Young Black Men With ADHD Are Being Underdiagnosed And Left Behind

Young Black Men With ADHD Are Being Underdiagnosed And Left Behind

A new study conducted by Penn State shows young Black men are underdiagnosed for ADHD and it has troubling consequences.

Black children are significantly underdiagnosed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when compared to their white peers, as their actions are routinely considered discipline issues instead of neurological conditions, according to a new report.

A Penn State University study, published in Psychiatry Research in September, studied 10,000 elementary students between kindergarten and fifth grade across the nation, and researchers estimate that Black students were diagnosed with ADHD at a 40% lower rate when all things are equal, including economic status, student achievement, and behavior.

Additionally, the study determined the odds of Black young males being diagnosed with ADHD were 60% lower than young white males under similar circumstances. 

The racial divide in ADHD diagnoses is having dire consequences, especially when it comes to young Black boys. According to the study’s lead author, Paul Morgan, the former director of the Center for Educational Disparities Research at Penn State, the divide is deepening inequality for Black children, especially Black boys.

Symptoms of ADHD include being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings; constantly fidgeting; an inability to concentrate on tasks; excessive physical movement; excessive talking; and more.

ADHD has been diagnosed in nearly six million children between the ages of 3-17 between 2016 and 2019 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The condition can be treated with therapy and medication, but if left untreated, it can lead to a litany of health issues, including drug addiction, self-harm, and suicidal behavior.

According to CBS News, medical researchers believe teachers who are racially biased or have lower expectations of Black students are among the reasons young Black males fall under the radar when it comes to ADHD. Additionally, Black parents who are distrustful of teachers and doctors often don’t get their kids tested for the condition.

Wesley Jackson Wade knows what it’s like to deal with untreated ADHD growing up, according to the outlet. The son of a novelist and a special education teacher, Wade was an exceptional writer and communicator. However, he was one of the only Black kids in predominantly white schools in upper-middle-class communities. He often played the class clown when he wasn’t feeling challenged and got detention often for talking back to teachers. 

Wade told CBS he spent years dealing with self-doubt and self-medication with what he called “Snoop Dogg volumes of weed” between his teens and mid-20s. It wasn’t until age 37 that he was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia. 

Before he was diagnosed, Wade spent years trying to help others as a counselor at North Carolina State University, and today, Wade is a licensed mental health and addiction counselor and doctoral student. He admitted to CBS that although he’s accomplished so much in his life, it’s difficult for him to see and acknowledge his success because of his experience.

“To the rest of the world, this is a Black man with two master’s degrees, and he’s a Ph.D. candidate, and he has two licenses and certifications,” Wade said. “But to me, I’m a brother who’s had a lot of bad luck with people and jobs I’ve gotten fired from. I’ve never been promoted, ever, in my professional life.”