Often portrayed as the disorder of the hyperactive child that’s jumping off the couch, ADHD brings challenges that are much more impactful than the inability to sit still. Honestly, in my experience as a mom of a child with ADHD and as a psychologist that specializes in this disorder, that’s probably the least of my worries.
In this post, I want to unpack this disorder that is so often misdiagnosed (both over- and under-).
ONE BIG IDEA:
I will start by saying that ADHD is a disorder only in relation to other people, typically the
Despite everything that we use to diagnose, label, and treat ADHD, if we take it all apart,
you’ll see how these are not problems if the individual was alone on an island. ADHD
symptoms are not bothersome to ADHD people. They are creating problems when in relation
to non-ADHD people who are setting the rules for 80% of what’s going on at school, in the
workplace, and at home.
Next, we can go into some more traditional facts and then connect the dots. Here are the main clinical things I want you to know about this disorder:
- It’s a very complex brain functioning pattern, very different than a neurotypical brain
- There’s not one single factor that causes it
- It’s highly genetic (means one of the parents most likely has it)
- It’s a chronic condition, not totally changeable, but adjustable
- If treated properly (medication and coaching), difficulties are highly reduced
- It’s there at birth, but it’s often diagnosed in childhood, especially when they start school
- Early and consistent intervention makes a huge difference
- Unlike individuals with cognitive and other mental delays who have difficulties with basic functions and milestones such as walking, eating, taking care of themselves and require outside help, ADHD individuals have difficulties with a higher level of functioning.
WHAT IS HIGHER LEVEL OF FUNCTIONING?
ADHD’s long-term challenges are related to underdeveloped executive functioning skills that impact:
- working memory and prioritizing
- learning and processing speed
- adjusting to changes and cognitive flexibility
- stress management
- time management
- staying consistent in following steps to achieve long term goals
- lack of drive and internal motivation for things that don’t matter to the child (adult) but matter to everyone else
- poor social skills (saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people)
- self-awareness and self-monitoring
- high emotional sensitivity to not getting what they want
- emotional melt-downs
In the long run, the accumulation of these issues, untreated, can cause additional psychological diagnoses and problems such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse or dependence, an inability to hold a job, to sustain a healthy intimate relationship, and/or legal issues in a world of neurotypicals that handle all of these things completely differently.
MY TOP 5 RECOMMENDATIONS
ADHD is often misdiagnosed, either overly diagnosed in children that have similar behavioral symptoms but due to different psychological reasons, or underdiagnosed, because the child may not meet the “formal” diagnosis criteria and the subtle nuances of the disorder are missed or overlooked. Of course, like anything else, the symptoms could be mild, moderate or severe based on how much the impairment affects one’s life at home, school, or with peers.
If you suspect ADHD or if your child has already been diagnosed, these are my top 5 Recommendations:
1. Despite the stigma or feelings about it, don’t be afraid but do take action; do something about it!!!
2. Get a formal neuropsychological evaluation to identify a baseline of functioning, strengths, and challenges, and repeat every 3-4 years to see measure change and to adjust IEP/504 plans and therapeutic interventions.
3. Educate yourself on everything ADHD. The top evidence of therapeutic treatment is parent training. Shoot for consistent progress, not perfection.
4. Practice lots of self-care, take breaks from the kids, recharge your emotional availability, because being an ADHD coach takes a lot of energy.
5. Try to adopt a positive mindset and give positive feedback twice as much as constructive criticism. ADHD kids collect A LOT of negative vibes throughout the day. They need someone to fill their emotional bucket with positive vibes, love, and hugs.
Dealing with a child with ADHD is not always easy, but it doesn’t need to steal all the joy from your life. The important takeaway I want you to have from this post is that you are not alone. If you have a child that has ADHD, I urge you to get the help you need for yourself and your child. If you need to talk to someone, I’m more than happy to discuss strategies and point you in the right direction to build a team of providers! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a private practice psychologist in Litchfield Park, Arizona with experience in family therapy, ADHD, stress and anxiety management, and executive coaching. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage. Click HERE to check out her free resources on effective communication, emotional unavailability, intimacy, and anxiety management or join her at www.ruxandralemay.com for monthly blog posts