Sunday, January 20, 2013

ADHD has an image problem.

No, hear me out. It's not a physically debilitating condition. People who have it don't look as though there's anything wrong with them. There's no cure for it. It's just a thing you learn to live with, more or less successfully, or you don't.

You can't hold rallies for this. You can't build a walkathon around it. There are no rubber bracelets to wear and no bumper stickers for your car. It's almost a thing you're embarrassed to speak publicly about, because so many people are convinced it isn't real.

So where does that leave ADHDers? Stuck with a mental disorder they have to act like they don't have, if they want to be able to function in the society at large. Where does that leave parents of ADHDers? Unnaturally focused on school accommodations and obsessing over whether their child is alienating potential friends.

I'm not even sure how you could change the image problem, short of talking about ADHD a lot more, to everyone, to change people's perceptions. Which I already kind of do, since I make no secret of kiddo's condition. But there isn't much point in, say, a fundraiser. Who would you give the money to? The makers of Ritalin or Vyvanse? CHADD, maybe, but I'm a little bothered by the fact that they take money from drug companies. I know they're a well-intentioned group with some nice resources on their website, but ... I feel like a non-profit group ought to be funded by its members.

Look, I'm happy to be a one-person outreach program on ADHD but I feel like there ought to be some sort of ... something else. Some sort of larger movement, some sort of attempt to achieve a greater understanding. So that we're not all stuck in this permanent defensive pose. "My child has ADHD. Yes, it's a real disorder. No, it's not made up to excuse my lousy parenting. No, I'm not a lousy parent for medicating/not medicating my child. Yes, my child is entitled to extra time on classwork/preferential seating/fidget toys at his desk/occupational therapy. No, that does not give him an unfair advantage over his classmates. Yes, it is possible for him to to be smart and also have ADHD. And no, I don't feed my kid too much sugar. Thanks for playing."

As I type this (with an overtired kiddette curled into my shoulder), kiddo is building the latest in an endless series of elaborate Lego vehicles. The space shuttle didn't work out, apparently, so now he's trying a carnival truck. (Whatever that is.) He's so amazingly creative. But he's a square peg -- or possibly a trapezoid -- surrounded by round holes. He's never going to do well if people try to change him to fit the world around him.

Therefore, the world needs to change to fit him.


  1. You hit the nail on the head with this one. It doesn't help that about 20 years ago there was a huge ADHD bandwagon.

  2. Oh boo, I love you. And I LOVE your awesome son.

  3. “There's no cure for it. It's just a thing you learn to live with…” – There isn't a cure, but there are ways to help those with ADHD and ADD to cope. And we are more fortunate compared to earlier years because, nowadays, there are lots of schools and training programs available that have a proven solution for ADHD and ADD. These programs teach children with ADHD and ADD how to concentrate more and excel academically.

    Misty @

  4. I totally agree, Misty. I feel lucky that there are more resources now than there were a generation ago.