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COVID-19 Pandemic Disproportionately Hurting Youth With ADHD

January 18, 2021
Greg Mattingly, MD
        Greg Mattingly, MD

The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other educational challenges, Greg Mattingly, MD, said at the opening plenary session of the American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders (APSARD) 2021 Virtual Conference.

“Across the board, what you’ve seen is our children that are struggling have had a widened gap of disparity,” said Dr. Mattingly, Associate Clinical Professor, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. “Children from disproportionately economically disadvantaged homes, minority backgrounds, the kids that were poor learners have had a widening gap educationally.”

Dr. Mattingly was one of 9 speakers from around the world who explained at the opening plenary how the pandemic has affected patients with ADHD in their countries. Disparities those patients are experiencing was a theme of the 3-day conference, APSARD president Jeffrey Newcorn, MD, said.

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Dr. Mattingly presented data from the large public school system in Fairfax County, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. In the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year, there were 4 times as many middle school students with ADHD or developmental disabilities who received an “F” grade in 2 or more core subjects, compared with the first quarter of the 2019-20 school year. The increase was larger than the increase seen among white students, English learner students, and economically disadvantaged students.

“The children that were doing poor before COVID had the biggest drops,” he said. “They’ve had the biggest drops on academic achievement, they’ve had the biggest drops on not showing up for school, not turning in virtual assignments, becoming demoralized, dropping out of school.”

Dr. Mattingly also pointed to data collected by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Ohio, in the spring of 2020. The study found that 31% of parents with students who had ADHD and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) reported that remote learning was “extremely challenging” for the students, while 18% of parents with ADHD and no IEP, and just 4% of parents of children without ADHD or an IEP, did.

“What we see is the kids that were struggling to begin with had the increased struggles during virtual learning, whereas children that were doing well to begin with tended to continue doing well,” said Dr. Mattingly, who is also principal investigator in clinical trials for Midwest Research Group and founding partner of St. Charles Psychiatric Associates, St. Charles, Missouri.

—Terri Airov


“Opening Plenary: ADHD in the Era of COVID.” Presented at the American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders 2021 Virtual Conference: Virtual; January 15, 2021.

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