ADHD Myths & Facts

What NOT to Say to the Parent of a Child with ADHD

Despite iron-clad medical evidence to the contrary, ADHD is still considered by many to be nothing more than poor parenting, too much screen time, or a parental excuse for lack of discipline. Not so. If you know someone who is parenting a child with ADHD, here are 10 untruths and misperceptions you just shouldn’t repeat.

A parent and child with ADHD have fun with hair curlers and sunglasses
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Enough Is Enough

When you’re doing the best you can raising your child with ADHD, it can be frustrating to hear misinformed comments from well-meaning friends, relatives, and even total strangers. Here are the top 10 insensitive remarks and myths about ADHD that parents hear far too frequently.

ADHD is NOT just an excuse for bad parenting.
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ADHD is just an excuse for bad parenting.

We’ve all heard the judgmental whispers: “Why can’t they control their child?” “I’d never let my child do that.” ADHD is a medical neurological condition that can cause very real behavioral problems that parents and children struggle with every day. Comparing the behavior of children with ADHD to that of their neuro-typical peers is unproductive and insensitive. 

Not all children outgrow ADHD symptoms
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He’ll outgrow it.

ADHD isn’t just a “growing pain,” and there’s no guarantee that symptoms will improve as a child ages. In fact, up to two-thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to struggle with the condition into adulthood.

[Quiz: ADHD Myth or ADHD Reality? Check the Facts About ADHD.]

Kids with ADHD do not have an unfair advantage with school accommodations
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ADHD kids have an unfair advantage at school.

The school accommodations outlined in 504 Plans and IEPs level the playing field for a child who is struggling in school due to ADHD and/or learning disabilities. The law guarantees that these services are made available to students who need them; don’t let misinformed comments stop you from getting your child the tutoring, extra time, or classroom attention she needs.

Kids with ADHD are not just troublemakers
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She’s just a troublemaker.

Spanking and other harsh punishments are actually counterproductive on children with ADHD who struggle to sit still, keep quiet, or adhere to strict rules. Traditional types of discipline don't work when the behavior stems from a neurological condition beyond the child's control, so parents (and teachers) may have to try new approaches like behavior therapy and positive parenting.

ADHD is NOT caused by too much TV
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ADHD is caused by too much TV.

Nope. There is no evidence to support a link between television (or video games or smart phones) and ADHD. In fact, plenty of children who watch no TV at all are diagnosed with attention deficit. More and more research points to a genetic connection.

ADHD is not being "just a little hyper"
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She’s just a little hyper.

If only. While hyperactivity is a highly visible, trademark symptom of some ADHD, other manifestations — like impulsivity and inattention — are nearly impossible for strangers to see but seriously impact a child's day-to-day life.

[“Is ADHD Real?” How to Respond to Doubters with Tact and Facts]

ADHD is not a new diagnosis
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No one had ADHD when I was a kid.

The term may be new, but the phenomenon is not — many of us diagnosed with ADHD now would have once been called lazy, stupid, or incapable of learning — or even diagnosed with a "Defect of Moral Control."


Sugar does not cause ADHD, though it may aggravate symptoms
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It’s probably just too much sugar.

While symptoms may be aggravated by too many sweets, sugar cannot cause ADHD. Some parents report seeing no difference at all in their child’s ADHD symptoms, even when they completely cut out sugar.

Most parents labor over the decision to use ADHD medication on their child
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Parents are too quick to medicate.

The decision to medicate is between a family and its doctor, and it isn’t made lightly by anyone. Parents usually turn to medication only after changes in eating habits, supplements, and other behavioral modifications have proven ineffective.


Myths about ADHD in children - 'more exercise' alone is rarely enough to combat symptoms
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He just needs to work out his energy.

Well-meaning — but woefully misinformed — observers often think kids with ADHD just need to be “tired out,” and finding the right activity will solve all the child’s problems. Unfortunately, soccer or paint ball can’t control ADHD symptoms — only proper treatment can.

[How to Silence ADHD Naysayers]

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