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Report: Kids diagnosed with ADHD up 53% in decade

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A new report by the Centers for Disease Control show one in five high school boys and 11 percent of American children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. 

The report shows a nearly 50 percent increase in cases since the study was first conducted in 1999, when ADHD was considered under-diagnosed.

“ADHD is a diagnosis that requires a very thorough assessment of the youngster, input from the family and very often teachers. There’s an enormous shortage of child psychologists in this country so much of the care of the youngster falls to pediatricians,” said David Woodlock, CEO of Four Winds Saratoga.

ADHD is often difficult to diagnose at the pediatrician level because of the lengthy process required. Woodlock says the average pediatrician visit is usually eight minutes, which isn’t enough time. Further complicating testing is a lack of specific testing.

“There are many reasons this is happening. Primary care docs there are few of us. More patients, less time, less money and we're expected to counsel and diagnoses a condition that in the old days was diagnosed by psychiatrists or psychologists,” said Dr. James Saperstone with CapitalCare Pediatrics. “This is not a diagnosis you can make with a blood test or an x-ray it's a subjective bunch of symptoms, but there are objective questions and tests we as pediatricians have.”

Saperstone routinely consults with other doctors before making a diagnosis of ADHD, but not every doctor has the time. Mental health workers will often require assessments from family members and teachers to determine a child’s ability to focus in various situations.

The American Psychiatric Association is expected to release new guidelines on ADHD diagnosis in May as part of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“Youngsters are struggling today. There are more youngsters in special education today than before, more youngsters being diagnosed with ADHD,” said Woodlock. “Inaccurately giving that diagnosis means there are still youngsters in need of help and that's where we ought to be talking about.”