Psy-Q: How can clinicians better approach conversations about ADHD with Asian American families?

Clarice Fangzhou Hassan, LCSW

Clarice Fangzhou Hassan, LCSW

Answer: “Racial disparities in diagnoses for kids are very common, and even within the BIPOC population, there are inner racial disparities of ADHD diagnosis among kids from different racial/cultural backgrounds,” says Clarice Fangzhou Hassan, LCSW. Hassan is a bilingual (Mandarin/English) psychotherapist working with underserved BIPOC populations in New York City.

“In the Chinese culture, it is still very stigmatizing to acknowledge that your child has a mental health diagnosis such as ADHD, and it is expected that children get disciplined at home, instead of seeing a therapist or taking medications from a young age,” she explains. As a result, Chinese children often go undiagnosed.

But Hassan says behavioral health experts can play an important role in trying to change this scenario for children of all races and ethnicities. For a family that has never heard of ADHD before, I usually start with giving them some psychoeducation about facts of ADHD, and how it occurs in children and youths. Since I am an LCSW therapist, I usually recommend the parents find an ADHD specialized child psychologist and conduct an evaluation,” she shares.

For families with very limited psychoeducation experiences, Hassan uses very limited jargon and avoids terms that are culturally stigmatizing for Chinese families, such as “your child is mentally ill or has a mental health illness,” when they talk about it for the first time.  “I stay focused on professional terms for ADHD, and reiterate that it is NOT the laziness of their child, ­in fact, this can happen no matter what culture or language the children are reared,” she adds.

Hassan points out that, in some cases, ADHD results from early trauma, not just a neurological challenge. This background makes it important for parents to be included in the treatment process whenever possible and to be engaged and share insights that help paint a clear picture of the child’s situation. 

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Last Updated: Jun 15, 2021