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Many company benefits can help parents meet needs of children with ADHD


Greater awareness needed to improve use of available services

Health care and related services for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) usually depend on the medical insurance and other programs offered by their parents’ employers. A new study from researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children finds that many of the benefits offered by employers could address the needs of parents of children with ADHD, although they may be underutilized. Surveyed companies were interested in helping these families meet their challenges, although few anticipated being able to improve health insurance coverage. The study appears in the February issue of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

"We were impressed at the interesting and broad range of benefits that good companies are providing. But many of these services are not being used by the employees who need them, so it becomes an issue of helping connect employees with the available benefits," says James Perrin, MD, director of the MGH Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy, the study’s leader.

The researchers surveyed 41 employers representing many fields in four cities – Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta and Seattle. Participating companies included both the largest employers in the communities and several recognized as particularly family-friendly. Members of the research team interviewed company representatives – primarily human resources staff – asking about the benefits programs available to employees, respondents’ view of the needs of parents of children with ADHD, and ideas for improving services.

Although only 36 percent of the respondents reported experience or knowledge of ADHD, the survey found employers provide significant services that could be helpful to affected families. These include flexible work hours, family leave arrangements and child care assistance. Most employers offer employee assistance programs, primarily targeted to helping employees deal with psychological issues, or work/life programs that focus on balancing work and family responsibilities. Although these services were rarely cited as relevant to the care of children with ADHD, survey respondents were interested in helping families access needed services.

"Among the most important benefits that we heard about were flexible work time arrangements – which can allow parents to attend school conferences or take children to doctor’s appointments – and opportunities to learn about available services and to connect with other parents," Perrin says. "These companies know that providing good benefits can help improve workforce productivity and reduce absenteeism. Parents need to investigate whether their employers offer services that could help them."

Perrin also noted that he and his colleagues are working with major employers to help them highlight available services on their internal websites, develop support groups and link employees to support services in the community. He is a professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Sue McGreevey | EurekAlert!
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