Expert Advice: ADHD and Adoption

Adoption and ADHD

Prospective adoptive parents must remember that although several risk factors for ADHD have been identified, one cannot predict whether any specific child will develop it. Not all children born prematurely or to ADHD parents will have ADHD. One can assume that approximately 5 to 10% of healthy full-term infants adopted domestically will later be diagnosed with ADHD. Although an unplanned pregnancy may occasionally be a manifestation of poor impulse control owing to ADHD, one cannot infer that most biological parents placing their children up for adoption have ADHD.

Youngsters adopted from China, Russia, and other countries where waiting children live in an orphanage setting are likely to be at greater risk for ADHD. Apart from malnutrition and lack of adequate nurturing, these children often have other influencing factors for ADHD, including prematurity and prenatal alcohol exposure. Despite this increased risk, the diagnosis of ADHD should be deferred to school age whenever possible. Institutionalization and sensory integration disorders are all more common in these children, yet each can mimic some of the symptoms of ADHD. Therefore, one should not hastily presume the presence of ADHD.

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