It’s Back-to-School Season: Has Your Child Been Diagnosed, Treated?
It’s back-to-school time and that means that many kids, particularly those who struggled in school last year, are really wishing that summer would never end. A lot of these kids have either attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), a learning disability (LD), or both. But not everyone who has the conditions has been diagnosed, and not […]
It’s back-to-school time and that means that many kids, particularly those who struggled in school last year, are really wishing that summer would never end. A lot of these kids have either attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), a learning disability (LD), or both. But not everyone who has the conditions has been diagnosed, and not everyone who has been diagnosed is getting the academic support she or he needs — and that means that going to school is not something to look forward to! I’d like to think that it doesn’t have to be that way.
For starters, if you are a parent or a teacher who is seeing a student struggle in school and there is any question in your mind, please get them evaluated! It seems like such an obvious thing, but it’s amazing how many children remain untested and spend their entire school career in misery, constantly being dealt the “Sarah is so smart, if only she applied herself” card. What an unfortunate conclusion to make!
In my years of speaking on the subject, I’ve found that there is a disheartening pit that some adults fall into regarding their young people with ADD/ADHD: They willfully ignore the fact that a student or child may have ADD/ADHD. Case in point: At a summer youth conference some time back, I was asked to lead a workshop about ADD/ADHD. I happily obliged sharing personal experiences and talking about the symptoms, the highs and the lows of having ADD/ADHD. After the workshop, I was approached by a teenage girl who was visibly distressed.
“For years, I’ve experienced what you described today,” she said. “After my teachers confronted me about my struggles in class, I told my parents, but my dad wouldn’t listen.” In spite of the teachers’ concerns and the girl’s own belief that she needed help, he wouldn’t get her tested, afraid of her getting an official ADD/ADHD diagnosis and then being stuck with the lifelong label. He came up with all kinds of explanations for her symptoms, except the one that made the most sense — that his daughter did in fact have ADD/ADHD. Although his reaction was misguided, I do understand why he might have felt the way he did. Parents want their kids to excel and be the best. The general perception is usually that those who are different or special face a much harder road. In the case of ADD/ADHD, those with the condition are often pigeonholed as distractible, disorganized, lazy, and disruptive, making them less socially accepted and putting them at risk for being misfits or outsiders. With all that in mind, the girl’s father may have had good intentions but unfortunately, he was hurting her in the long run. How could the girl even begin to overcome her challenges without first identifying them and second, getting support from the people closest to her? She couldn’t of course!
Pretending an issue, any issue, does not exist will not make it go away, nor does it give you the opportunity to help a person overcome their struggles. The best way that father — or anyone whose child is struggling with undiagnosed and untreated ADD/ADHD and LD — could help his daughter would be to become educated about ADD/ADHD and LD, about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments. Those who buy into the many myths about ADD/ADHD might be surprised by the information they find. In case you are concerned about unnecessarily medicating children, remember this: The best treatment for ADD/ADHD is multimodal. There are plenty of options and a diagnosis does not have to mean giving a child medication. A comprehensive ADD/ADHD treatment plan includes some combination of special accommodations at school; behavioral training for the child (and the parent); education about ADD/ADHD for classmates, teachers, and parents; medications; and alternative treatments.
Failure to accept that your student or child might have ADD/ADHD or LD limits the possible positive outcomes of understanding the condition, such as learning how to harness its positive characteristics.