If you have ADHD or are a parent of a child with ADHD, you have to put up with a lot of ignorance and misconceptions about this disorder. This does not help at all in your daily struggle with a condition which is often downplayed and sometimes, even ignored. Here are 15 things you wish people knew about ADHD.
1. They have a minor mental disorder.
Because it has been all hyped up, ADHD is thought of as a major mental disorder. Many others are convinced that it has been been invented by Big Pharm to sell more medication, such as Ritalin or Adderall. You know that ADHD exists and as many as 9% of American children are battling this disorder. There are now so many studies from prestigious scientific institutions that show ADHD is a minor mental disorder that you wish more people would get their facts right. ADHD needs to be recognized, treated and dealt with. As a parent, you know it is just a difference but it needs careful handling.
“ADHD is real and valid. The sooner we recognize the patterns and learn to work with these kids, the better assured we will be that they as adults with be healthy members of society.” – Rhonda Van Diest.
2. They have a chemical imbalance in the brain.
It is true that children and adults with ADHD have problems with paying attention, keeping things organized and staying on task. Kids can be impulsive, defiant and overreact when faced with frustration. This is the result of brain chemistry which is out of sync and has nothing to do with bad parenting!
Effective parenting comes into its own when kids are helped to cope and the parents are able to successfully draw the line between helping them too much and allowing them to get on with it. A good example is during homework. As a wise parent, you keep an eye by being present and get on with your own tasks. You can offer to get them things they need but you do not actually do the homework for them.
3. They need structure and routine.
Many people assume that disciplinary measures are needed to deal with bad behaviour and it has nothing to do with structure and routine. They just assume that threats of consequences and punishment will bring an ADHD child into line very quickly. But wise and experienced parents like you know very well that the best way is to set up structure and routine for playtime, meals, homework and bedtime. Using charts and stars for good behaviour, having visual planners and being consistent can be really effective.
4. They may need medication.
There are two extreme views here. One is that ADHD meds are harmful and addictive and will ruin a child for life. There are some side effects of these stimulants such as weight loss, disturbed sleep and other problems. The other view is that meds will solve all ADHD problems and all the kids have to do is take their pills and they will be fine. The answer, as usual, is to aim for a sensible middle path. Careful diagnosis together with collaboration between parents, teachers and doctors can produce measurable results in calming a child down and increasing their attention span. But this has to be done by using behavior techniques as well. Many experts says that behavior management must always be tried first before resorting to psychostimulant meds.
5. They fidget all the time, but they need to.
The latest news and research shows that fidgeting is really useful to help ADHD kids stay on task. Up to now, many teachers told kids to stop fidgeting. But balancing on a Swiss ball, finger tapping and knee bouncing are all helpful for ADHD kids. This secondary movement helps to keep them alert. Up to now, people were convinced that these movements were nothing more than distractions. Many schools now have Swiss balls instead of chairs and parents can try similar things at home when their kids do homework.
6. They can make choices.
There is another misconception about people with ADHD. They are thought to be incapable of making a simple choice. But experts now know that offering the ADHD child a structured choice is really effective. Asking the child to choose clothes for school the evening before or asking them which subject they want to start the homework with are all great ways to assist them in making wise choices. It will also help them with self-control.
7. They have unexpected talents.
People with ADHD have a uphill task it is true, because the symptoms of restlessness, hyperactivity and impulsivity can make normal learning difficult. But many ADHD kids are extremely intelligent and funny. They may take longer to do certain tasks but they have a hyper focus when passionate about an activity which is second to none. There are many inspiring examples of people in the past and present who have excelled because of their ADHD. They can often solve problems by thinking along unconventional lines and they see it as a gift, rather than an obstacle.
“I can distill complicated facts and come up with simple solutions. I can look out on an industry with all kinds of problems and say, ‘How can I do this better?’ My ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.” – David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue.
8. They have social skills.
It is true that many people with ADHD have problems with social skills and as children, have trouble in turn taking when playing and other aspects of developing socially. When autism is present as a comorbid disorder, the problems of social interaction become a problem. The good news is that ADHD sufferers have a sense of humor and their empathic qualities are not affected in any significant way. They are also hypersensitive in the emotional sense and this means they can be more caring and sensitive generally. There is even better news in that most of people’s success depends on their emotional intelligence and not on their paper qualifications.
9. They are actually good at sports.
People wrongly assume that because a lack of focus is part of ADHD, people with this disorder will never be any good at sport. But there are many sports where people with ADHD have excelled. Michael Phelps had ADHD as a child and has won more gold Olympic medals in swimming than anyone else in history. Generally, kids with ADHD do better at individual sports than team ones. As they have problems in following directions, paying attention and staying focused, this can result in problems in obeying rules and anticipating moves. Individual sports are much more suited to them and they can excel at martial arts, swimming, dance, and gymnastics.
10. They can do well at work.
Many people with ADHD have to face challenges at work, just like they had to do at school. In spite of all that, many people go on to have remarkably successful careers. The secret is to use as many aids as possible to reduce distractibility, boredom and procrastination. Making lists of points to cover complex projects before writing a report helps. Seeking a quiet space, when available, is an excellent idea. Also, using headphones with white noise to block out distracting noise is helpful. Planners, time-line charts and alerts can all help with time management. The best thing of all is that having a high energy level combined with the ability to multi-task can help many people with ADHD thrive at work.
11. They will not grow out of it.
A lot depends on how much treatment and loving care the child has while growing up. Assuming that this is a mere passing childhood phase is foolish. At the most, only about 20% to 33% of adults will outgrow it. How an adult copes successfully with ADHD in later life will mainly depend on whether they had a safe, supportive and loving home environment which provided them with the coping skills they needed. This will stand them in good stead when they reach adulthood. As a wise parent, you are preparing for the long haul.
12. They are not just hyperactive.
Most people associate ADHD with hyperactivity. But as most parents know, there are also other sub types such as the predominantly inattentive subtype. This is frequently undiagnosed because daydreaming at the back of the class rarely gets noticed. Losing things, forgetting tasks and being distracted by sounds or movements are the most common symptoms of this type of ADHD. Many girls discovered that they had this type of ADHD when they reached adulthood because nobody was sharp enough to notice while they were at school.
13. They are not getting an unfair advantage.
Special accommodations (504s and IEPs) exist for kids with ADHD and this is right. There are a wide range available such as extra breaks, special seating arrangements near the front of the class, buddy tutoring and quieter classrooms. Some schools allow them to have squeeze balls and to chew gum. Remaining focused, staying positive and learning are the key objectives in allowing these special arrangements and they should never be regarded as an unfair advantage. They are merely levelling the playing field a bit. Most parents ensure their ADHD children will be able to avail of these facilities.
14. They do not all have the same symptoms.
Many people just assume that ADHD is an overall term for the usual symptoms, whether they are boys or girls. The fact is that boys tend to get noticed more because they display more physical symptoms such as aggression, hitting and being more impulsive. Girls tend to have less noticeable symptoms such as inattention, day dreaming, low self-esteem and can be more verbal when they talk and tease all the time.
15. They should not be treated the same as other kids.
As most parents know, bringing up an ADHD child is an enormous challenge, especially as they themselves may have the same condition. Ignoring the problem or downgrading it are not going to help. Treating them like other kids is not helpful at all. ADHD kids are special but they can achieve great things if they are given the right opportunities. Parents need to talk openly to their kids about this mental difference so that they know what is ahead.
Above all, they need a loving, supportive, and enriched childhood and yes, it is going to be tough.
“Living with ADHD is like walking up a down escalator. You can get there eventually but the journey is exhausting.” – Kathleen Ely.
Featured photo credit: Tanisha’s first shoot/ Harsha K R via flickr.com