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Black Children with ADHD Face Unique Challenges

Implicit Bias, Systemic Racism, and ADHD

Black Children with ADHD Face Unique Challenges

Black Children with ADHD Face Unique Challenges

I don't think there's nearly enough research or focus on how implicit bias and racism has a differential impact on Black and Brown children with ADHD. One of my favorite resources,, just published a great article on this topic.

"Children of color must learn to navigate certain challenges. We expect the challenges of ADHD. But they also navigate the racism baked into society. Systemic racism is rampant in our education and criminal justice systems. With children diagnosed with ADHD, we worry about bad decisions and risky behavior. Parents of Black children with ADHD also worry about how implicit bias and stereotypes affect them. Our children will face harsher discipline, missed opportunities, and even adultification, particularly of our girls (treating them as older than they actually are, including sexualizing them)."- Evelyn Polk Green

The author, Evelyn Polk Green, a past president of ADDA and CHADD, speaks to not only having to have "The Talk" about racial bias with her children of color, but having to weave in extra information to educate them about their own ADHD.

What follows is her advice about talking to your Black and Brown children with ADHD:

1. Meet them at their own level

Tailor your message to your child's age. A 7 year-old's capacity to understand complex information and social cues is much different than a 17 year-old's: choose your language and focus accordingly. And don't forget that kids with ADHD are generally 3 years behind their peers in terms of their maturity, so set your expectations and message to meet them where they're at.

2. The dangers Black children might face

Talk to your kids not only about challenges that they might face because of the color of their skin, but also about how ADHD might have a differential impact on them. She suggests role play as a good way to have these difficult conversations.

3. Black children deserve honesty

Polk Green discusses how her own ADHD and related struggles with emotional regulation have influenced her parenting style. Because emotional volatility is fundamental to what it means to have ADHD, and because the same volatility might be interpreted differently coming from a white child as opposed to from a Black child, it's important to discuss emotional awareness and teach Black children skills to deal with their challenging, intense emotions.

4. Be a role model for Black children

When experiencing racism, show your children how to respond calmly and effectively, regardless of how upsetting the interaction may be. Reigning in the intense emotions swirling around ADHD becomes even more important in racially-charged situations, and demonstrating to your kids how to do this is critical. What is also critical is to also show them the action you are taking to combat this bias and racism.

5. Give Black children time and space to process

"This is heavy stuff. Having ADHD can be difficult. Being Black can make it even harder. Give your kids time to process things that happen to them. The same is true for incidents they’ll see in the media, at school, or with friends. Encourage them to talk about what happened and work through the issues. Let them think about it in their own time. Then be available to talk when they are ready."

My conclusion

If you are a parent to a BIPOC child and are considering having them assessed for ADHD, make sure you choose a clinician who uses assessment instruments that are standardized and validated with this population. Unfortunately, psychology has historically been a very white field, and until relatively recently researchers weren't as aware of their own implicit biases as they should be. As a result many tests were normed on populations that are not representative samples and may not include enough Black children. All of the assessment instruments I use in my practice are normed on valid and representative samples of people in the US. And make sure the clinician you work with is able to discuss implicit bias, microaggression, systemic racism, and related topics with teachers and school administrators who might be falling into traps created by their own racism.

If you'd like to read more about this topic, check out:

If you have any additional suggestions for books, trainings, or resources on this topic, please reach out to me at I'm always interested in learning more about the intersection of racism, psychology, and ADHD.


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