One of the pages on the ADHD Awareness Week - September 13-17, 2010 site is Myths About ADHD. The article, originally from Attitude Magazine, describes seven common myths. My two favorites (italics are mine):
Myth #5: ADHD is the result of bad parenting. When a child with ADHD blurts things out or gets out of his seat in class, it’s not because he hasn’t been taught that these behaviors are wrong. It’s because he cannot control his impulses. The problem is rooted in brain chemistry, not discipline. In fact, overly strict parenting— which may involve punishing a child for things he can’t control— can actually make ADHD symptoms worse. Professional interventions, such as drug therapy, psychotherapy, and behavior modiﬁcation therapy, are usually required.Both sites have links to a downloadable poster you can use to educate the misinformed.
Myth #6: Children who take ADHD medication are more likely to abuse drugs when they become teenagers.
Actually, it’s just the opposite. Having untreated ADHD increases the risk that an individual will abuse drugs or alcohol. Appropriate treatment reduces this risk. The medications used to treat ADHD have been proven safe and effective over more than 50 years of use. These drugs don’t cure ADHD, but they are highly effective at easing symptoms of the disorder. The drugs do not turn kids into addicts or zombies.
Pediatrician Claudia Gold, M.D. expresses her concern about the common belief that medication without psychotherapy is sufficient to treat ADHD - With Psychiatric Drugs as an Option, Motivation may be Lost. I often see the results of this belief in my practice. Many of the children and teens with ADHD I see come to me after being on medication for several years as their only treatment. Their parents generally have little understanding of how ADHD affects their child beyond problems paying attention in school. Some have taken their child off medication because it hasn't "worked." Others are frustrated that their child still has academic and behavior problems despite being on medication. Unfortunately, both groups may blame their child for "not trying hard enough."
Let me be clear. I don't blame parents for their uneducated beliefs and misguided attempts to help their children. It's not surprising that parents are influenced by our contradictory cultural beliefs that drugs are the answer to everything or that all these children need is better discipline. Last year for ADHD Awareness Month, I wrote about the child's point of view in The Question ADHD Kids Dread Most and how their parents' frustrations can lead to parent-child conflict and more problems.
Teachers are another group who can use more education. Joan Teach at ADHD and School Success writes about the child with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity) in the classroom--what it was like for her as a student, and what teachers can do to help in I’m In Your Classroom. Don’t Forget Me! She notes:
This child doesn’t make waves, appears somewhat spacey, not intellectually prone, seldom speaks up when called upon, and may not participate or turn in homework. You may be observing the youngster with the inattentive form of ADHD that is more difficult to diagnose.Her description of herself as a child provides insight into the experience of the struggling, undiagnosed child. As a teacher today, she give specific tips teachers can use to help these children with memory, organization, and writing assignments.
Let's not get caught up in the either-or debate on medication vs. psychological treatment, or placing the blame on children, parents, or schools. It takes medical, psychological, and educational interventions along with parent education to make the difference for many children with ADD or ADHD. Here are some great resources for understanding the effects of ADHD on children and adults and what all of us can do to help: