My son Dylan handed me his "Letter to the Editor" assignment. I had asked him to write a letter to a publication expressing an opinion on something he was passionate about. I thought he would write about "Why Kids Should Play Video Games Every Day." What he wrote took me by surprise. We have talked about ADHD a lot together, so I know he worries that people think he's a bad person. He sometimes worries that I think he's a bad person.
When I read his letter, I cried. I asked him if he wanted to share the letter with the moms and dads who read ADDitude. He said, "Sure! I want to share it with the world! I want people to know how I feel!" So here it is.
Why do some people think kids with ADHD are bad? ADHD kids aren't bad; they just act impulsively. This means they act without thinking. A kid with ADHD has a brain that works differently than other kids' brains. Some famous people have ADHD. If famous people have ADHD, then people with ADHD can't all be bad.
ADHD kids sometimes get overactive, which makes it hard for them in school. Kids with ADHD act differently than kids without ADHD. Kids with ADHD have slower brainwave activity than other kids, which makes it hard for them to focus. The parts of the brain that are affected by ADHD are the frontal lobes, inhibitory mechanisms of the cortex, limbic system, and the reticular activating system. All of these are vital to the brain, especially the frontal lobes.
In school, ADHD kids get distracted and squirm in their seats. ADHD kids are constantly in motion, and cannot complete a quiet task without making noise. Some kids talk nonstop and are very impatient. They sometimes act without thinking. It is hard for them to control themselves because their limbic system doesn't function like other peoples' brains. They need their teacher to understand that they have ADHD so the teacher won't think that they're rude and disrespectful.
Teachers also need to learn about ADHD, so they know that kids aren't choosing to act this way. They need to speak to them without hurting their feelings, and let them learn in their own way. Homeschooling can be good for a kid with ADHD, because he is with people who understand him and know how to talk to him. ADHD kids sometimes don't do well in a place with a lot of other kids. Big groups make it harder for ADHD kids to control themselves because their brain starts getting real excited.
I know these things because I have ADHD. The disorder makes you seem like you are rude and disrespectful to other people, and that can make parents think that their kids shouldn't be around you. I want kids to think that I am just a person with a different kind of brain, not a bad person. I think I am a good person because I care about others, I'm funny, and I'm smart.
ADHD makes it hard for me to make friends, but I want people to understand me. I hope this letter will help someone with ADHD understand that they're not the only person with ADHD, and that they are not a bad person.
Kara Thompson, M.S., LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist in Lenexa, Kansas. Dylan Thompson is a student at Lawrence Virtual School. You can reach both of them at karathompson.com.
This article appears in the Winter 2012 issue of ADDitude.
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To share strategies for helping ADHD children express themselves, visit the Parents of ADHD Children support group on ADDConnect.