ADHD News & Research

Children with ADHD Have Plenty of Questions — But They Aren’t Asking Them

A new study finds that many children have unasked and unanswered questions about their ADHD diagnoses or treatment — leading researchers to wonder how to best bridge this patient-doctor gap.

May 2, 2017

A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that children with ADHD often want more information about their condition, but don’t always know how to ask their doctors for it. In fact, each child in the study had, on average, eight unasked questions for their doctor — most about what ADHD means and how treatment will help.

“What we do know is that kids often aren’t part of the conversation when their parents and doctors are talking ADHD,” said Betsy Sleath, the lead author of the study and the George H. Cocolas Distinguished Professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “We wanted to know how the kids felt about that.”

To find out, the researchers recruited 70 children between the ages of 7 and 17 who were patients of two private pediatric practices in North Carolina. The children all had pre-existing ADHD diagnoses, and were being treated with medication. The research team interviewed each child about his or her relationship with their pediatrician — whether they desired more information about ADHD, what they wished their doctor would tell them, and what factors made it difficult to communicate with their doctor.

One-third of the children said they wished their pediatrician would talk to them more during visits and answer their questions about ADHD; many reported that their pediatricians didn’t engage with them as much as they would like. The kids’ most common unasked questions were: “Will I grow out of my ADHD?” “How will the medicine affect me?” And, “Will there be any side effects?”

“These results highlight the fact that children with ADHD want their physicians to focus more on them during doctor visits,” Sleath said. “Health-care providers should take advantage of this interest to engage youth more in discussions regarding ADHD and its treatment.”

She suggests that pediatricians make a special effort to ask children what questions they have about ADHD or about their medication at each appointment.

“By asking children questions and letting them talk more during visits, both the provider and parent might learn more about the youth’s perspective on ADHD and what they would like to learn about their condition,” she said.

The study was published in January in the Community Mental Health Journal.