More and more children are being diagnosed with ADHD, causing the demand for services to skyrocket. Researchers have found that compared to 2003, 2 million more children and adolescents were diagnosed in 2011.
Beth Tauberg runs the Pittsburgh parent chapter of a national group known as CHADD and says that she gets phone calls regularly from exasperated parents struggling to find answers to their child’s new attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis.
“It’s really hard, when you first get that diagnosis, to find what direction you’re supposed to go in to help your child,” said Tauberg
A recent article from Luis Fábregas and Megan Harris at Trib Live stated that the reasons for the rising diagnoses are having better tools to identify and recognize the disorder and pediatricians recognizing the symptoms like risk-taking, hyperactivity, and distraction as more than just “kids being kids.”
Dr. Oscar Bukstein, medical director of DePelchin Children’s Center in Houston says that before parents would be more apt to “attribute problems to just laziness or being ‘bad,’” and not mention it to their child’s doctor. The possibility that emotional or behavioral problems were a “disease or disorder just was not considered.”
Dr. Kristin Hannibal, a pediatrician and clinical director of the Child Development Unit at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said that standards have been set in the last decade that allow physicians to decide who should be diagnosed with ADHD. She says the kids have always been there, they were just “not diagnosed”.
Due to the rising number of diagnoses, more and more doctors are prescribing medication like Ritalin to control the disorder. These medications address symptoms, but Bukstein says more treatment is needed. Experts say that families can struggle for years to find behavioral therapy and often disagree with school districts about how to help their children.
“We have a huge problem with access to behavioral therapy,” said Brooke Molina, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Pitt. “Medications don’t teach coping skills. Medications don’t help parents manage the symptoms of ADHD.”
Owner of the company ADVOKID, an advocate for children with ADHD, Trea Grahm says that once a school labels a child a “problem” they often see him as trouble, causing the child to not get the help he needs. She says that teachers tell the kids to “try harder” not realizing that they are not choosing to misbehave. She compares it to a child needing glasses saying, “You wouldn’t tell them to try harder to see”.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of The American Psychiatric Association, schools count on teachers to monitor children who may have ADHD. The school officials typically monitor students for around six months to determine the degree of symptoms.
Tom Menditto says that schools have more accommodations now than 15 years ago when he was diagnosed,
“You can take tests that aren’t timed. They offer support therapists — different things. With the right help, it’s easier for an ADHD student to blend in.”