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  • Sam B.

ADHD in the African American Community

A recent CHADD Webinar covered how ADHD can be a particular challenge in minority populations, specifically with African Americans. The guest speaker is a principal at an 80% African American school and the insights were tremendous.

ADHD has a much lower diagnosis rate in African Americans for many reasons. It can be misidentified as defiant or unruly behavior. And, instead of finding the right treatment or therapy, it can be dealt with through punishments and suspensions. Also, there is a stigma against seeking mental health in the African American community - there is a general distrust of mental health providers. So ,the rate of parents seeking support is simply lower.

Because of the low diagnosis rate, teachers really need to be aware of the symptoms and strategies for working with ADHD students. Teachers have to be flexible, spend more time with these children, come up with alternate schedules, and they must be willing to bring in outside help. Teachers also shoulder a burden of having tough discussions with parents, bringing to light their students' strengths and deficits. Teachers must be humble and must address how the child can achieve more if they are given the proper support services and therapies. Finally, teachers must get to know their students deeply - understand where their interests are and how to relate to them, in order to support their learning needs.

Parents in the African American communities should feel empowered to talk about mental health issues with their peers and with the school. They should discuss objectives and goals that they have for their children. They need to be involved heavily and reinforce the interventions used in school in their home environment.

ADHD is challenging enough to solve on its own. The best bet is to educate teachers and parents, have open dialogues, and work on solutions together. Realize that it will not just go away on its own.

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