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Myths about ADHD abound on the internet. Memes out there about our kids being drugged and childhood not being a disease or mental disorder are enough to make the mom of a special needs child want to scream. I get so angered by article after article that seem to suggest the following:
Kids are diagnosed with ADHD because we are expecting them to sit still and not letting them play enough.
While changes to our educational system no doubt make things harder for kids in general, this is such a gross over-simplification. Myths like these downplay the reality of this diagnosis. I’ve had enough.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is real. It is life-altering and all-encompassing. Just because some children are misdiagnosed or over-diagnosed does not invalidate the fact that there are children out there (and their families) whose lives are deeply impacted by this diagnosis: all day, every day.
So, here are 11 things ADHD is not:
1. ADHD is not a made-up excuse for bad behavior.
2. ADHD is not caused by poor parenting or a lack of discipline. You can’t spank it or reprimand it out of a child.
3. ADHD is not caused by children being forced into classrooms, not spending enough time outside, or not being allowed to play.
4. ADHD is not simply a by-product of modern culture or a “war on boys.”
5. ADHD is not something that anybody and everybody has when they cannot focus or flit from one thing to another. No you are not “soooo ADD” because you can’t focus today.
6. ADHD is not simply the inability to sit still. It can’t be cured by giving kids more chance to move around in school.
7. ADHD is not caused by too much sugar, gluten, or chemicals. These things can make it worse depending on the child, but they are not the cause. It can’t be cured by essential oils, restrictive diets, or supplements. It can be “managed” through medication and behavioral therapy; and a good diet always helps. But it is, fundamentally, a genetic problem that exists within the brain.
8. ADHD is not the same for every child. It doesn’t present the same way in every child. Some are hyperactive. Some are inattentive. Some are both.
9. ADHD is not a disorder that just boys have. Girls have it too.
10. ADHD does not just effect a child’s ability to focus in school. It’s a 24/7 thing that can disrupt sleep, emotional regulation skills, executive functioning, planning skills, and so much more.
11. ADHD is not a label that ruins a child’s life. It is a diagnosis that opens the doors to educational, therapeutic, and medical supports and accommodations.
So, do this mama a favor:
The next time you are tempted to share a meme or an internet article about how “back in my day” kids were allowed to be kids instead of being given a behavioral diagnosis and “drugged,” stop. Please, just stop. Go find a parent of an ADHD child and actually talk to them. Get to know them and their child. Spend some time truly trying to understand this diagnosis (and treatment) before propagating myths and misinformation.