When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, ADHD was what the “naughty” kids had. It was very much seen as a behavioural problem, characterised by hyperactivity and inappropriate behaviour.
Now I am faced with the possibility that one of my own children has this disorder, I have battled my own perceptions of ADHD and the stigma that surrounds it.
As we navigate the assessment process I have become much more aware of the characteristics and complexities of ADHD.
Here are some things I have learned ADHD is definitely NOT:
- A behavioural problem or bad parenting
- Only about hyperactivity
- A sign that someone is stupid or lazy
- A life limiting condition
- Able to be diagnosed by a GP
Here are some things I have learned ADHD actually IS:
1. A medical disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder to be exact. There is evidence that the ADHD brain is “wired” differently to a neurotypical brain. As a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), it requires comprehensive assessment by a trained mental health professional for diagnosis.
2. Not just about hyperactivity. There are actually 3 distinct presentations of ADHD:
- Combined inattentive & hyperactive-impulsive
There is a great summary of each presentation here.
3. About executive functioning. These are the skills that help us plan, organize, remember things, prioritise, pay attention and get started on tasks. People with ADHD find many of these things difficult.
4. Reasonably common. It is estimated that 11% of Australian children have ADHD, with almost twice as many boys as girls being diagnosed. However there is speculation that girls may be under diagnosed – particularly those with “inattentive” type ADHD.
5. Able to be managed in ways other than medication. Treatments such as behaviour therapy, psychotherapy, social skills, behavioural interventions and support groups can all be beneficial. Medication definitely plays a role but isn’t a “magic fix”.
6. Considered an asset by many! This article provides an interesting perspective. And did you know a lot of famous and successful people have achieved great things with ADHD? They include Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking, Michael Jordan and so many more. Check out this awesome TED Talk by ADHD Advocate Jessica McCabe.
Other Helpful Resources:
- What does ADHD Look Like? – Kids Matter
- ADHD Australia
- National Resource Center on ADHD: A Program of CHADD
- Child Mind Institute
- Debunking ADHD & Autism Myths & Misinformation