Silencing Skeptics: The Truth About ADHD and LD

What is ADHD? Does medication really help? Can adults have it? Learn to clear up common misperceptions about ADHD with authority.

The Crusader

The Crusader takes a holier-than-thou approach, second-guessing adults who take ADHD medications and parents who give them to their kids. "I would never take a stimulant medication or give one to my child," he proclaims. "Ritalin is 'kiddie cocaine.'"

Actually, study after study has shown ADHD medications to be highly effective at curbing impulsivity and distractibility. Like all drugs, ADHD meds have side effects — but dependency is not a major one. In most cases, the benefits of taking ADHD medication far outweigh the risks. "Ritalin has been used to treat ADHD for over 30 years," Dr. Levin says. "We have countless scientific studies on the safety of Ritalin. In fact, some of the drugs that children routinely take for asthma and cancer haven't been studied nearly as much as Ritalin."

Caryn Stevens, of Midlothian, Texas, wishes people weren't quick to assume that her decision to medicate her 11-year-old twins was a hasty one. In fact, quite a while passed before she agreed to medicate her boys, even after doctors urged her to do so. The same was true for Jennifer Andrews of Virginia Beach, Virginia. "My husband and I were against drugs for children — until we had a child with ADHD," Andrews says. "Our daughter literally cannot sit still to eat her breakfast without medication. I learned the hard way that you must get the facts and have some experience before spouting off about something."

Make it clear to The Crusader that you feel drug therapy for ADHD is not a cause for shame. Medicating your child doesn't make you a lazy or incompetent parent. It shows that you are an effective parent. "You don't need to explain to anyone why you are medicating your child," Dr. Ashley says. "Forget what others think. Instead, ask yourself how you feel about your choice to medicate. If you're at peace with it, the opinions of others should not matter to you."

Next time someone says, "I would never... ," look him in the eye and ask, "If you had diabetes, would you not take insulin? Would you deny insulin to a child who had diabetes? Then why should I withhold appropriate medication from my child?"

"Ultimately," Caryn Stevens says, "I think it would be a crime not to give my boys every resource available to enable their success."

The Joker

The Joker takes potshots at ADHD, using sarcasm and pretending that his barbs are innocuous, says Lillian Glass, Ph.D., the Beverly Hills, California-based author of Toxic People. A Joker might say, "I wish I had ADHD! At least then I'd have an excuse for my bad behavior." Or, "Pass the Ritalin — I could use a (wink, wink) 'boost.'" Other Jokers make "clever" twists on the ADD or ADHD acronym, claiming that it really stands for "Adequate Discipline Deficiency."

The intent of such comments, of course, is to have fun at your expense. But if you show anger or indignation, The Joker protests, "I was just kidding." Marilyn Cullinane, a 63-year-old with ADHD from Lowell, Massachusetts, once had a boss who joked endlessly about her ADHD. Whenever she made a mistake, he would say — loud enough for all to hear — "ADHD got the best of you again, huh, Marilyn?"

Mick Quinn, the author of Power and Grace: The Four Steps to Authentic Joy, suggests that "selective silence" can be a good way to counter The Joker. "As soon as you realize that someone is being nasty, choose not to respond," he says. "This was how Gandhi did it — and note the results."

Cullinane put up with her boss's teasing until she found a new job. Then she wrote a letter to her former corporate headquarters, detailing her abuse at the hands of her boss — and he was fired.

Of course, Cullinane had another option, as does anyone with ADHD who is harassed on the job: legal action. But before resorting to this, Philadelphia-based employment lawyer Robin Bond suggests being direct: "When you say X, I feel Y," or "Mocking my medical condition is hurtful, and I'd like you to stop." If the direct approach fails, Bond says, consider moving up the chain of command or consulting a lawyer.

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TAGS: Myths About ADHD, Talking About ADD

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