Kids Wish Their Doctors Would Talk to Them about ADHD

By DR. MARY ROONEY, PH.D.

A recent study found that kids with ADHD would like to talk to their doctors directly about ADHD medication and ADHD symptoms, but don’t often ask the questions that are on their mind. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 70 kids between the ages of 7-17 who were diagnosed with ADHD and were prescribed ADHD medication by their pediatricians or primary care providers. One-third of the kids said that they wished their doctor spent more time talking to them directly about their ADHD, and 57% percent reported that their doctor spent most of the appointment talking to their parents.

So, what do kids want to talk about with their doctor? What are the questions that are on their mind? The kids in this study were presented with a list of questions related to ADHD or ADHD medication and were asked to choose the questions that they would like to ask. On average, kids selected 8 questions. The number one question, chosen by 75% of the kids, was Will I outgrow my ADHD?  Other top questions included: Do a lot of people have ADHD?  Are there other things I can do at home to help my ADHD? Should I take my ADHD medication every day?

The results from this study suggest that opportunities are being missed that would otherwise allow kids with ADHD to feel heard and to participate in their treatment from an early age. ADHD is a chronic disorder, and one that requires a high level of parent involvement throughout childhood and adolescence. However, parent involvement doesn’t need to be at the exclusion of child participation in appointments, treatment planning, and day-to-day management. In fact, gradually encouraging your child to take a more active role in managing his or her ADHD can be empowering.

If your child is accustomed to sitting in the background while the adults in the room discuss ADHD, then it will probably take some encouragement on your part to get him or her involved in his or her own care. The following tips will help you prepare your child to talk to his or her doctor at the next appointment.

  1. Start the conversation at home. A few weeks (or more) before your child’s next appointment, start having conversations about questions he or she might like to have answered by his or her doctor. Many kids feel embarrassed about having ADHD, and may hold back during these conversations with their parents. That’s okay. Take it slow, and help your child feel more comfortable by sharing some things that you’ve been curious about when it comes to ADHD.
  2. Follow your child’s lead. You want to encourage your child to talk to his or her doctor if he or she has questions, but you also don’t want to force the issue. If your child seems overwhelmed in conversations with you at home, ask them to privately write down one or two questions he or she might like to have answered about his or her ADHD. Tell him or her to share the questions with you or keep them private, it’s his or her choice. The goal is to get your child thinking about his or her ADHD and things he or she might like to ask the doctor, even if he or she is not ready to talk about them right now.
  3. The day before your child’s next appointment ask him or her if he or she would like to have the opportunity to ask the doctor some of the questions you had discussed (or that he or she had written down). If he or she hasn’t done so already, encourage your child to write these questions down ahead of time so he or she can recall them easily during the appointment.
  1. During the appointment, create space for your child to speak by letting the doctor know that your child has some questions. Then turn the floor over to your child.
  1. Teens and tweens may prefer to talk to their doctor privately about their ADHD concerns. While parents should always be involved in appointments that include a discussion of ADHD symptoms and medication side effects, the doctor can set aside a few minutes for an individual discussion with your child. Encourage your teen to ask the doctor if they can have a few minutes to discuss ADHD one-on-one.

By creating opportunities for your child to actively participate in their ADHD treatment you are providing an opportunity for your child to learn skills that will serve him or her well for a lifetime. The more empowered and the more involved he or she is in his or her treatment, the more your child will feel in charge of his or her ADHD.  

For additional study information: Betsy Sleath et al. (2017). Youth Views on Communication about ADHD and Medication Adherence. Community Mental Health Journal, 53: 438-444.  
DOI: 10.1007/s10597-016-0078-3


 

ABOUT DR. MARY ROONEY

Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.

ABOUT HUNTINGTON

Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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