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Explaining the Diagnosis
"My nine-year-old was recently diagnosed with ADHD. What’s the best way to tell him? I don’t want him to feel 'different.'"
Usually, children are not upset by the diagnosis — they’re relieved. There’s a good chance that your son already knows he’s a bit different from other kids. Without an explanation, he may assume that it’s because he’s “bad” or “lazy.” Just tell him that he has ADHD, and that this means his brain is “wired” a bit differently.
List some of the symptoms you’ve observed in him, so he can see that you understand what he may be feeling. For example, you might tell him that he sometimes seems to have trouble focusing or that he gets bored with activities before his friends do. Be sure to remind him of his positive traits, such as creativity, enthusiasm, and so on. Let him know that “different” does not mean “bad.”
Dr. Carol Brady is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Houston, Texas. She is also a specialist in school psychology and a well-regarded speaker in the areas of ADHD, children, and families in trauma and Tourette's Syndrome.
She received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University and she is currently on the scientific advisory board for the Tourette's Syndrome Association and is an adjunct faculty at Baylor University and the University of Texas. Dr. Brady hopes to help children and families who deal with neurological/developmental disorders by serving as a regular columnist for ADDitude magazine.