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Research: Parents Often Underestimate the Burden of ADHD on Their Children

Results from a new study show that children and adolescents feel the impacts of ADHD more acutely than their caregivers know, and point to the need for ongoing communication with teachers, coaches, and physicians to ensure the most optimal treatment plan is in place.




October 26, 2018

The perceived burden of symptoms is higher among children and adolescents diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) than their caregivers know, according to research presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), taking place in Seattle this week.

Researchers collected the data through an online survey of nearly 475 ADHD patients between the ages of 6 to 17 years, who were being treated with psychostimulants, as well as their caregivers. They asked respondents to rate how much they perceived that ADHD symptoms were affecting their or their child’s ability to focus on and complete various tasks throughout the school day and into the later afternoon and evening hours.

Findings confirmed that individuals with ADHD feel more impaired by it than their caregivers think they are, says Manisha Madhoo, MD, Vice President of Global Medical Affairs, Neuroscience at Shire, the company that sponsored the study.

“It’s important to have data now to back up our assumptions, because caregivers are often the biggest advocates and communicators for patients, and these findings indicate that they’re underestimating the challenges their children are facing,” she said.

Survey findings showed that, regardless of current medication, 51 percent of children and adolescents reported that ADHD significantly impaired their daily activities, while 43 percent of caregivers reported that their children experienced significant impairment during the day. The greatest burden fell during after-school activities and afternoon homework, with 51 percent of children and adolescents reporting challenges during this time period compared to 36 percent of caregivers.

A significantly greater percentage of children and adolescents versus caregivers reported that their ADHD medication started to wear off during the later part of the school day (32 percent compared to 21 percent) and a significantly lower percentage reported that their ADHD medication started to wear off at dinner (17 percent compared to 26 percent).

These disparities in ADHD symptom management perceptions may indicate that parents need to have ongoing conversations with their child, as well as their child’s teachers, coaches and other after-school caregivers to better understand the challenges he or she may face when completing homework or participating in after-school activities. Most importantly, they then need to talk to their child’s doctor about these difficulties, said Madhoo.

“We used to only think about the school day when it came to caring for patients with ADHD, but we’ve learned that it’s actually crucial to consider how to provide for the optimal management and symptom control of ADHD all throughout the day, particularly in the afternoons,” Madhoo said. “Caregivers really need to bring that burden back to the physician, no matter how small, so the physician, patient and caregiver can make the right decision on the management and treatment of the condition.”

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