Will an ADHD Diagnosis Saddle My Child with Stigma?
If you fear that an ADHD diagnosis will label your child for life, I get it. But as I found out with my own children, the positives of an evaluation far outweigh the negatives. Here, learn how to shrug off the concerns and stigma of an ADHD diagnosis.
Sometimes a new client comes to me seeking support for their child, who is exhibiting what appears to be clear signs of ADHD. Though they acknowledge these behaviors, too, they are hesitant to get an official diagnosis because they don’t want to label their child.
I get it. I faced the same fear with my own children. These concerns are not unwarranted. ADHD misconceptions are rampant and can lead to inaccurate assumptions about our children. Sometimes that’s painful.
If you’re hesitant about seeking an official evaluation for your child, let’s take a look at — and break down — the most common concerns and misconceptions.
ADHD Misconceptions and Stereotypes: 6 Responses to Common Diagnosis Concerns
1. “I don’t want people to stereotype my child.”
By trying to hide the condition, you may be feeding into the stigma that something is wrong with your child. Perhaps this is an opportunity to educate the people in your child’s life about what the diagnosis means.
2. “Teachers will automatically think my child is a troublemaker.”
Most teachers will be grateful to know about your child’s diagnosis, so they can prepare and accommodate for their needs. Your child won’t be able to hide their squirmy, daydreamy self, and teachers will be more likely to cut some slack if they know the facts.
3. “The label will stay with my child forever and maybe hurt their future with colleges and employers.”
ADHD is considered a disability under the law. If your child faces discrimination because of it, they may have legal standing. But without the official diagnosis, the school or employer doesn’t have to accommodate. Some of your child’s challenges may be the things that get in the way of their success.
4. “My child can still get help without the ADHD label/diagnosis.”
It’s important to understand that there are a host of other possible causes for symptoms that look like ADHD. Sleep apnea, allergies, trauma, anxiety, auditory processing disorder, eyesight issues, autism, hearing loss, and more all cause symptoms that could be mistaken for ADHD. To appropriately address your child’s symptoms, it’s important to understand the cause. This knowledge will dramatically increase the chances of developing an effective treatment plan.
5. “Pathologizing my child will make them feel like there’s something wrong with them, and lead to self-esteem issues.”
Explaining to your child that ADHD means their brain works differently than others’ doesn’t have to be a bad or scary thing. Chances are, without understanding why they do things differently, they will sense they are different. Your child will know that they struggle in ways that other children don’t. They may get negative feedback from peers and teachers that they will internalize, without understanding the context for that assessment. That will lead to self-esteem issues.
6. “Doctors and teachers will force my child to take medication. We don’t want to put our child on mind-altering meds.”
Neither a school nor a physician can force your child to take ADHD medication. That will always be up to you while your child is a minor, and your doctor will help you make an informed decision.
As a psychotherapist who uses diagnostic information, I am pro-diagnosis. But as a parent, I’ve experienced the benefits of diagnosis up close. Years ago, an evaluation of my youngest child for what we assumed was ADHD turned out to be something else. That allowed us to offer life-changing treatment we would not have known to seek.
A diagnosis for my children with ADHD meant they were entitled to learning specialists who made a difference at school. It meant I understood what drove their difficult behaviors and reminded me to dig for compassion for their struggles in moments when I wanted to scream. It meant I could become Mamma Bear, standing up for my misunderstood children. And it meant I could excuse myself from feeling that I was a failure at parenting. A diagnosis is information. And information is power.
ADHD Misconceptions: Next Steps
- Free Download: What Not to Say to a Child with ADHD
- Read: What Your Child Would Tell You About ADHD If They Had the Words
- Read: Release Your Fears: A Post-Diagnosis Guide for Parents
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