behavior in the class or at home. “After the referral, several tests and interviews with parents and teachers are conducted. The Conner and Vanderbilt tests are two such tests that help in the diagnosis,” she said.

Dr. Taylor said a checklist is followed to rule out any other possible problems. “A child can show signs of having ADD or ADHD but not have the problem. Things such as lead poisoning, anxiety and depressions can all be reasons a child is acting out,” she said.

The checklist Dr. Taylor refers to includes, family genetic history. She stops short of saying ADD or ADHD is hereditary. She did say however that many children who are diagnosed with the disorders do have adult family members who have suffered from the illness. Dr. Taylor said lead poisoning and drug use during pregnancy can also be factors.

Dr. Taylor said only doctors can determine if a child is suffering from ADD or ADHD.  “A child maybe frigidity and prone to outburst in the classroom which may signal a teacher to inform the parent of a possibility that the child may have a problem,” she said.

Dr. Gwendolyn Todd-Huston of the Franklin C. Fetter Health Clinic agrees. “Most of the referrals do come from teachers and parents but the diagnosis must come from trained psychiatrists.  She said if a child is suffering from ADHD or ADD they may be going through difficulty in school and at home.

“It is important that the parent and the teacher communicate with each other. “If they are both seeing the same types of behavior they can collaborate on what is needed to help the child,” she said.  Dr. Todd-Huston added that if a parent suspects their child may have some of the symptoms of ADD or ADHD she should take that child to a primary care physician.

“Not every child that is acting out has ADD or ADHD.  That it is important for a child showing symptoms to be taken to a doctor,” she said. She pointed out that child may be acting out because they have an high IQ and may not be challenged in the classroom. “They may finish their test and start doing other classmates work or get into other disruptive behavior,” she said. 

Dr. Todd-Huston is quick to point out that a child with ADD typically will not necessarily act out like a child with ADHD. “The child with ADD may not act out at all but is not able to follow simple instructions or put tasks in proper sequence.’ Because they do not cause problems in school they can be overlooked and deemed as not being too intelligent.”

Dr. Todd-Huston said both boys and girls can suffer from ADD and ADHD but girls seem more prone to have ADD rather than ADHD.

Dr. Taylor said ADD and ADHD can be prevalent in adults but she said as adults grow older they find ways to adjust in the outside world. She said they may develop ways to stay on task such a developing a schedule or routine they can use to complete tasks.

Most clinicians agree that the most effective way to treat ADD and ADHD is with medication. Some argue that some home remedies work just as well .One middle school principal said giving children with ADD or ADHD fish oil helps calm them down. Dr. Todd-Huston is skeptical. “In my experience I have not seen evidence of those remedies being effective.”

ADD and ADHD is not just a local and national problem. It is estimated that 3-5 percent of the population of the world suffer from ADD or ADHD to some degree It estimated that close to 5 percent of all adults also suffer from some degree of  ADD or ADHD.

Thirty to fifty percent of the children who have ADD or ADHD carry the disorder into adulthood.

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