Just because someone said your child has ADD/HD does not make it so. There are many things that can cause a child to be irritated, hyper, act out, have meltdowns and be inattentive. In the email and posts that I get, often the sender tells me that there is at least one other diagnosis involved. Something which has its own list of symptoms and issues.
In my first book, I spoke of how ADD should have been called C.I.S. (Cultural Inconvenience Syndrome) because it seemed our rush to medicate had to do with the cultural inconvenience of it as much as anything else. But in this day and age, instead of ADD we should just call it ADD-On because it seems that either it is consistently added on to or it is an add on for something else, which really muddies the waters as to what really just is plain ol’ simple ADD- ADHD or as I now call it, ADD/HD.
Over my next several blogs, I am going to review the common list of observable issues and discuss some of the other factors that one might want to consider as well as some solutions.
Impact and exacerbate are two of my favorite words when talking about ADD/HD issues and solutions. First let’s look at “impact.” When we understand that the ADD/HD, in and of itself, creates impacts that must be understood to be worked with in order to capitalize on the gifts and managed in order to minimize the issues. Second is understanding how outside influences exacerbate the issues creating the illusion that the ADD/HD itself is “unmanageable.”
Let me give you an example of that illusion. Let’s say that “Betsy” has an allergic reaction to the laundry detergent that her mother uses. Depending on which clothes she wears on each day, as the morning goes on she fidgets more. Betsy has mentioned a couple of time that her skin gets kind of itchy and her mother will put lotion on it which helps, but she tries not to ask too often because Mom is always so busy and needs all the help she can get from Betsy because she is a single parent, so Betsy has just adjusted to it. Betsy is a bright girl and she is increasingly finding that she is one or two steps ahead of her teacher and sometimes she is so busy trying to figure out where what that next step is beyond that she looses track of what the teacher is saying. In her household , one of her older brothers has a trigger temper and sees it as challenging and disrespectful if she stares them in the eye, so she has a habit of looking down and being somewhat submissive because she doesn’t want to get yelled at, although she is outgoing by nature. Betsy also has reached a place where she has a really hard time finishing her homework. After the first few problems, which are behind where her brain has already gone, she just can’t seem to make herself do the rest because she is either eager to learn what is next or to do something else which engages her or challenges her. Also Betsy has “bunches of stuff” that she is suppose to take care of and though her mother has explained why it is important, it seems like it’s only important to her mother. And though Betsy loves her mother and wants to please her, her mother never tells her why it’s important for Betsy or given her reasons, other than yelling at her if its not done, as to why to do it, so Betsy keeps forgetting.
Some mornings Betsy gets what her mother sees as a good for her breakfast and some days she gets what she wants for breakfast and no one has quite noticed that Betsy has worse days when she gets to have one of her Betsy breakfasts. Even when everything goes right Betsy is still going to be disruptive or space out when the class is not keeping her engaged. She is always going to have energy on the high side, curious, not like mindless memorization or repetitive, in nature homework. She might isolate a bit because even though she knows the answers she doesn’t always know how to put the answers in the format that people want them so she doesn’t get credit for what she knows.
Is Betsy ADD/HD or just bright, curious and a bit rebellious with some underlying issues? Is Betsy ADD/HD and quite manageable if the other factors were better managed? How much of what’s going on in Betsy’s life would really get addressed by medication or just covered up? By focusing Betsy’s brain through medication, is some of what is being cut out part of her creativity and brilliance? It often is. If part of what makes her distracted is the slow pace of the presentation of the information, her intense curiosity, and her impatience at being bored, is there some truth to the old adage that we are drugg’em up to dumb’em down so that they will pay attention?
You may want to say that the Betsy’s are few and far between, or that it’s foolish to think that the laundry detergent could be one of the contributing factors, but the Betsy’s are much more common, in the pure ADD/HD world, and you might have one. For your “Betsy,” maybe it is not laundry detergent but rather diet, lighting, chemicals, or metal exposure through air, water, immunizations or even the intake of processed foods, plus all the rest of the scenarios. There are so many places we don’t even bother to look when a simple pill, with a laundry list of side effects, is available. A treatment option in which not enough time has passed in order to say what the long term side effects or multi-generational side effects will be through the use of these medications. We have let Madison Ave and millions of dollars of corporate marketing money pull the wool over our eyes before. Can we be so sure it is not happening again?
Photo by Juliana Coutinho