I’ve read too many articles and blog posts claiming that teaching children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) about consequences will “cure” them. Anyone who spreads this rubbish either doesn’t have ADD/ADHD, doesn’t know someone diagnosed with it, or isn’t a medical professional of any kind. People who believe such nonsense are conspiracy theorists, pushing the myth that ADD/ADHD is merely an excuse for errant behavior. It makes me angry. If they knew anything about ADD/ADHD or its common comorbid conditions, they would know this stuff is trash.
As a parent of an ADD/ADHD child, I hear it all: Behavior problems are due to bad parenting; if you punish a child, she will comply; any child can sit still and focus if he tries hard enough; ADD/ADHD medications drug a child into submission; blah ... blah ... blah.
My husband and I knew there was something troubling our son, Luke. It wasn’t that he ignored our requests; Luke couldn’t follow directions, even after every toy had been taken away from him for not doing so. He isn’t a troublemaker; he is the sweetest, most kindhearted boy in the world.
He has ADD/ADHD, as it turns out, and he can’t control it on his own (at least not at six years old -- I certainly hope he will learn to manage his symptoms when he is older). He can’t calm himself down, sit still, pay attention, no matter how hard he tries. That is the definition of ADD/ADHD, isn’t it?
Get It Straight
The public has to learn that ADD/ADHD is real. I also want to be clear that I view ADD/ADHD as a difference, not a disability. My son is smart (he tested in the gifted percentile), kind, creative, determined, resilient, and full of life. Those are positive attributes. But add ADD/ADHD to the list and the world thinks there’s something wrong. What gives, people?
My husband and I are always on the defensive. We have to defend the use of ADD/ADHD medications to other parents, who think that we are irresponsible. Meds are powerful, and deciding to put your child on them is serious business. However, they have a positive effect on a difficult life. While ADD/ADHD medication is not for everyone, it has been a game changer for us.
Critics believe that ADHD medications “dope” a child into compliance, that they take away his spunk and spark. I know better. ADD/ADHD medications do not create zombies. If a child who is taking ADD/ADHD meds is zombie-like, his dose is too high.
Does ADD/ADHD treatment require more than medication? Absolutely. Creating a hands-on learning environment for a stimulation-seeker and a system of praise and rewards also help. A loving, understanding family who knows that some undesirable behaviors cannot be controlled is a must.
My rant in a nutshell? Don’t speak about things you know nothing about. No one would tolerate making fun of someone in a wheelchair. As much as I believe ADD/ADHD is a difference, I know it is, technically, a disability, an invisible one. Yet society makes fun of it, saying, “He’s so ADD,” when someone forgets his cell phone at home. It is not OK in my book -- nor yours, I’m sure -- to use ADD/ADHD to denigrate someone.
Spread the word: ADD/ADHD is real, we are great parents, and ADD/ADHD medications are OK. Don’t let society shame you into silence. ADD/ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of.
Penny Williams, a mother of two, is creator of A Mom’s View of ADHD, a blog about parenting her young ADHD son.
More on ADD/ADHD Myths
This article comes from the Fall issue of ADDitude.
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To discuss combatting ADHD myths with other parents of ADHDers, visit the Parents of ADHD Children support group on ADDConnect.