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ADHD: Differences in Perception

ADHD children seem to always be in motion. They can find it hard to complete tasks they’ve begun and planning ahead is difficult. These children occasionally appear to be oblivious to what takes place around them. Then there are other days when these children appear to behave just fine, apparently unaffected by the disorder. This can pose a problem for the affected youngsters as it leads others to think that the ADHD children can readily control these behaviors. ADHD is non-discriminating. Faced with constant turmoil and commotion in their lives, these affected children are from many diverse backgrounds (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 42). Ethnicity and cultural backgrounds of the affected children and their primary caregivers can greatly influence the understanding of this disorder and its associated behaviors as well as affect any treatment options that might be sought (Bussing 233). Why don’t all children benefit from the wealth of information and treatment options available in today’s society?

Children today seem to be plagued with a chronic psychiatric condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, otherwise known as ADHD. Estimates suggest that this disorder is affecting 3% to 5% of the children in this country (Bussing 233). In the United States this means reference is being made to nearly 5 million ADHD children. ADHD isn’t just some convenient or fancy term for what parents would call a child who misbehaves. This condition, recognized in previous years as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Minimal Brain Damage, Hyperkinesis and Hyperactivity, is a serious medical condition that is thought to cause inappropriate levels of distractibility, impulsively and inattention. This condition can appear with or without hyperactivity (Alexander-Roberts 1). Although this condition is very prevalent it is also considered to be very treatable (Bussing 233).

In the United States, the doctors diagnose ADHD more frequently than do other doctors anywhere else in world. There are specific behavioral characteristics must be observed for a medical professional to diagnose ADHD. These characteristics are as follows:

 Inattention: Those affected by this disorder have a hard time keeping their minds focused on the task before them.

 Impulsively: These children act before considering the consequences; this could be dangerous as they may run into the street before looking for oncoming traffic. They may call out unacceptable comments in the classroom, interrupt others conversations and can be extraordinarily awkward or accident-prone.

 Hyperactivity: The affected children appear to be in almost continual motion, as if “driven by a motor.” At school, they can’t seem to sit still; they wiggle and move restlessly at their desks. Often, these children will roam around the classroom, touching things, disturbing the other children and the teacher, make unnecessary noise and talk excessively (Encarta 98 Encyclopedia)

Children afflicted with ADHD face numerous educational, developmental and social challenges. African American children with ADHD must also cope with different language characteristics, communication styles and varied cultural factors (Wright). The child’s family members undertake numerous challenges as well and all family members, including siblings, experience the stresses and pressures associated with ADHD. To better cope with these challenges and relieve stresses in the family unit, it is important that parents recognize when their child has this disorder and that they seek appropriate treatment (Erk 3). Recognizing the disorder is another challenge in of itself (Johnson 155).

There are many contradicting viewpoints when it comes to diagnosing and treating ADHD (Johnson 155). Although the disorder might impair a child’s ability to learn, intelligence doesn’t appear to be a determining factor as to whether or not a child will be afflicted by the characteristic behaviors of ADHD. It isn’t unusual for affected children to be well within the “normal” intelligence range. Some of these ADHD children even display traits that indicate giftedness (Alexander-Roberts 2).

When referring to African-American parents, insufficient and erroneous information may be the reason for an apparent misunderstanding of this disorder. Historically overlooked when it comes to receiving health related information and education, the availability and accuracy of information obtained by African- American parents could adversely affect their children. Not knowing the true reason for their child’s behavior, or how to cope with such behavior, a large percentage of these parents simply just view their ADHD children as “bad” kids and the condition goes untreated (Bussing 233).

When comparing African-American parents to their White counterparts, information accessibility and accuracy can differ greatly between these two cultures. This is apparent just by the way both of these ethnic groups talk about the disorder. White parents, recognizing the symptoms of ADHD because of readily accessible information, are far more likely to use medical terminology when referring to their child’s condition and behaviors while African-American parents are not. Social functioning and academic performance appear to be areas of greatest concern to more White parents than African-American. Treatment seeking options seem to vary with ethnicity as well (Bussing 233).

When it comes to a treatment course, more White parents look upon ADHD as a lifelong condition. White parents as opposed to African-American parents, are more likely to take advantage of treatment options that are available in the child’s school. An African-American child may not be participating in school interventions simply because their parents did not know what their rights were or what was available to them through the school district (Bussing 233). As stated in a study published by Bussing, “Public schools are required under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act to detect and provide appropriate accommodation services to students with functional impairments in major life activities such as learning”.

This condition, known as ADHD, has received a great deal of publicity in recent years, bombarding parents with vast amounts of conflicting information (Bussing 233). Inadequate attention may have been given to the possible cultural differences that affect the accessibility and use of the information base that has been contrived (Wright). Diagnosis and treatment options must take into account the social and cultural backgrounds of the affected children and their families. Unique perceptual and informational needs affect African American families and may require that the known facts be presented in a different fashion. Everyone touched by ADHD would benefit if health care experts, health instructors and school directors enhanced their awareness of these ethnic differences and provided appropriate guidance pertaining to ADHD (Bussing 233).

Access to education and information must be available to everyone regardless of their ethnic or cultural background and special accommodations must be made, if necessary, to assist anyone who might be having difficulties. Finding a way to make sure that all people have the same information and understanding of that information can only serve one end; children will have the treatment they need.

Alexander-Roberts, Colleen. The ADHD Parenting Handbook. Dallas, Texas: Taylor

Publishing Company, 1994.

Bussing, Regina, et al. “Explanatory Models of ADHD: Do They Differ By Ethnicity, Child

Gender, Or Treatment Status?” Journal of Emotional & Behavioral Disorders,

Winter 1998, Vol. 6, Issue 4: 233.

Erk, Robert R. “Multidimensional Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder: A Family Oriented

Approach.” Journal of mental Health Counseling, Nov. 1997, Vol. 19, Issue 1: 3.

Johnson, Thomas M. “Evaluating the Hyperactive Child In Your Office: Is It ADHD?”

American Family Physician, Jul. 1997, Vol. 56, Issue 1: 155.

Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1997.

U.S. National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Mental Health. Attention Deficit

Hyperactivity Disorder. US DEPT HHS PUBL Natl Inst Health, Sep. 1994.

Department of Health and Human Services Publications.

Wright, James V, Collins Morton, Rhonda and Beale, Elizabeth W. “Including the Multicultural

Student with AD/HD in the Regular Classroom.” CHADD Home Page 11 Nov. 1999.

Available WWW: http://www.chadd.org/attention/attnv4n2al.htm.

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