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In a heartbeat: Shedding a light on ADHD

| Tuesday, March 15, 2016, 10:08 a.m.

The issue

More than 10 percent of children in the United States have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD), reflecting a surge in recent years, particularly among girls and minority groups, a new study found. About 5.8 million children age 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, which is characterized by social and behavioral problems as well as challenges in school. Dr. Abigail Schlesinger, clinical director of community-based services at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, sheds light on ADHD.

Why are we witnessing a spike in ADHD diagnoses?

The increase in diagnoses is due to parents and providers getting better at recognizing ADHD. This is most clear with the increase in girls being diagnosed. Girls often don't have the obvious symptoms of ADHD, like hyperactivity or disruptive behaviors. Therefore, a parent or provider has to be savvy to pick up the signs. I have a lot more parents coming into my office having read information about ADHD and wondering whether or not the social, emotional or academic difficulties their child has could be driven by ADHD than I did in the past.

Is ADHD caused by bad parenting?

No. ADHD is a biologic condition, which is often inherited. Bad parenting cannot cause ADHD, but the good news is that parents can do things to help their children with ADHD develop coping mechanisms and improve attention, concentration and organization.

What should I do if I suspect ADHD?

You should collect information from your school and talk to others who know your kids well to determine what is causing difficulties in school, with friends or at home. Your primary care physician can help with the evaluation and will often ask you, the school or even coaches to complete rating scales to provide more information about the cause of inattention or hyperactivity. Once information is collected, your PCP will either suggest more evaluation, therapy and/or medication interventions.

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