Ask the Experts

The Stigma of ADHD

One reader asks, “How do I handle parents who stigmatize my child for his behavior? They form cliques and talk about the ‘bad’ kids in the class. I feel embarrassed, and I avoid socializing with them as a result.”

With the stigma you describe, your school community could benefit from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) awareness and education training. When these parents ostracize you and your child, that sets a terrible example for their children about tolerance and respecting differences. Avoiding the disapproving parents is understandable, but it’s not going to help your son or other kids with special needs. Become proactive! Speak with your school’s director of special education or the principal. Offer to form a disabilities support group, in conjunction with the PTO, that would educate parents about the symptoms of ADHD and other conditions.

Suggest teacher in-service training on creating positive classroom environments, behavioral interventions, and supports. Intolerance and social isolation are bullying behaviors, and teachers are often unaware of how words, gestures, or facial expressions — whether deliberate or not — can denigrate students with behavioral differences, and empower others to be intolerant. Compassionate and competent teacher leadership is needed to reverse this negative cycle.

Finally, talk to your son’s clinician. Modify the treatment plan as needed. Consider social-skills training. Build on the positive! Be sure your child has at least one friend.