We need to stop asking if ADHD is real. Why? Because the question itself matters more than you might think.
A few years ago, my husband and I made plans (read: we scrambled to find childcare, money and time) to attend a parenting event in our area.
The speaker was touted as being one of the best at encouraging dads in their journey, as they parent out of the box kids.
About 20 minutes into the presentation, the speaker brought up the topic of ADHD.
Then the rant began.
ADHD isn’t even a real diagnosis.
Doctors use information that is school based which means the diagnosis must be an excuse to help kids fit in at school, not an actual difference in the brain that can be diagnosed across all circumstances.
ADHD is a way to make boys feel bad about not being girls.
ADHD is really, just an excuse for poorly behaved children.
My husband and I left in the middle of it, angry and discouraged.
This wasn’t the first time I heard it. It certainly wouldn’t be the last.
In fact, one of the common google searches that refers parents to my site is the same question.
Is ADHD real? Or is it just an excuse?
If you parent a child with ADHD, you already know the answer.
You know the answer and yet, you still feel the sense of shame, blame and frustration.
We want to help our children. We have done our best to navigate their needs, public displays, and social differences. We’ve spent years feeling like it’s out fault, trying this reward chart and that discipline technique, and smiling apologetically at the teacher, the stern man in the grocery store, and the gal behind the desk at the pediatrician’s office.
We know, without a doubt. This is real. It is not an excuse, but sometimes, it feels like the world wants it to be.
My son was formally diagnosed with ADHD two years ago, in the same week he received several other diagnoses. At the time, ADHD seemed like the least of our concerns.
In fact, I spent a year wondering how to proceed with his ADHD diagnosis, because I was so fearful of the backlash.
Let me say it another way…
It was easier for me to accept my son’s chronic, life threatening illness diagnosis than it was ADHD – all because of the constant questions and judgement I felt every time it came up.
It seems silly now, but at the time, it made sense.
He is homeschooled. We don’t have to accommodate him in a classroom. He doesn’t need an ADHD diagnosis. He just needs to move.
In hindsight, I can see that denying this reality did not help my son, as we sought to treat and understand his differences.
But the question was still there, lurking all along.
Is ADHD Real?
Yes, it is.
Without a doubt, there is a cultural desire to blame parents for their children’s differences and behavioral disturbances. I think this is what drives this type of questioning and judgement.
The truth is, I wish my son’s ADHD was something that had anything to do with me and my actions.
If ADHD isn’t real and I caused this difference, through lack of discipline, too much discipline, too much screen time, too many dyes or additives in his diet and spoiling him, then I could change my behavior and it would affect his.
Like most parents of children with ADHD, we didn’t come by this diagnosis easily, nor willingly. We tried a million things. From the time he was 18 months old and climbing up on the kitchen table, to last week, when he couldn’t keep track of all of the things he wanted to do, we have changed the environment, the supports, the diets, and the discipline in any way we know how. The one thing that remains constant is ADHD.
Don’t take my word for it. Please, consider the facts.
Important Facts About ADHD
ADHD is not a new disorder.
ADHD isn’t a disorder of the modern age. It may have been first described in the medical literature in 1763 by Scottish physician Sir Arthur Crichton, who observed patients so unable to focus that “the barking of dogs, an ill-tuned organ, or the scolding of women, are sufficient to distract patients of this description to such a degree, as almost approaches to the nature of delirium.” Those patients, he noted, referred to their own symptoms, including anger “bordering on insanity,” as “the fidgets.” – Denise Foley, Time Magazine
ADHD, despite a few popular blog posts, exists around the world in the same approximate percentages of the population. This is true even in countries with much cleaner diets, and/or little to no access to screens or the information overload we often blame as a cause for ADHD.
ADHD is almost exclusively genetic with as many as 85% of diagnoses in families with existing ADHD features and symptoms. (This rate is incidentally, second only to autism.)
Brain scans show distinct differences in the brains of children and adults with ADHD versus their neuro-typical counterparts.
Why We Need To Stop Asking If ADHD Is Real
Perhaps this is the most important fact of all.
Ignoring these truths about ADHD devastates our children.
The average ADHD-afflicted child has one to two negative interactions per minute with the people in their lives. What that means is that most of these kids’ interactions with other people are negative. – William Pelham, director of the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University who has authored or co-authored more than 300 papers on ADHD.
As adults, people with ADHD are five times more likely to speed and three times more likely to have their licenses revoked than other people. They’re more likely to experience accidental injuries—burns, poisoning, traffic accidents, all kinds of trauma—than other people. In fact, having ADHD makes you three times more likely to be dead by the age of 45. – Russell Barkley, author of Taking Charge of ADHD
My child has ADHD.
I need to stop spending so much time defending, explaining and questioning his diagnosis.
I need to spend time learning more about it and helping him live with it, and live with it well.
I invite you to join me.