There has been a lot of debate recently about whether or not too many children are being diagnosed with ADHD and why this is the case. While some experts in the field feel that it's because the spectrum for which the condition can be diagnosed has widened, encompassing more children and therefore increasing the number of diagnoses, others worry that there's something more to the statistics. As parents we're most concerned about over-medicating our children and finding the best ways to cope.
Interestingly, a recent piece that ran in The Guardian suggests that children in the United Kingdom are being undertreated for ADHD, namely girls.
This goes against a report provided by the UK's Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) in June of this year. The office's chief inspect of schools, Amanda Spielman, said that too many kids are being prescribed medication to cope with the characteristics of ADHD. Her concern was that instead of truly addressing behavioral issues that present themselves with the condition, they were simply being covered up with prescriptions.
However, statistics just released by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) revealed that 61,000 boys between the ages of 6 and 17 were given ADHD drug prescriptions in 2017 (statistically boys are more prone to ADHD than girls). This number accounts for only 1.5 percent of all boys in that age group. The estimated number of children around the globe who have ADHD was put at 5.3 percent. That leaves a lot of kids unaccounted for.
When you look at the numbers in terms of girls who received prescriptions for ADHD-related meds it included only .35 percent of the female population between 6 and 17 years of age.
Essentially, where are all of these kids who are being overprescribed medication? The answer: No one really knows. It's possible previous statistics were overstated, it's also possible that there is still too much of a stigma around ADHD to really get an accurate look at how children are being treated for it.
In The Guardian's story, they're most concerned about whether girls really are less affected by ADHD or if psychologists have yet to find the best way to recognize their symptoms, as opposed to those of boys who seem fairly clear cut.
“ADHD affects girls just as it affects boys but due to the stigma and common misconception that ADHD is just naughty kids playing up, instead of the neurodevelopmental condition that it is," says Jo Platt, the chairperson of the he all-party parliamentary group on ADHD. "We know that girls can often slip through the net, struggling in school and in their personal lives without the support they need."
If you're concerned your own child has been either misdiagnosed or overlooked in terms of a potential ADHD diagnosis, consult with your pediatrician who can direct you to an early development psychologist for guidance.