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Talking About ADHD with Your Child

Have you talked to your child about ADHD? How do you discuss their disability and differences?

I have a final thought to share from the Savarese family’s keynote address about autism: an audience member asked the family if they told DJ he was autistic — if they used the tern autistic with him, when he was younger.

DJ replied that he couldn’t understand spoken language until after he learned to read, so no, he wasn’t familiar with the word autism when he was younger.

His parents said that they used the words autism and autistic frequently in DJ’s presence, but didn’t recall actually telling DJ he has autism and explaining what that means. He clearly knows now, and in fact, is an activist fighting for respect, full inclusion in school and society, and a deeper understanding of people with autism.

That made me think: Do I talk about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or use the acronym ADHD in front of Natalie?

Should I make a point of explaining to her that she has ADHD, and what ADHD is?

Coincidentally, the question came up in a goal setting meeting with Natalie’s case manager, Tammy, and Natalie’s in-home therapist, Gayle, last week. Should we write a goal saying that we’d tell Natalie about her diagnosis, Tammy asked? Keep in mind that Natalie is 8, a second grader.

“Let’s leave that up to Mom,” Gayle said, after a brief discussion. Yeah, that feels right.

I hadn’t thought about whether or not I talk about ADHD in front of Natalie. I think I probably do — in fact, I’m sure I have, very naturally, and without inhibition — when talking with Summer, Nat’s O.T., Gayle, and teachers or other service providers. It’s not a secret, but it’s also not something I’ve clearly defined for Natalie.

She knows how to answer questions from friends about why she takes medicine. She’s done so dozens of times. “It helps me concentrate,” Nat says.

“And it helps you slow down so you can make good choices,” I tend to add, careful to emphasize that she’s in charge of making those choices — having ADHD isn’t an excuse she can use for poor behavior. My gut tells me that’s good enough for now.

Have you talked with your child about ADHD? At what age? Did you sit down and read a book about ADHD with your child-and have the ADHD talk?

Or, did your child come home from school one day with the question: “I heard my teacher say I have ADHD. What’s that?” I’d love to hear other parents’ advice about how and when to explain to a child that they have ADHD.