By Elizabeth Christmas, LCSW, LCAC, Courier & Press, March 24, 2017 –
Rumor has it … ADHD is nothing more than an excuse for lazy, irresponsible behavior, poor parenting and “drugging” children in place of discipline and self-control.
The truth is … ADHD is a medical condition, and medication along with therapy can effectively manage symptoms.
In every situation, the best solution involves parents, physician and child collaborating, with feedback from teachers and therapist to decide the best course of treatment.
Clinical ADHD involves symptoms such as:
- Frequently makes careless mistakes, skips over, loses things
- Easily distracted, difficulty following directions
- Unorganized, doesn’t finish tasks
- Avoids or procrastinates tasks that require sustained effort
- Can’t sit still
- Runs/climbs at inappropriate times/places
- Talks excessively/loudly
- Extremely impatient/can’t wait turn
- “Driven by a motor”
- Blurts out/interrupts/intrudes
Sometimes anxiety, effects of trauma or immaturity are misdiagnosed as ADHD. Practitioners should only diagnose ADHD when symptoms persist for at least six months and impair functioning at school and home.
Boys are identified younger and more often due to more commonly presenting with hyperactive or impulsive symptoms; girls often go undiagnosed longer due to mostly inattentive symptoms.
ADHD affects the brain’s ability to learn and perform but also leads to social/emotional struggles. Day after day these kids unsuccessfully try to keep up with “average brain” expectations.
Frustration and low self-esteem trigger misbehavior that’s intended to distract from “below average” performance. Overall classroom productivity declines. Self-control is more difficult, but ADHD isn’t an excuse.
Dr. Ned Hallowell describes it this way, “It’s like your brain has the motor of a race car (powerful, fast, capable of enormous success) but with bicycle brakes.” Imagine trying to stop a powerful, fast moving racecar with the brakes of a bicycle. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, there is hope for “strengthening” the brakes. Research shows best practice is medication and therapy.
If your child is struggling with ADHD, or if you’ve sought help before that didn’t work, don’t quit. Contact your physician to discuss concerns. Consult the teacher, principal, social worker and any other valuable resources available.
They can provide diagnostic questionnaires, letters describing symptoms, referrals for treatment and encouragement. The sooner these issues are treated, the more positive the outcomes.
According to Dr. Alan Wachtel, psychiatrist and ADHD expert, “Untreated ADHD is among the most debilitating disorders to live with. Risks include: academic (failing, suspension and dropout), social (risky behavior) and emotional (anxiety/depression) problems. These issues follow a person into adulthood impacting job performance, marital/family relationships (2 times more likely to divorce), mental health and automobile safety. (Research shows untreated ADHD teens are more likely to destroy a vehicle than a drunk adult driver). Children with ADHD who are not treated are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.”
Wachtel goes on to say, “If left untreated, adolescents will self-medicate. There is a 100 percent increased risk of substance abuse among this group of teens. Teens who self-medicate (typically progresses from tobacco to alcohol to marijuana to cocaine — all create focus for ADHD brain) will become calm and centered enough to read a book or concentrate on a task. Why wouldn’t they continue?”
Ask yourself, what are the risks of medicating my child? But don’t stop there. You must also ask, what are the risks if I don’t?