Special Education

Nearly 1 in 10 Children Diagnosed With ADHD

By Nirvi Shah — August 19, 2011 2 min read
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A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the percentage of children ever diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, increased from about 7 percent in 1998 to 9 percent by 2009. The findings mirror a study from late last year.

In the Midwest and the South, the diagnosis rate was even higher, rising from 7.1 percent to 10.2 percent in the Midwest, and from 8.1 percent to 10.3 percent in the South.

Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention, may sometimes act without thinking about what the result will be, and may are overly active, according to the CDC’s descriptions. At school, children with ADHD often have a plan that is similar to an Individualized Education Program for other students with disabilities, but is called a 504 plan, or they may have an IEP. The causes and risk factors for ADHD are unknown, but genetic factors may play a role. Diagnosing ADHD involves a medical exam; a checklist for rating ADHD symptoms based on reports from parents, teachers, and sometimes the child; and an evaluation for coexisting conditions, according to the CDC.

Boys are still more likely than girls to be diagnosed, but diagnoses for both genders have increased, with about 12 percent of boys and 6 percent of girls now carrying the ADHD label.

The study also found that while ADHD prevalence was once more varied among children of different races, those differences narrowed from 1998 through 2009.

In the earlier study, which was based on surveys conducted from 1998 to 2000, non-Hispanic white children had a higher ADHD prevalence compared with other racial groups. In the study released this week, based on surveys conducted from 2007 to 2009, ADHD prevalence was similar among non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black children.

Researchers also found that, while in the past, ADHD was diagnosed at similar rates among children of all income groups, the data from the 2007-09 surveys shows the diagnosis was more common among children with family incomes less than 199 percent of the poverty level, compared with those whose income was greater than or equal to 200 percent of the poverty level.

Their conclusions are based on the National Health Interview Survey, which includes about 40,000 American households that are representative of the demographics of the entire country. The prevalence of ADHD was determined based on how many adults answered yes to a question about whether a doctor or health professional had ever told them that their child had ADHD.

Ruth Hughes, chief executive of nonprofit Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, told the Wall Street Journal that the findings suggest that increased awareness, outreach groups, and improvements in health care are encouraging more low-income parents to have their children diagnosed.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.