ADHD Symptoms in Children Worsen During Lockdown
A recent study suggests that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experienced worsening symptoms during the COVID-19 lockdown and the transition to online schooling. The study, conducted in China, surveyed 241 parents and found that two-thirds reported increased angry outbursts in their children, while 56% noticed a decline in their child’s ability to adhere to a daily routine. Additionally, many parents observed difficulties in their children’s ability to stay focused.
The findings of the study align with the insights provided by Dr. Joseph Hagan, coauthor of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on ADHD. Dr. Hagan explains that children with ADHD typically benefit from having a predictable schedule, which was disrupted by the pandemic and the shift to online learning.
Furthermore, children with ADHD often experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, which may have been exacerbated by the challenging circumstances of the lockdown. Dr. Hagan suggests that since ADHD tends to run in families, parents themselves may be facing difficulties, adding to the challenges faced by their children.
The study, conducted jointly by researchers in Shanghai, China, and Yuanyuan Wang from De Montfort University in Leicester, England, involved parents of children aged 6 to 15 with a diagnosis of ADHD. The parents completed questionnaires on their child’s ADHD symptoms and rated their own and their child’s recent emotional state.
It is worth noting that worse mood states among both children and parents are associated with increased ADHD symptoms. Dr. Hagan emphasizes that parents’ anxiety can influence their perceptions of their children’s behavior.
The Impact of the Pandemic on Routines
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the routines of families worldwide, affecting various aspects such as work, sleep, eating habits, and exercise. However, it is important to consider that the study did not have a control group, making it difficult to determine the extent to which these findings are specific to children with ADHD. Richard Gallagher, a child psychologist and associate professor at NYU Langone Health, highlights the importance of understanding how school reopening decisions may impact children’s mental health.
In the meantime, Gallagher suggests that parents individualize their children’s schedules based on their unique needs. He advises parents to adjust their child’s routine outside of school to better suit their preferences. Some parents have reported that their child with ADHD performs better at home when given a flexible routine that they have some control over.
However, Gallagher acknowledges that creating a flexible schedule can be challenging for parents who are also juggling work and device use. It is crucial for parents to prioritize self-care, including taking breaks during the day and getting enough sleep.
Seeking Guidance from Pediatricians
The study did not examine the impact of medication on children’s symptoms during the lockdown. Dr. Hagan suggests that while many children continued taking their ADHD medication, a significant number did not. He encourages parents to consult with their pediatrician about medication usage and any other concerns they may have.
Dr. Hagan reassures parents that pediatricians are available and ready to provide support during these challenging times.