October Is ADHD Awareness Month

posted in: Health & Fitness, Life | 0

by Kristen Callow

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“I know how to cure ‘ADHD’ — it’s called discipline.”
“ADHD is just another term for spoiled brat.”
“This is what happens when children have too much screen time.”
“If only you changed her diet.”
“Drugging your child is the easy way out.”
“All boys are active. Why do we need to pathologise that?!”
“I can’t have ADHD. That’s a childhood condition.”


Everyone — especially kids — can have challenges with restlessness,  paying attention or managing impulsive behaviour from time to time. But for people with ADHD, these types of challenges are so pervasive and ongoing that they can interfere significantly with daily functioning at school, at home, at work, and socially. You can learn more about the signs and different presentations of ADHD here: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html. Even though ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental (brain based) conditions in the world, it is also one that is plagued by misunderstanding and misinformation. With ADHD affecting at least 5% of children in Australia  — and many teens and adults as well —  you can rest assured that many families in our area are touched by ADHD in some way. Our family is one of them.

As the parent of a child with ADHD, I can’t claim to be an expert. However, I have come to appreciate how important it is to have accurate information about ADHD. For the past several years, I have been actively involved in a number of communities and advocacy groups across Australia that include fellow parents of kids with ADHD, including many parents who have ADHD themselves, educators, and developmental specialists. In fact, a friend and I created a Facebook-based parent support group when we realised how many local parents were looking for a place to privately connect, share support and practical advice, and help refute some of the misconceptions about ADHD

October is ADHD Awareness Month (http://www.adhdawarenessmonth.org/), and this year’s theme is “Knowing Is Better: ADHD Across The Life Span.” In that spirit, I’d like to share a few important lessons I’ve learnt from being so deeply involved with various ADHD communities.

Many children don’t receive their diagnosis in a timely fashion. There seem to be so many factors that can prevent the timely identification and treatment of ADHD. Some of these might involve a parent’s perception — for instance, the fear of “labelling their child” or not recognising the signs (something that is particularly true for the “inattentive” presentation of ADHD). But often it can come down to parents not being given the right encouragement or direction. Friends and loved ones might discount their concerns, they might be lured toward a biomedical or “natural therapies” path, or they might have the misfortune of being directed to a professional who lacks deep ADHD expertise or who is not thorough enough in their assessment to accurately rule in or rule out ADHD. Groups like Ryde District Mums can be a great place for parents to get recommendations for nearby developmental experts who are thorough and thoughtful in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of ADHD.
 
Women with ADHD often slip under the radar: For reasons that are not entirely clear, girls with ADHD often go undetected, which means that many females are not diagnosed until they are adults. A mum with undiagnosed ADHD might come to recognise her own ADHD once her own child receives a diagnosis. For other women, there might a dire sense of not being able to “keep it all together” even though they are masking it on the outside. It’s important to understand how ADHD commonly presents in women and encourage those who might be struggling to seek answers from qualified professionals with expertise in ADHD and other related conditions (see links at end). 

There is a lot of misinformation floating around about ADHD, especially with regards to medication. Unfortunately, inaccurate, stigmatising, and/or sensationalist misinformation about ADHD can prevent parents from getting timely answers, effective treatments, and appropriate accommodations for their child — or themselves. A lot of the scaremongering is directed toward ADHD medications, even though these medications are among the most researched in the world and provide far more benefits than side effects for the vast majority of people who use them. Click-bait headlines about “Zombie kids on ADHD drugs” attract more attention than the many kids who are quietly thriving due to proper treatment and support. Sadly, when misinformation or grossly skewed negative information is promoted, it can fuel further misunderstanding about people with ADHD and exclusion by family, friends, and the broader community. For these reasons, it’’s vital to get information about ADHD from credible sources — like developmental specialists with deep ADHD expertise and reputable, evidence-based organisations — and it’s also important to listen to and learn from those who actually have ADHD.
 
We can all play a part in making our community more ADHD aware and accepting:  I hope that through the continued sharing of quality information and real-life experiences, we can increase understanding of ADHD so that parents won’t be afraid to seek proper assessments for their children (or themselves) and those with ADHD won’t feel the unwarranted stigma. Every person with ADHD deserves to be understood, supported and valued for who they are. Yes, October is “ADHD Awareness Month,” but really, any day or month of the year is appropriate for promoting quality information and acceptance.
 

I hope that the links below help other families in our community who have a loved one with ADHD or who simply want to learn more. If any parents are keen to be linked into the private support group I mentioned, please contact me via the Ryde District Mums Facebook group or the administrators of the group. You will be warmly welcomed!

 


Valuable ADHD Resources (list not exhaustive)

 

  • ADDults With ADHD (NSW) is a Ryde District-based charity dedicated to improving the lives of adults dealing with ADHD in themselves, their family, their friends and their clients. This outstanding organisation has a free helpline, an ADHD centre based in North Ryde and is a leader in NSW in providing information and support for adults with ADHD. https://www.adultadhd.org.au/ The National Resource Center on ADHD, run by CHADD (Children & Adults With ADHD) in the U.S., is one of the best known, evidence based clearinghouses on ADHD information. Please note that some of the materials are U.S.-centric but many are universal. The NRC site is filled with an array of useful information.
    http://www.chadd.org/NRC.aspx

 

  • The Child Mind Institute is a U.S. not-for-profit, evidence-based organisation dedicated to supporting the mental health needs of children through research and advocacy. They do not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies. They have a range of helpful materials on ADHD, including well balanced and thorough information on medication. Please note that not all of the medications available in the U.S. are available here in Australia.
    http://childmind.org/topics/disorders/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/

 

 

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