7 ADHD Management Tips for Families of Color
Managing your child’s attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be challenging, and getting the right treatment for ADHD in children of color can be particularly difficult. However, there are strategies parents and family members can use to overcome obstacles and support a child of color with ADHD.
Research suggests that children of color are less likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than white children, and they are also less likely to take medication for ADHD. The reasoning behind these disparities hasn't been fully examined, but racial bias in the healthcare system and in the education system may be a factor. There is limited research focusing on ADHD in children of color, particularly in Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native children.
This can cause a lot of apprehension among parents in a system that has already proven difficult to navigate as People of Color. So, what can parents do to advocate for their child – to make sure their child is given an accurate ADHD diagnosis, is properly treated, and receives the emotional and educational support they need? There are several steps families can take.
It's important to find a doctor who's culturally competent and can understand the issues your child is going through. A 2007 study indicated that Black children with ADHD are more likely than white children to receive misdiagnoses such as oppositional or behavior disorders. Even when a Black child is given an accurate diagnosis of ADHD, other issues, such as racial trauma, may not be taken into consideration when treating the child. A culturally competent physician will have received training in the nuances of how culture and race impact your child’s experience with ADHD. A physician with a similar cultural background as your family may also be able to offer this nuanced, understanding approach.
Check out resources like BlackDoctor.org and Huedco.com, which are organizations with directories to connect you to physicians of color. You can also look at Healthgrades to find doctors who speak the language you’re most comfortable speaking. Don’t be afraid to ask a doctor if they’ve received training in cultural competence, or if they have experience treating ADHD in children of color. If you feel your child isn’t receiving the care they need due to racism or any other reason, don’t hesitate to search elsewhere for a better fit.
Behavioral therapy is a key part of managing ADHD. One type of behavioral therapy involves parents and their kids working together. Often referred to as “parent training,” this therapy focuses on educating parents about how best to support and interact with their child. This training can empower parents to be advocates for their child and make sure they have a healthy, safe learning and growing environment at home and in school.
Parents may learn how to manage their child's ADHD, how to respond in productive ways to impulsive behavior, and how to give them the extra support and encouragement they may need. You may also learn how to set up your family’s schedule and home environment so it’s easier for your child to stay organized and focused.
Children with ADHD can benefit from meeting directly with a behavioral therapist without their parents, as well. This can help ease behavior issues like tantrums and outbursts at home or in school, and help children learn tools to make daily living easier. People with ADHD may struggle with a skillset known as executive function; executive function skills include mental processes and cognitive abilities that enable us to manage our behaviors and accomplish goals. These abilities, like self-control, organization, working memory, multi-tasking, and decision making, may not come easily to children with ADHD, but a behavioral therapist can help them compensate.
Getting dressed, doing chores, and completing homework can be managed with a calendar, checklists, and a regular routine. Breaking down big tasks into smaller chunks can help a child stay on track and avoid getting overwhelmed. Using reward charts can be motivational for a child with ADHD, as well. A behavioral therapist will partner with you and your child to find solutions like these that work best for everyone.
Therapists for parents and children can be found in health insurance directories, listings compiled by organizations like Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), and through professional associations like the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, among others.
Parents of color should partner with their child’s teachers for a comprehensive approach to managing their ADHD. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel your child is experiencing institutional racism within a school system or isn’t getting the support they need.
Develop a strong relationship with teachers and ask them how they recommend you support your child during homework time or in preparation for the school day. If your child is struggling in school, look for paid or volunteer tutors who can help manage classwork, and consider asking your child’s teachers if they can help with tutoring or test prep outside of school hours. The school may offer accommodations for your child, like longer test times or assistive technology.
Make sure to keep documentation and notes about every detail, including doctor’s visits, medication side effects, and experiences within the school system. Sometimes, racial biases can undermine a parent's advocacy efforts when dealing with a doctor or school administrator. Keep track of all conversations, get any verbal agreements in writing, and note any changes in your child's behavior, particularly any symptoms after starting treatment.
Supporting a child with ADHD can be a challenge, but you’re not alone. Many organizations provide resources and tips for parents and children. Connect with support networks like CHADD, which can help families living with ADHD to thrive. Join a support group for parents of kids with ADHD, encourage your child to participate in support groups for children with ADHD, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.
Children with ADHD may feel frustrated and self-conscious about the challenges they encounter. Remind your child that they are loved unconditionally and take care to celebrate positive moments. It can be overwhelming for them to deal with the effects of ADHD on top of other problems that children of color face. Even taking note of some of their smallest accomplishments can be beneficial to everyone in your family.
Tackling homework, social situations, and other childhood issues is part of being a parent. The additional responsibilities of parenting a child with ADHD can feel insurmountable. However, parents of color have many resources available to help them give their children the tools they need to succeed.