Is it beneficial for the child to know they have ADHD?

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    • #40125
      Penny Williams

      This discussion was originally started by user Stef in ADDitude’s now-retired community. The ADDitude editors have included it here to encourage more discussion.


      My 10 yr old daughter has had many successes in dealing with ADD/ADHD over the past two yrs (official diagnosis 1 yr ago) with behavior therapy, diet and lifestyle adjustments. We chose not to tell her she has ADD/ADHD, or anyone else around her, because her personality is one that will surrender/use it as an excuse, and see it as a problem.

      Rather, I talk with her about it more behaviorally. For example, “You have a fast brain like Mommy”, “You do really well with visual cues, you’re very visual” and “You’re mind bounces around & daydreams like mine”. It is discussed in these general terms with her teachers as well.

      I often wonder if I am right in this approach. Lately she has been saying things like “I’m different”, etc. I could see her saying that whether she knew or not though. Her main issues are inattentiveness, impulsivity, social awkwardness, anxiety, self-care. She is a magnet for teasing and bullying (don’t want to give others another reason).

      I’m trying to figure out when the right time is to tell her, so it doesn’t discourage her and she can look back at her successes to that point. It’s getting more challenging, and we may consider some meds if needed. She has a lot of parental support from me. Do any of you have advice on this?

    • #40432
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user Nemo in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      I feel that our kids should learn about their ADHD in order to be able to self advocate. The reality is, they are different. The older they get, the more their peers and they themselves will notice. Instead, the focus can be on being different is great. How boring would our world be if we were all the same? I had found a great list on this website many years ago that listed the gifts of having ADHD. My son really identified with this and was able to keep that in mind with being different. We talked about how to use the skills that he’s good at because of his ADHD and the need to work on others that don’t come so easily to him, but might to others. It’s important for our kids especially through adolescence when their worlds begin to turn upside down.

    • #40434
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user Pump2Duncan in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      My 10 year old is on Concerta. I didn’t feel right giving him a pill everyday that he didn’t understand why he was taking. So he knows he has ADHD. The first time we interact with a new teacher or doctor, the first whispered question is always “does he know?”

      I understand your concerns. My son has tried to use it as an excuse a few times. We just don’t allow it. If he has a hard time paying attention in class, ADHD isn’t an excuse, but it can be the cause. So we look at ways to help him cope so the behavior stops. And since he knows about his ADHD, he’s able to fully participate in these discussions. He was able to tell us that drawing in his journal in class really helps him concentrate during lecturers and not have as many outbursts.

      He also has a hard time with friends, and as he has gotten older he is starting to notice just how much of a hard time he has making and keeping friends. So knowing about his ADHD helps him realize why he might be having a hard time connecting and he can come to us to help him learn new ways to interact with peers.

      He was also able to fully participate in medication type and dosage. The doctor was able to directly ask him how the medication made him feel, does it help him focus, did he think he could use more help, etc. I don’t think my son would have been able to give fully informed responses to those questions if he did not know why he was taking the medication in the first place.

      Recently my younger daughter asked why my son took a pill every morning with breakfast. My son chimed in that it was because he had ADHD and that just meant his brain goes as fast as The Flash and the pill just helps him focus on people. (They’re really into superheroes right now)

      I was happy that he was able to answer the question in an unashamed way. I’m glad he knows.

    • #40435
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user boomer in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      We’ve talked to our daughter about her ADD/ADHD in age appropriate ways since she was age 7. She’s now 13. At first I was more self conscious than she was, about telling other people about it. Now it’s no big deal, and I let her share or not share that she has ADD with friends and adults she knows. Medications are a big part of her life, so I don’t see how we’d even be able to avoid telling her if we wanted to. But bottom line, it is her life and I think the more info she has about her condition the better. She collects and keeps a notebook about musicians and sports figures that have ADD, it really inspires her to know she is not alone, that she can work around and adapt to the challenges she faces, and be successful.

    • #40436
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user Benine in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      We told our son last year when he was 7. It seemed wise because he was going to hear it from others first if we didn’t.

      It didn’t really make an impression. I let him read a book “Cory Stories”, and he agreed that the kid had some of the same experiences as him, and some different. Basically, he wasn’t interested. Now he’s 8. As of this year’s interim report card, the subject came up again. I told him not to worry about mediocre/poor grades because we know he’s super smart. ADHD makes it hard to get all the work done, even when you know the answers. I tried to explain how you can know all the curriculum material but still get medium grades. He was sad that he got the lowest grade possible in some of the ‘readiness to learn’ categories like organization, etc. This is the first year he’s noticed.

      I am not really sure that telling him it’s because he is ADHD makes it any easier. Telling him we don’t think mediocre marks are a big deal is probably reassuring. I think.

    • #40437
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user adhdmomma in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      I feel like it’s healthier for a child to know there’s a reason outside their control for their struggles. Otherwise, they assume they’re “bad”, “broken”, or “stupid”. That is very detrimental.

      You can certainly frame it with positivity, instead of approaching it as though there’s something wrong with her. She has a different brain—that is disabling, but it’s also simply different, not broken.

      Here’s how other parents discuss ADHD with their kids:

      And here’s how Dr. Hallowell recommends telling your child they have ADHD:

      As for medication, it can help a great deal, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. My suggestion is to learn all your can about ADHD medication, so you can make an informed decision when it’s time to consider it.

      ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #40438
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user Lovingmom1119 in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      I too helped shield my daughter from the cruel judgemental world we live in. Up until last year my 9 year old was still a little confused.

      She has never expressed to me that she feels as if she is “different” but I think it is mostly because she feels very strongly about “it’s no ones business”

      She still refers to her medicine (30 MG of Metadate CD) as her “Vitamins” I strongly think the trick of it all is just not making it out to be this taboo situation. She’s been on medications since she was 6 so it has become somewhat of a regular thing.

      I also think with age comes understanding.

      She understands that her brain works a lot faster than others and she can think of 3,4,5 things at the same time and thinks of it as pretty cool and I have strongly emphasised that is her “Super power” instead of her handicap.

    • #40439
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user Amouseumiss in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      Hi Steph,

      I’d like to add on to what Penny has said, and elaborate a bit on your concerns re that she’ll use it as an excuse. I don’t have children, but I was diagnosed with ADHD this year. I’m 30 and a female. Also, apologies in advance if this gets rambly. I had a well thought out reply nearly done, then safari froze and forced me to reboot, losing my reply, and subsequently my motivation to try again. This is, therefore, partly an exercise in not throwing in the towel when my iPad makes me want to ragequit and sulk.

      Anyway! Enough whining. Now it’s story time. As I mentioned, I wasn’t diagnosed till this year. Growing up, my difficulties with completing schoolwork (mainly math), chores, self-care, etc, were chalked up to purposeful inattention on my part, because my parents didn’t know I had ADHD either. Simply put, they thought I was choosing not to do things, because I didn’t want to, on purpose. To them, I could control the ‘wanting to’ and I wasn’t. I was being lazy, I should know better at my age, I should try harder, etc. it all boiled down to, “You’re making excuses, stop and do the thing.”

      I also have a vision impairment that’s left me legally blind up until a few years ago. (It’s a long story involving developing cataracts and four retina surgeries). Growing up, my parents taught me I could do nearly anything a sighted person could do, with some sccomidstions.

      While I’m thankful for this attitude, it also has a downside. Any time I expressed that something was hard, I was just told I was making excuses and if I tried harder. I could do it. Now, let me be clear. My parents were always accommodating of my vision impairment, but once that was accounted for-i.e. I had large print materials, for example—any further difficulty I had was assumed to be a voluntary choice on my part.

      I think, looking back, that my parents might’ve shared your concern re a tendency to give up or surrender to the difficulties. Unfortunately—assuming that was their motivation—the attitude that, if I just try harder I can do anything a sighted person can, turned into, if I can’t it’s my fault, I’m using this as an excuse not to do my best, and I’m a lazy, bad person because of it.

      Also, I applied that to other disabled people, particularly in college. Because I could make straight A’s, I just thought doing things at the last minute, hsving to force myself to do the readings, homework, etc, forgetting things, losing things, and stressing constantly was normal. If by some chance I didn’t worry bout Ms,in an A on things, both myself and my parents suddenly took that as a sign that I didn’t care enough.

      I applied that to my disabled friend who made Cs, thinking that they weren’t trying enough and were using their impairment as sn excuse. If I can do it—even if I’m miserable—you can, too, and if you’re not, or I’m not, it’d our faults, because we’re choosing to be this way. Further, I thought acknowledgement of difficulty = making excuses and not wanting to try. If I was really trying, I thought, it wouldn’t be hard.

      Now is probably a good time to mention I struggle with anxiety and depression, too. My brain is just a whole barrel of fun. Also, my parents have since gotten a lot better about telling me as long as you do your best that’s all that counts.

      I know that was the message they meant to send throughout my childhood, too, but since I tended to do well academically, barring subjects which held no interest for me, and given that they’re both in their sixties and so don’t know much about ADHD, they just assumed my difficulties were my doing, as I said earlier.

      ADHD has been described as the lack of an ability to Can. For me st least, that’s very true. I can sit here and tell myself all day to work on my dissertation chapter, but unless there’s a looming deadline, it’s really, really hard to even start, let alone stick with it for any length of time. My brain is just like ‘hah hah nope.’

      Now, to someone without ADHD what does that look like? It looks like I’m saying oh I have ADHD I can’t do my dissertation chapter, I’m going to write forum posts instead. By extension, that probably looks like I’m being a lazy bum, but maybe that’s the RSD/Depression talking. What’s really going on? I want to work on this chapter. I know I’ll feel better if I do. But the thought of actually doing it, is just…ugh. So much ugh.

      So, now I have a choice. I can say I have ADHD so I can’t do this, bam, full stop. That’s an excuse. Or, I can say, I have ADHD, and that makes this hard. It’s okay that it’s hard, it doesn’t make me a bad person, or somehow less capable than my peers, it just means I need external motivators because my internal motivation system is busted. So, I accommodate myself. I set timers and try not to feel guilty on days when I meant to get started at 11:30 and oh look it’s after one p.m. I try not to feel like a chronic time waster.

      And sometimes, I do have to say, I have ADHD and right now I can’t do this. That’s okay, because later, ADHD or not, I’m getting this done.

      I think the line between reasons and excuses can be pretty fine. As a multiply disabled person, I’ll freely admit that there are days when I’ve thought, it would be great if I could just stay home, on the internet, all day, and just do fun things. But then I think, everybody has days like that, it’s okey to feel that way, but eventually you have to do something about it.

      Also, I want to be frank, and I hope this doesn’t come off badly. My vision impairment, ADHD, anxiety and depression, are problems. They’re big problems. Getting my PhD would be a whole lot easier if my eyes and my brain worked like everyone else’s eyes and brain do. That’s—partly—why I have disabilities. So, if your daughter says her ADHD is a problem, I think that’s fine. It is a Problem, and it isn’t wrong to acknowledge that. I think that was part of my parents’ trouble. They couldn’t acknowledge that my vision was a problem, do when I started to, they saw that as me making excuses, when what I was trying to do was find reasons for why things were hard. But to my parents, it seemed like I was doing exactly what you’re concerned about your daughter doing.

      I still had every intention of doing the thing, I just wanted to know why it was hard. To be honest, I’m still not sure why my attempts at saying, X thing is hard because of my vision, or I can’t do Y thing because I don’t notice that I need to, we’re seen as excuses. In my mind, what I wanted from them was an acknowledgment that yes this is hard and that’s okay, and here are ways around it so it’s less hard.

      What I got was, “Yiu just need to do it anyway, try harder, don’t use your disability as an excuse not to do the thing, you never did that before,” etc etc etc.

      So now, when I have days where I lose my keys, my pens, my flash drive, or I finally eotk up the motivation to do something only to get derailed and I want to quit, it is really, really hard not to feel like if I just tried harder I’d be fine, and here I go again uding this as an excuse not to be a normal person.

      It’s kmportsnt, I think, to remember that reasons aren’t excuses, and I think that’s hard for folks to grasp.

      Now, from some of what you’ve said, I’m going to ask: do you have ADHD too? Because if so, a good way to keep your daughter from throwing up her hands and deciding to never do anything because she has ADHD, would be to use yourself as an example. Acknowledge that things are hard for you, too, that sometimes you don’t want to do the thing either, but here’s how you work around that.

      Personally, I wish I and my parents had known when I was a kid. I think a lot of my self esteem, and anxiety issues, would be better than they are. I think being able to acknowledge that it’s okay that this is hard, it’s okay I have those feelings, would’ve been helpful for me, and will be helpful, I think, for your daughter.

      On that note, I really need to write the rest of this chapter!

      Best of luck,

      A Mousey Miss

      P.S. I apologize for any typos. Unfortunately, I lack the time to make any more edits, necduse, dissertation chapter must be written.

      Thanks for the understanding,
      A M M

    • #40440
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user adhdmomma in ADDitude’s now-retired community.


      This is so on point! It’s what so many parents of kids with ADHD need to hear. Thank you for saying it!

      “What I wanted from [my parents] was an acknowledgment that, yes, this is hard and that’s okay, and here are ways around it so it’s less hard.”

      Yes, yes, yes! Our job as parents is to understand our kids (strengths and challenges) and support our kids to craft a life of success, using the strengths and tailored strategies to work around the weaknesses.

      Their struggle is REAL!

      ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #40441
      Allison Russo

      This reply was originally posted by user Pdxlaura in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      Yes, definitely tell her. The social and emotional impact of ADHD is the most worrisome as a parent.

      Additionally, the one thing that could be a big turn around for her, is trying meds. Read the science. The day my son said to me “mom, my brain isn’t wiggly,” was huge for all of us.

      Good luck!

    • #46664

      Well, I think yes. It would be good if the child knows that he or she has adhd.

    • #47488
      Dr. Eric

      Absolutely, I say this from both personal experience as an adult with ADHD, parent, and professional.

      Without the label, there is a point where the frustration is real and children know that they are different.

      Understanding the disorder communicates a lot of things… I am not broken, I just have a challenge that also has some perks. There is hope. There is a gameplan. There are others out there like me.

      • #47880
        Penny Williams


        ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #47501

      Yes! Knowing I have ADHD has helped me so much with my self esteem issues. I know that I’m not stupid or just a failure, I have a medical condition that makes a lot of things really hard for me

    • #62352

      I am a recently diagnosed ADHD mom of a nine year old ADHD son. I struggle with the following opposing realities: We ADHDers think and act differently while the rest of the world demands that we perform like average thinkers. For efficiency, school and workplaces are designed to accommodate the largest segment of the population: average thinkers. My biggest question is: should I try to teach my son how to assimilate into our culture or should I encourage him to find and stay with his “own kind”?

      • #62358
        Penny Williams

        My perspective is that our kids have to survive and thrive in the real world — the world where conformity is expected. That’s not to say that our kids shouldn’t be individuals and let their true selves shine. They also have to learn to cope with, manage, and work around those real world expectations.

        In social situations however, I think it’s paramount that they find their tribe, and not try to be someone they’re not.

        ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #63069

      Ideally kids would know how they learn. Before I retired I worked in several special ed schools, and I found that the kids who understood and accepted their diagnosis did better than those who denied it. I used to say that we all learn differently, and sometimes we need to get from A to C via D,E and F. Just because you have ADHD doesn’t give you an excuse not to try. Thomas Edison had LD, possibly ADHD or autism. He tried thousands of substances before he found a filament for his light bulb. He said that none of his efforts was a failure, because he had a list of things that didn’t work, now all he needed was to find one that did. I have noticed that kids are often quite forthcoming about their differences and will often volunteer the fact that they have dyslexia or ADHD or Asperger’s. There is still some bullying, but generally peers seem to be more accepting, particularly if this is modelled by adults.

    • #68936

      When my son was diagnosed with ADHD, we felt it best that we tell him. Since the diagnosis was made post Neuropsych testing, our admission went along with why he was going to the appointments in the first place. Additionally, we found it fair that we tell him something that involved him so we could work together on working with it.

      At first, sonny boy took it hard! He was very angry at me for letting the doctor “make such a diagnosis” about him and say that he was mentally ill. It took some time to talk him down (keep in mind, he runs at about a Level 8 to begin with. Any news to rock the boat and he may go through the ceiling!) I reassured him that he was not “mentally ill” and that this diagnosis did not change who he is.

      This was also the first time that my son would be taking medication. After doing our research and discussing our options with our child psych, we decided on Vyvanse, 20mg. I wanted my son to know what the medicine was for and why he was taking it plus stress that the medicine was not WHO HE IS. It was only there to help him focus a bit more and tamp down the impulsive behavior that ran him into trouble at school.

      It did not take long for my son to get over his upset. When he was angry or disappointed about the diagnosis, we talked through it. I would ask him how he was feeling after taking the medicine, help him learn to identify whether or not he was feeling like himself or was the dose “too much.”

      I knew we had turned a corner when fidget spinners hit the scene last spring. My son was building up quite a collection and one day looked up and me and brightly said “mama, did you know, these were originally made for people with ADHD!”

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by TaurusMoon.
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