I have been working with children for many years now and if you asked me what issues I see them the most for, my answer would be ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and related behavioral problems. The typical age that a child is diagnosed with ADHD is somewhere between five to eight, which means, at the time the behaviors interfere with the child’s learning at school. Although there is a lot of information out there about ADHD, some misconceptions still persist. In this post, I will try to clarify some of them.
- Myth: ADHD is just a lack of willpower. Persons with ADHD focus well on things that interest them.
- FACT: ADHD is essentially a mental disorder with strong biological components. It is not a matter of willpower or desire, but a matter of ability.
- Myth: ADHD is simply a label for behavior problems; children with ADHD just refuse to sit still and are unwilling to listen to teachers or parents.
- FACT: Three major symptoms of ADHD, namely “inattention”, “hyperactivity” and ” impulsivity” cause some problematic behaviors that impede learning, concentration and social interactions. That in return reduces the person’s chance for positive experience at home and in school.
- Myth: ADHD is a childhood disorder and children usually outgrow it as they enter their teens.
- FACT: Most people do not outgrow ADHD magically. They continue to struggle with the disorder, however the symptoms might be different. For example, hyperactivity tends to diminish in time. Inattention, on the other hand, may be disabling the adult with ADHD without proper self-management skills in place.
- Myth: Medication for ADHD is likely to cause substance abuse or other health concerns, especially when used by children.
- FACT: Research shows that there is no indication that taking stimulant medication leads to substance abuse/addiction. For more information please click here to read an article from ADDitude magazine.
- Myth: ADHD does not cause much damage and is not really a big deal.
- FACT: Untreated, people with ADHD typically struggle in all areas of life. This disorder severly impairs learning, family life, education and social interactions. Many experts agree that an adequate treatment should consist of medication and psychotherapy simultaneously in order for the person with ADHD to learn self-management skills.
To my observation, a big dilemma for parents with children with ADHD is whether they should “medicate” their kids. This is certainly not an easy call. Some parents first try to manage the situation by structuring their home life, which is quite helpful. In school, they cooperate with teachers to help them find the best behavior management system for their offspring. However, in severe cases, medication is necessary along with all these strategies mentioned above. If you closely work with the prescribing physician (your PCP, pediatrician or a child psychiatrist) to find the right type of medication and the dosage, your child will be able to be successful in school, to have a better sense of self and to develop better social skills. However, remember, it is not the medication per se, but the effect of medication on the child’s brain to use his/her executive functions combined with a series of “skill-building” in therapy that makes the difference. A child with ADHD using medication is more able to listen, take in, observe, make connections & inferences and conclude. Therefore, such a diagnosis is not the end, but rather the beginning of a course of action that you need to consider to take to help your child blossom to be who she/he could be.