Kids Wish Their Doctors Would Talk to Them about ADHD

A recent study found that kids with ADHD would like to talk to their doctors directly about ADHD medication and ADHD symptoms, but don’t often ask the questions that are on their mind. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 70 kids between the ages of 7-17 who were diagnosed with ADHD and were prescribed ADHD medication by their pediatricians or primary care providers. One-third of the kids said that they wished their doctor spent more time talking to them directly about their ADHD, and 57% percent reported that their doctor spent most of the appointment talking to their parents.

So, what do kids want to talk about with their doctor? What are the questions that are on their mind? The kids in this study were presented with a list of questions related to ADHD or ADHD medication and were asked to choose the questions that they would like to ask. On average, kids selected 8 questions. The number one question, chosen by 75% of the kids, was Will I outgrow my ADHD?  Other top questions included: Do a lot of people have ADHD?  Are there other things I can do at home to help my ADHD? Should I take my ADHD medication every day?

The results from this study suggest that opportunities are being missed that would otherwise allow kids with ADHD to feel heard and to participate in their treatment from an early age. ADHD is a chronic disorder, and one that requires a high level of parent involvement throughout childhood and adolescence. However, parent involvement doesn’t need to be at the exclusion of child participation in appointments, treatment planning, and day-to-day management. In fact, gradually encouraging your child to take a more active role in managing their ADHD can be empowering.

If your child is accustomed to sitting in the background while the adults in the room discuss ADHD, then it will probably take some encouragement on your part to get them involved in their own care. The following tips will help you prepare your child to talk to their doctor at their next appointment.

  1. Start the conversation at home. A few weeks (or more) before your child’s next appointment, start having conversations about questions they might like to have answered by their doctor. Many kids feel embarrassed about having ADHD, and may hold back during these conversations with their parents. That’s okay. Take it slow, and help them feel more comfortable by sharing some things that you’ve been curious about when it comes to ADHD.
  2. Follow your child’s lead. You want to encourage your child to talk to their doctor if they have questions, but you also don’t want to force the issue. If your child seems overwhelmed in their conversations with you at home, ask them to privately write down one or two questions they might like to have answered about their ADHD. Tell them they can share the questions with you or keep them private, it’s their choice. The goal is to get them thinking about their ADHD and things they might like to ask their doctor, even if they’re not ready to talk about them right now.
  3. The day before your child’s next appointment ask them if they would like to have the opportunity to ask their doctor some of questions you had talked discussed (or that they had written down). If they haven’t done so already, encourage your child to write these questions down ahead of time so they can recall them easily during the appointment.


  1. During the appointment, create space for your child to speak by letting the doctor know that your child has some questions. Then turn the floor over to your child.


  1. Teens and tweens may prefer to talk to their doctor privately about their ADHD concerns. While parents should always be involved in appointments that include a discussion of ADHD symptoms and medication side effects, the doctor can set aside a few minutes for an individual discussion with your child. Encourage your teen to ask the doctor if they can have a few minutes to discuss ADHD one-on-one.

By creating opportunities for your child to actively participate in their ADHD treatment you are providing an opportunity for them to learn skills that will serve them well for a lifetime. The more empowered and the more involved they are in their treatment, the more they will feel in charge of their ADHD.

For additional study information: Betsy Sleath et al. (2017). Youth Views on Communication about ADHD and Medication Adherence. Community Mental Health Journal, 53: 438-444.
DOI: 10.1007/s10597-016-0078-3

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