Monday, February 1, 2010

ADHD and defensive parenting......

As I've mentioned before, Eli is ADHD (I prefer IS to HAS.... HAS sounds like a disease, IS just..... IS). He was diagnosed in August of 2008 after a lengthy evaluation process which included a child psychologist and pediatrician. After his diagnosis, I went through all of the classic symptoms of grief..... anger, bargaining and acceptance and in the end did a LOT of research.... and I mean a LOT. I feel like I know more about ADHD than most general practitioners. I even feel a bit silly that I grieved in the first place.... after all, what did I lose?? Nothing.... I still have my son. He is still Eli.... he's just a little different than other kids in a more definable way... and I gained a LOT from his assessment. I gained Knowledge, knowledge about Eli and how his brain works. It was as close to an instruction manual as I'm ever going to get..... Do I like his label??? I don't actually care about it much, everyone has a label... the smart one, the pretty one, the successful one, the tall one, the short one, the fast one, the slow one, the writer, the dreamer, the musician, the clown, the athletic one, the clumsy one ..... the list is endless.... why should he be different??? What I do care about, is other people's ignorance. The judgement that is inherent when someone learns about Eli's ADHD. It's usually not obvious, most people are politically correct... but somewhere in the conversation over-diagnosis and medication are inevitably brought up (bringing up the fact that Eli *might* be one of those). So much of what we know (and I'm not just talking about ADHD) is based on the media.... I was guilty of it. I also thought ADHD was being over diagnosed and over medicated. In fact only 3-7% of children are diagnosed with ADHD.... in comparison, up to 8% of the American population is diagnosed with Diabetes (and that number is growing due to obesity). No one questions diabetes as an "real" illness or thinks that diabetes is caused by bad parenting. No one questions the need for insulin for Diabetes. It is just is. ADHD does not get that same respect, mostly because there is no black and white test for ADHD.... and medical treatment for ADHD, in particular, is a hot topic. I felt negatively about medication pre-diagnosis and research. Now that I now how the medication works... I feel differently. Ritalin and other forms of ADHD medications are stimulants (some work differently and I'm not getting into that... I'm just over generalizing here to make this post somewhat shorter). This may seem like an odd choice to prescribe to a person who is "hyperactive", but once you understand a little of how the brain of ADHD works.... it makes sense...... A main "cause" of ADHD can be traced to dopamine receptors in the brain (Dopamine is the brain's reward regulator.... IE: Self control). Usually there is a lack of dopamine or the dopamine that is produced is not being used by the brain effectively. Stimulants help the brain to absorb and/or produce more dopamine which has the effect of calming the brain..... in essence, a person without ADHD will be stimulated by stimulant drugs like Ritalin (how many stories have you heard about overworked mom's getting into their children's ADHD meds??), while a person WITH ADHD will be calmer and more able to focus.... and to more importantly.... exhibit SELF CONTROL (ADHD is essentially an impulse control issue, not the attention issue as it defined as). I'm not saying medication is the be-all-end-all of controlling ADHD, but used in conjunction with consistency, structure, exercise and a healthy diet, it can make all the difference...... it can "clear the fog" (Eli said he felt smarter when he first started meds.... a little scary for me LOL, he was diagnosed as being gifted at the same time as his ADHD diagnosis.... he said his brain slowed down enough that he could think more clearly) enough to help a child learn strategies to deal with their ADHD issues and hopefully, hopefully will continue to be another tool in my toolbox to help to shape Eli into a valuable, contributing member of society.

PS.... on re-reading this, I realize that there is no definable "point" to this post..... I was just "feeling" the need to say all of this today after a conversation with a friend.... hence, the defensive parenting title.....

PPS.... Statistics for Diabetes are from the American Diabetes Association. Statistics for ADHD are from the Center for Disease Control (and other ADHD sources)


  1. We are all special in some way, most never get the opportunity to find out why or how they are special. Eli and you have found one way that he is special, being differernt than others. No big deal, because everyone is special. I have a couple of employees that are ADHD, and as long as they are open about it and we remember that they may need to be told something more often than someone else, or to write it down no problems. They are still great people, just different and special in their own way.
    And every mother that i respect is very defensive about their kids, makes moms special too.

  2. As you may or may not know, my son is also ADHD (and learning disabled and of above average intelligence as is so often the case). I hear every word you are saying.
    My sister was on a ill-informed anti-meds rant (not knowing that he takes them daily)so I took him off his meds for one day (we were staying with her), the next day I gave him his meds as usual. She immediately noticed how much calmer he was. I told her why and she has never said another word.

  3. As I'm sure you know, one of the big advantages of ADHD is that when they DO find something to focus on, their focus is incredible. My husband is ADHD and now has a PhD - found a field he loved and went for it. His parents used to despair that he'd ever even graduate high school (this was in the 1980s). They're just not great when they have to multitask! I think ADHD when handled the right way (including meds when necessary) is not necessarily a disability, just a different (and often very successful, especially in adult life) way of going about life.