Talking About ADHD

Who Do You Tell About Your Child’s ADHD?

“Do you shout it to the world, share openly when relevant, share only when asked, or have you kept their diagnosis to yourself?”

Mother and doctor holding a young girl's hands.
Mother and Doctor Holding Girl by Hand Flat Cartoon. Family Turned for Doctor Pediatrician Help. Consultation and Treatment. Kids Healthcare. Visit to Pediatric Department. Cutout Vector Illustration

In the days and weeks following an ADHD diagnosis, many families enter a disorienting whirlwind of books, articles, videos, and next steps. In the midst of this ADHD education and understanding, one question inevitably arises: Who else needs to know?

Some parents find that open and unbarred communication is essential for increasing acceptance and recognition of the disorder. Others lead toward discretion for fear of labeling their child, or to protect their privacy. We asked ADDitude readers how (or whether) they go about sharing their child’s ADHD diagnosis.

“I am very open and casual about it — my child has brown hair, gets really good grades, is intelligent and wise, has ADHD, and is into art and music.— Toni, Australia

“I share openly about both of my children’s ADHD diagnoses as well as my own. I share absolutely everything I know to the point of oversharing (hello, ADHD). I want to change the world my children will thrive in by changing, hopefully erasing, the stigma(s) surrounding mental health and special education.” — Amy, Washington

“I share it with the school and teachers but otherwise keep it to myself.— An ADDitude Reader

[Download: Explaining ADHD to Teachers]

“I do not hide the diagnosis. All seven of our family members are twice exceptional: Everyone is on the spectrum and has ADHD. I need my kids to know that their neurological differences do not make them less.” — An ADDitude Reader

“We share openly with the world. One of their requested presents in middle school was a t-shirt with AD/HD on it written just like AC/DC.— An ADDitude Reader

“I share when it is relevant. All our family knows as well as some of our coworkers. I’m an educator, so I am often seeking advice from my coworkers who have worked in schools longer on how to navigate it as the parent of an ADHD child.” — An ADDitude Reader

“I shout it to the world. It’s not a thing to be ashamed about. It is what it is.” — Melissa, Louisiana

[Read: Coping With the Stigma of ADHD]

“We are very open about [our daughter’s] ADHD. We try to encourage other parents to tell the school, extracurricular clubs, and host parents of parties or play dates. This is for the kids’ benefit, so they are not misunderstood and are treated with compassion rather than impatience. I understand some parents are reluctant to share the full diagnosis for the well-justified fear of labeling and stigma, but I think it works just to explain the challenges and how to best meet the child’s needs.” — Emma

“We all have ADHD with different strengths and weaknesses, but my goal is that none of us feel ‘flawed’ or ‘less than.’ So, I often explain that my kids have ADHD and why it is okay with me that they behave a certain way, say a certain thing, or need a certain amount of understanding. I see every interaction as an opportunity to educate and to try to change perceptions. My kids are awesome. Their ADHD has a lot to do with that, but it is the acceptance of the condition and not hiding or shaming of who we are that matters the most.— Beth, Colorado

“There is nothing wrong with your child. It is not embarrassing or shameful and is so much more common than you think, so there should be no reason to hide things. Not hiding could make things easier for you.” — An ADDitude reader

“All of our family, friends, and, of course, the school knows my 12-year-old has ADHD. What I’m trying to figure out is how to have my girl tell people herself. Not as a matter of shame, but as a condition that just explains who she is. I have anxiety being in large gatherings and I’m okay with telling people that. I hope she can find the words to do the same.” — An ADDitude Reader

“We’ve learned to be selective about who we tell. In a perfect world, ADHD would be accepted for what it is: a medical condition that is treated with medications and other therapies. But it’s often viewed as a variety of intentional negative character defects that give people reasons to discount, discriminate, eliminate, shame, bully, tease, threaten, fear, and avoid. Our family has experienced everything from school teachers and medical professionals insisting harsh discipline and better parenting will ‘fix’ it to employers retracting job offers claiming it’s ‘only an excuse to violate company drug policies and for poor performance before even starting.’” — Jen, Pennsylvania

“I share it very openly and I find it has helped a lot. It’s important that his educators and caregivers know and learn how to help. I often discuss his psychologist appointments and behavior with my parents, so they understand what he is doing, which makes it easier for them to encourage and engage with him. My whole work team knows and most of them are parents, so they understand when I’m regularly running off for one appointment or another.” — An ADDitude Reader

Talking About ADHD: Next Steps

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1 Comments & Reviews

  1. I am a guy in his late 60s and has only recently been diagnosed with ADD. For me ADD is no gift. It has ALWAYS been a handicap and an embarrassment that damaged my reputation too many times in both my private and professional lives. This is just one man’s opinion so take it FWIW.

    The only time I would divulge my child’s ADD or ADHD condition is to a school psychologist and teachers. They understand the full spectrum of learning disabilities and are expected to help children in the education process. And they should be trusted to keep private information private.

    Back when I was in grade school, middle school and high school there was no name for ADD but I exhibited all of the symptoms. This made me a target for bullies. Most of the respondents in the above article are women and they have no clue about male bullying. I was shoved, punched, slapped, kicked, spat on and one time a bully tried to dunk my head into an unflushed toilet bowl.

    By publicly announcing your child’s ADD diagnosis to the world you will expose him to physical abuse from his peers. What are you trying to prove? It might feel good to rail against an injustice but your son will pay dearly for it. There is a well-defined borderline between high minded principle and inspired stupidity.

    Taken to adulthood, one respondent above mentioned job offers being rescinded when a hiring company discovers that an applicant has ADD. This will send their HR director scurrying to the internet and the bosses with think that the applicant has a strong propensity to blurt out something stupid in a critical customer-facing meeting.

    No law requires one to publicly reveal details of his/her personal life, especially health conditions. Even gang members in handcuffs don’t go blabbing unless they are totally naïve and stupid. A martyr complex is a profound form of self-harm.

    What to do? If you need help, get professional help. Follow the treatment plan prescribed by your mental healthcare provider. Read ADDitude.

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