It’s unfortunate that the last “D” in ADHD is “disorder.” One of my sons was diagnosed with ADHD when he was in 4th grade and once my husband and I knew this we started reading up on the subject and have been able to help him and our family in so many ways. Defining “it” helped us because we learned about behavior and coping strategies, but I do agree that if you tell your child he/she has a “disorder” he/she may become stigmatized. There are softer ways of telling your child what his personality is and what his positive and negative characteristics are.
I can’t afford the sanity points it would cost me to listen to that radio piece, but here’s what I can say about my experience with ADHD:
Growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, my brother was constantly losing and forgetting things. One time he borrowed my bike — and lost it. His room and backpack were always a mess. He was constantly yelled at and punished for these things. Other kids thought he was weird. In retrospect, he obviously had ADHD, but he just thought he was a bad, worthless kid. Ritalin was available back then, and there isn’t a day when I don’t wonder how much better my brother’s childhood might have been if someone had had the insight and courage to let him try it.
My son today is a lot like my brother was then, except that he takes Concerta. He still forgets things and makes mistakes, his room is still a mess, but he gets his homework done and doesn’t misplace things like, for example, bicycles. He gets pretty good grades and has a big group of nice, nerdy friends who all know he has ADHD. He gets teased (in a friendly way) a lot more about his hair than about the ADHD.
It’s entirely possible that in a different culture and environment, ADHD might be less of a problem than it is here and now. But, after seeing the difference medication has made for my son and our entire family, I get really mad when I see people implying that it’s somehow caused by parenting or teaching style.
Well said, Virginia! I had ADD problems as a kid, like your brother, and was routinely punished and belittled for them both at school and home. Over the course of many years I developed a secondary anxiety problem because of this. I’m 43, so ADD wasn’t really known or understood when I was young and could have benefitted from treatment or at least empathy. Two of my 3 kids have ADD (one type i–inattentive–and one mixed type), and between their experiences and my own attentional struggles, I don’t bother to listen anymore to people who claim this is all poor parenting or teaching. I know better.
Having said that…
For work once I interviewed doctors and researchers about depression, and when I asked one if it’s over- or underdiagnosed, he said, “Oddly, I think some of both.” Some people who don’t really have clinical depression are being treated for it, he said, while others go untreated who truly are beyond normal range and need professional help. I think the same is true today of kids & ADD. Many are probably inappropriately medicated (when really they have a mood problem; are chornically sleep and/or exercise deprived–hello excessive homework!; etc.), while others for whom treatment would be appropriate and potentially life-changing are not getting it. None of this negates ADD as a “real” condition.
Kerry, I’m finally reading Hallowell’s Delivered from Distraction, and he argues that the first “D” is unfair, too, as it’s more about wandering attention than a blanket “deficit.” If you’ve seen your son hyerfocusing in areas of interest–very common w/me and my boys!–you know what he means. Schools, unfortunately, haven’t progressed much in leveraging the passions of the ADD mind.
I have ADD. I think it’s incredibly stupid that they medicate us like it’s some sort of problem. Do we medicate people with blond hair because they aren’t like the rest of us? “You horrible person, your hair is lighter than ours!” Is ADD dangerous? Do little kids need to be zombified by medications?