Another summer is coming to end and it’s the time of year that many parents eagerly look forward to (even if their children do not!) For families who have a child with ADHD, summer is a welcome break from the daily homework struggles, stress, lack of motivation, and organizational chaos. But once again, it’s time to tackle a new set of teachers, classroom rules, school policies, along with friends, family and even school personnel who may not “believe” that your child has ADHD.
Have you ever heard any of these myths and misconceptions?
- “ADHD isn’t a real medical condition”
- “We’re all a little ADHD!”
- “I couldn’t focus during that lecture at all. I must have ADHD!”
- “That’s not ADHD, she’s just not motivated to work hard!”
- “But he can focus for hours on his video games!”
According to cdc.gov, as of 2016, 4 – 7% of all people in the United States* have a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. (For purposes of this post, I will use ADHD and ADD interchangeably, as the hyperactive component is not differentiated in CDC statistics. Additionally, the last statistics on diagnoses and treatment were collected in 2016). *CDC only keeps statistics in America, but similar numbers are found across cultures around the world!
Of those with an ADHD diagnosis, approximately 2 in 3 also have another mental, emotional or behavioral diagnosis, including but not limited to: anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, depression and/or Autism spectrum disorder.
Are you surprised by these statistics? You can be sure that at least one child in each classroom has this diagnosis or is undiagnosed. You can also bet that this same child may be struggling with making friends, low self-esteem, maintaining good grades, keeping up with homework and daily school demands, and meeting expectations for home life. He or she may be suffering alone, may experience bullying in school, and may be the target of frustrated, exasperated parents at home who demand that their child “just try harder”. She may keep it together at school only to completely lose all emotional control at home. He may be labeled as the “class clown”- and play that up to the detriment of his learning and relationships with teachers.
Do a general online search, and you will often see ADHD labeled a “mental disorder”, “learning disability” or a “behavioral disorder”. I prefer to use the term “neurological difference”. MRI studies have shown true brain differences in rate of maturation in areas affected, specifically the frontal lobe. Having ADHD can be a struggle and cause of real difficulties, but it has also been credited as helpful in some highly creative, entrepreneurial and talented individuals. I don’t think it should be seen as a disability or disease that needs to be treated as such. You will also often see the diabetes analogy, which states “well, you wouldn’t withhold medication and treatment from a diabetic, would you?” The obvious answer is, of course not – these are apples and oranges. ADHD needs to be “treated”, but not in the same way as a diagnosis like diabetes. ADHD is a brain-based real disorder and it is a whole family issue. Homework struggles, sleep issues, poor eating habits, lack of motivation, a propensity toward risky behaviors, problems with discipline, shame and embarrassment – these are all part of the presentation (which can vary widely in girls and boys). ADHD is not a disorder of ability at all – it’s a disorder of performance.
Here is the great news – performance is something that can definitely change! Treatment can simply involve recognizing one’s own strengths and areas that are difficult, then working to use specific and targeted strategies to improve “missing links”. It may also involve changing one’s own thinking about the diagnosis itself, the abilities one has, and what is possible for the future.
If given the right tools in childhood, teenage years, and beyond, individuals with ADHD can have successful and productive lives in their adult years. I believe that knowing what to do early on will give kids and their families the power to shape their own futures. Even if the diagnosis came later in childhood, it’s not too late to start learning good practice to mitigate the inevitable issues that will continue to surface if left unchecked.
Start the school year off on the right foot with a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s executive skill strengths and weaknesses – and learn real strategies to make the year go smoothly. We offer one on one sessions, group opportunities, or entire family plans! Schedule a consult with us today, or come to a parent workshop! We are about empowering parents and children/young adults to be the best they can be!