ADHD

Updated 30 December 2015

Foster kids more likely to have ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavioural health diagnosis among children enrolled in Medicaid in America.

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A new study to be presented at the American Academy of Paediatrics 2015 National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, DC, found that children in foster care were three times more likely than others to have an ADHD diagnosis.

Substantial need for medical and behavioural services

- More than 1 in 4 children between the ages of 2 and 17 who were in foster care had received an ADHD diagnosis, compared to about 1 in 14 of all other children in Medicaid.

- Children with ADHD who were in foster care were also more likely to have another disorder, with roughly half also diagnosed with conditions such as oppositional defiant disorder, depression, or anxiety. This is compared to about 1 in 3 children with ADHD in Medicaid who were not in foster care.

- Among children with an ADHD diagnosis, those in foster care were as likely as others to be treated with ADHD medication but were more likely to have received psychological services; About 3 out of 4 of the children with ADHD in foster care received some psychological care in 2011.

Lead author Melissa Danielson, MSPH, a statistician with the CDC's National Centre on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said findings that children in foster care experience high rates of ADHD along with other, simultaneous behavioural disorders as compared to their peers in Medicaid shows a substantial need for medical and behavioural services within this group.

The high proportion of children with ADHD in foster care who receive psychological services was promising, she said, especially since behaviour therapy is recommended as the first-line treatment for preschoolers with ADHD and is preferred in conjunction with medication as treatment for school-aged children with ADHD.

"As we work to improve the quality of care for children with ADHD, it will be important to consider the needs of special populations, including those in foster care," Ms. Danielson said. "Working together, primary care and specialty clinicians can best support the health and long-term well-being of children with ADHD."

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ADHD Expert

Delia Strondl is a Registered Career Counsellor focusing on both school readiness and career counselling. She achieved her honours in Psychology and completed a career counselling internship. Since then, she has been working with children with a variety of learning difficulties including ADHD and Cerebral Palsy.

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