Why ADHD is often overlooked among children in communities of color

Misdiagnosis stems from barriers to mental health or general mistrust in health care system, experts say

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — During Minority Health Month this April, community health leaders are raising awareness about ADHD in communities of color, which is often misdiagnosed or overlooked altogether.

Rhashidah Perry-Jones, founding coordinator of the Philadelphia chapter of CHADD, or Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, said there’s a lower rate of detection and treatment for children in communities of color, whether due to cultural stigmas of mental health or a general mistrust in the health care system.

There are three types of ADHD: Primarily inattentive, hyperactive or a combination of both. The primarily inattentive type is usually missed.

“Often that’s overlooked because a child may daydream a bit. You may not see that they are unable to focus, but that can be happening. And with the combined type, you often see some of the hyperactivity,” said Perry-Jones.

Children of color are often misdiagnosed as having oppositional defiant disorder, meaning they are seen as just bad kids with behavioral issues.

“There is a lack of cultural competency sometimes amongst clinical professionals,” she added. “There’s also just this, kind of, actual bias and racism toward Black and brown children.”

The mark isn’t only missed among children. Adults, particularly Black women, tend to be diagnosed at later ages. Perry-Jones said her friend, who is a therapist, was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 54.

Studies have shown that Asian, Black and Hispanic children are significantly less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD compared to white children, and white children are also more likely to receive treatment.

While some parents may not want their child labeled as having ADHD, the lack of proper diagnosis and treatment can lead to school failure, family stress and, later on, relationship problems or substance use issues. Perry-Jones emphasized that it’s important for suspecting parents to have their children evaluated.

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