Youth with ADHD have been found to have a greater risk of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and disruptions, including sleep problems, fear and anxiety related to infection risk
Kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – ADHD – are more likely to experience significant impairment in school functioning and mental health. Now, combining this challenge with the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions have increased.
A new paper has unveiled that children with ADHD are more likely than their peers to experience COVID-19 symptoms, sleep problems, fear and anxiety related to infection risk, difficulties with remote learning, family conflict, rule-breaking behaviour, and lack of school preparation during the first year of the pandemic.
Pandemic school closures only heighten the problem
Youth with ADHD are additionally less likely than their peers to be responsive to factors – such as parental monitoring and school engagement – of which could mitigate the impact of pandemic school closures. The research highlights that youth with ADHD may need more specialised support during the transition back to in-school learning.
Analysing data from a large national longitudinal study of youth in the U.S. called the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, researchers selected a large sample of youth – who met diagnostic criteria for ADHD – as well as a sample of youth without ADHD who were matched based on race, sex and age.
Parents and ADHD participants completed surveys during 2020, the first year of the pandemic, and the survey data from May 2020 and March 2021 was used in the researcher’s analyses.
George DuPaul, professor of school psychology, said: “Youth with ADHD were, and are, particularly vulnerable to interruptions to in-school learning as a function of the pandemic, particularly with respect to engagement with learning, increased anxiety, and greater conflict with family members; and they are less responsive to factors that are helpful for youth without ADHD.”
“Personalized schedules and school engagement are likely not working in the face of this pandemic”
Eliana Rosenthal, a Lehigh school psychology doctoral student and lead author of the study, said: “The ABCD study is a 10-year, ongoing study that, of course, was greatly impacted by the pandemic. In addition to continuing to collect their regular data throughout the pandemic, the ABCD team added in COVID-19-specific measures to better capture how youth across the country are dealing with this pandemic.
“Thankfully, we were able to use these data to determine how youth with ADHD in particular were adjusting to the pandemic.”
Rosenthal added: “Ultimately, the results of our study highlight that the typical interventions that have previously supported youth with ADHD, like personalized schedules and school engagement, are likely not working in the face of this pandemic.
“Knowing this information can better inform families, educators and clinicians developing interventions and support systems for youth with ADHD moving forward.”
The researchers suggest that families of youth with ADHD, educators, and mental health and health care professionals will benefit from the results of this study, as it can represent the right ways to help youths with ADHD.