ADHD Evaluations on the Rise Since Online Classes Began

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Data shows parents are trying to get an ADHD assessment for their children as queries are overwhelming on the ADHD support line.

Some experts said they were concerned about the long-term effect of remote learning for young people with ADHD, especially teens, as many schools remain closed. According to one, "Covid has been a tipping point that has pushed some families to get help."

Susan McLaughlin, 53, a mother of three from Delaware, Ohio, who works in a high school with chronically truant children, is one of the parents who inquired.

Before the pandemic, her 12-year-old daughter, Isabela, was a straight-A student. Living in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, Isabela excelled in science and math and was already earning algebra high school credit. But in March, her school shut down, and classes moved to Zoom, Isabela's grades took a nosedive.

From a desk stacked high with books, documents, and stuffed animals, she signed on for her virtual class and then spent hours attempting to clean her room instead of concentrating on schoolwork. McLaughlin said she found herself "paralyzed" by activities, but she wouldn't tell the teacher via email that she was struggling, as she would have done in person.

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McLaughlin remembers one time in April when a language arts assignment was given to Isabela, who was already diagnosed with extreme anxiety and "fell to pieces." She said, "It was meltdown after meltdown after meltdown."

A psychiatrist assessed Isabela, a procedure that takes several hours and involves her teacher's complete questionnaires about her actions. McLaughlin hopes that Isabela will get a prescription for a stimulant medicine to relieve her symptoms, such as Ritalin, Adderall, or Vyvanse, with an ADHD diagnosis.

Parents are finding whatever support they can see in the meantime. Since the pandemic began, the organization said, the number of parents contacting a helpline set up by CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), a nonprofit that helps people with ADHD, has increased by 62 percent. Last year, traffic on its website increased by 77 percent compared to 2019.

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Make special education work for your children with ADHD

Parents and educators will need to approach this challenge with creativity, flexibility, and collaboration. Parents must request to meet with their child's educational team soonest and do it regularly after monitoring their child's progress and updating the academic program as needed. When they meet, they must discuss each goal and service with an open mind, consider multiple options, and deliver a service to meet each goal.

Some adaptations are simple: in a remote setting, for example, large print, screen-reading software, and speech-to-text are all available immediately.

There are barriers to other adaptations, but not necessarily impossible ones. For example, a behavior analyst might provide coaching via a video call. Or by placing two tablets in the child's home, one for the child to use and one as a computer to watch the child's responses, an instructor trained in comprehensive special education may provide discrete trial instruction remotely.

An assistant or behavioral support may enter the virtual classroom of a child and, if required, talk with or break out with the child to provide support.

Now is the time for creativity, and many schools and families are finding great new ways of secure and efficient delivery of special education instruction.

READ MORE: On Setting a Good Example for Your Kids, Here Are 6 Easy Ways To Do It

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