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“ADHD Is Real! Stop Making Stupid Comments Already”

One mom with ADHD rounds up the most common myths she hears from people about the condition, and how she deals with the hurt feelings.

We ADHD moms and dads suffer through a lot of stupid comments. People don’t understand that a) ADHD is a real disorder, and b) that the disorder has real-life consequences. They don’t understand that words hurt.

My five-year-old son, Falcon, suffers from the hyperactive version of ADHD. My husband and I suffer from the inattentive version. We get comments about both kinds of ADHD that range from annoying to hurtful. Just as an example:

That’s just normal boy behavior. When my kid was his age he…” This statement denies that my son has a disorder, which is offensive. No, it’s not normal boy behavior to jump on the couch, over and over, despite being told not to, and despite agreeing to a behavior plan that involves not jumping on the couch. It’s not normal to bar your kid from a piece of furniture for the sake of the furniture, because he doesn’t have the impulse control to stop himself.

[Quiz: ADHD Myth or ADHD Reality? Check the Facts About ADHD.]

That’s just his age. He’ll grow out of it.” Again, this statement denies that Falcon has a disorder and seeks to blame his ADHD behavior on something other than an actual, biochemical disorder. Yes, all young boys can be distractible. When Falcon does his reading, his mind wanders off between every word. It takes a pointer, all my willpower, and frequent gentle touching to keep him on task. By “on task,” I mean “able to read the next word.” This changes when asked to read something on TV, when he came out with “Choose a different episode” the other day.

All kids like to watch TV.” This minimizes Falcon’s main obsession: the television. All children do like to watch the boob tube. All children, however, will not sit at rapt attention for hours at a time. I know this because I have other children, who wander off after a while. Falcon, on the other hand, sat through The Hobbit movies. He can sit through the entire Star Wars trilogy. I could put on the TV in the morning and leave him, and he would watch until his eyeballs fell out.

All kids ignore their parents sometimes.” Like all the other comments above, this denies my son’s diagnosis, or at least minimizes its effects. All kids have selective hearing. All kids don’t zone out and don’t hear something outside of the activity they’re engaged in. This can be annoying, but it can also be dangerous. Sometimes, I have to put my hand on his arm to break the spell. This doesn’t happen to neurotypical children.

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People say a lot of the same things about my ADHD. Because it’s invisible, it might as well not exist. Most people don’t realize that adults have ADHD, too.

You’re just having a ‘blond’ moment.” I’m more brunette than blond, and this is offensive on many levels. I hyperfocus. Sometimes that means I hyperfocus on what I’m thinking about. So when I walk in the door, I might drop my keys wherever they happen to fall. I wasn’t thinking about it when I did it, so I have no idea where I put them. This isn’t because I had a brain fart or a blond moment. It’s because I have a biochemical disorder that means I’m prone to losing what most people consider to be vital household objects.

Your car is so messy!” This is usually followed by laughter. And it sucks, because every time I clean my car, I try so hard to keep it that way. But when I finish my drink, I don’t think to do anything with it but toss it in the wheel well, because I’m not thinking about it. This isn’t an agonizing decision between clean and messy. It’s reflex. It’s the same reason I don’t remind my kids to take out the books they haul into the car, or remove their toys, or pick up their juice boxes. Suddenly, I look around myself and realize I have a super messy minivan again.

You forgot — we made a play date.” Yes, I forgot. I forget dates and times because they fall right out of my head. It is part of my invisible biochemical disorder: If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist. This makes it hard to recall casual plans — even Facebook Events doesn’t help sometimes.

Think about it: What hurtful things do people say about your or your child’s ADHD?

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