Accepting the Diagnosis

Why won't your husband accept your child's ADHD diagnosis? A leading expert explains some reasons why.

This is certainly not a dumb question. Mothers seeking solutions for problems caused by their sons’ ADHD often meet the strongest opposition to diagnosis, treatment and accommodations not from teachers or clinicians, but within their own family. Grandparents and other extended family may insist that the child’s problem is mere lack of strict discipline, and that’s insulting enough. But the refusal to acknowledge a son’s ADHD by his father can not only be hurtful to the mother; it’s also strong hindrance to getting the help his child needs to thrive.

There may be many reasons involved, and certainly this should be discussed by both of you (preferably together) with your child’s doctor. The most common obstacles to acceptance of an ADHD diagnosis include:

Denial

This is a common reaction for many parents, particularly if they have a limited knowledge about ADHD. It can be difficult for any parent to admit that the child is not perfect, and has a problem requiring interventions and treatment. This is even truer when the diagnosis involves a biological condition that cannot be “cured” by counseling and will never go away.

Stigma surrounding ADHD

There is a strong reluctance by many parents to attach any “label” to their child, but particularly something as misunderstood and stigmatized as ADHD.

Like father, like son

Given that ADHD has a strong genetic component, it is possible that your husband has ADHD himself and is uncomfortable dealing with the issue. If there is ongoing denial of the diagnosis it will very likely interfere with the treatment your child is getting. Often all that is required for the parent in denial is reassurance, and of course accurate information.

Provide your husband with timely and accessible resources that will ease his concerns regarding stigma and treatment. There are many excellent organizations, websites and publications, such as Driven to Distraction by Dr. Ned Hallowell, CHADD, ADDA and more that can help him recognize what problem behaviors are associated with ADHD, and how different therapies and accommodations can help his son (and possibly himself) succeed beyond expectation in school and in life.

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