Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: Must Our Daughter Reveal Her ADHD?

“Our daughter absolutely doesn’t want the school to know about her ADHD as she fears that her peers will find out. Ultimately, we will do what we think is best for her, but we’d like to get her on board with our decision. How can we convince her that it is in her best interest to tell the school?”

ADDitude Answers

I see why your daughter doesn’t want to tell the school about her ADHD. She may be afraid of ridicule or feeling different. Children want to be accepted. Allow your daughter to keep the diagnosis from the school for the time being.

If she is having specific problems at school — not handing in homework — set up goals: Homework must be turned in a certain number of times during the week. You can slowly raise the goal as your daughter reaches it. However, if she continues to not hand in homework, you should tell the school and ask for help and accommodations. Make sure you, your partner, and your daughter agree to the terms you set out – write out your terms and have all three of you sign the document. Your daughter is then responsible for her decision not to disclose her diagnosis.

A word of caution: Make sure your daughter understands that she isn’t a failure if she doesn’t reach her goal. Explain to her that a diagnosis of ADHD isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and that you and your spouse are proud of her and love her, no matter what.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

Poor kiddo! I feel for her. I’m a firm believer in being very open about ADHD. When we keep it a secret, we instill the message having ADHD is something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. That’s a bad place to be in for your child’s emotional health and self-esteem.

I do also agree that forcing her will cause a lot of problems too. She’s nearly a teen and she does need to start learning how to make successful decisions for herself (in this instance, maybe the hard way). I like the suggestion of writing up a contract with expectations you have of her, as well as what she can expect from you, her parents.

I also feel like you can probably add some accommodations to her 504 Plan without divulging her diagnosis, until she’s ready.

This page has some great strategies for the teen years A Parent’s Guide to ADHD Teens.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

She is more likely to do what you wish if you do not press her. In fact, she would be comforted if you told her it was her choice.

She is not arguing from logic, but rather fear. And her fears are not without merit.

If you overrule her, she will be resentful… and can you imagine how upset she will be if her worst fears are realized?

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG, ADHD Coach

A Reader Answers

Your daughter’s reaction is understandable – she knows she has potential, but has been unable to achieve it and is embarrassed. Maybe you should be thinking, How would it benefit my daughter for the school to know she has this diagnosis? If the accommodations will not change, then how would this help? It will only help if there are next steps taken, such as sharing information with her teachers on what ADHD is, how it is exactly affecting your daughter, and how the teachers can work with her to better meet her potential. Would you be willing to help them learn more and provide them with resources? Because unless there is more dialogue on her diagnosis and what it means for her in the classroom, then I don’t see the purpose of telling them about her ADHD.

Posted by Bensonadvocates

A Reader Answers

Discuss with her and agree on — even draft a contract — objective criteria for establishing the threshold of when she must tell. It can be the number of late homework assignments, low grades, etc. If she can maintain, great, but if not, you’ve already agreed that the criteria was fair, objective, and non-negotiable.

Posted by Dr. Eric

A Reader Answers

I taught middle school for years and understand where your daughter is coming from – middle school is a scary place for a sixth grader! It will most likely be her first time dealing with so many different teachers, especially ones who might not be getting to know her very well, so I can understand the lack of trust. And, unfortunately, if her grades are going down, some teachers may not be so supportive if they think she is just being lazy.

I do agree with Penny (based on my own experience as a teacher) that informing the school is the best thing. Notice I said, “the school.” I would make sure that her counselor does know so that he or she can appropriately place your daughter with the right teachers. There are teachers who can work very well with kids who have ADHD, and other teachers who don’t. If there is any chance that your daughter can get the best teachers for her, then that can make a huge difference.

And, frankly, there might be more that can be done for her outside of school. Perhaps her medication has not quite hit the “sweet spot” of optimal effectiveness? I don’t know how long you have been trying, but this is something to be aggressive about. Doctors start a patient out on the lowest dose and wait for the parents to inform them what is going on before they raise the dose. A pretty good resource is How Do We Know the Medication is Working?.

I also wonder if she really understands what ADHD is doing to her? Her anxiety is very common, and it’s something that more knowledge may help assuage. She might try looking at this short video called ADHD in Girls: How to Recognize the Symptoms. I’m hopeful it will help motivate her to take charge of her condition. Best wishes.

Posted by Sandman2