J & J’s Gibberish: ADHD — It IS a Real Thing — Part 1

One mother's weekly journey in raising her special needs children. 

It was with great fascination that I have been learning about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  I have to be honest here and say that I had been extremely cynical about the whole ADHD thing.  For starters, and I mean no offence to the school system, but I thought it was an attempt by educators to pop some pills into wild little boys, the Dennis the Menace-type kid,  to keep them calm in class.

I am convinced I am not alone in once having the perspective that ADHD behaviours were just gender differences in kids’ development and not an actual thing.   

I also say this from experience as my boy had (and still has) an astounding inability to sit still or even concentrate for longer than 15 minutes at a time without a break or moving around.  I remember when the school board psychologist, when he was but a wee thing, suggesting I explore meds.  I blew a gasket at her at the time for having the audacity to suggest there was more to my boy than just regular kid stuff.  Of course, she was right, I was wrong.  (That said, as far as challenges go for Jacob, ADHD is the least of his issues, but he has it.)  

Getting back to ADHD, medical studies show that kids who suffer from ADHD can be as much as four years behind their peers in terms of certain areas of development maturity.  ADHD is in fact a wiring problem in the brain that results in self-regulation problems.  People who have it lack skills to regulate time, emotions, have trouble concentrating and controlling impulses.  They act without thinking of consequences, have trouble waiting, are spontaneous (not entirely a bad thing in my books!).  These are some of the challenges.

And while the stereotype is a little boy who can’t sit still, distracting others, the fact is, girls have it just as much as boys.  However, instead of acting out, they sit quietly and doodle and lose attention.  Girls have it but they don’t stand out.  Furthermore, stats show that girls who have ADHD also have a higher teen pregnancy rate.  So ADHD is there, it just manifests itself differently in girls and boys.

Guess what?  Adults have it too.  I chatted about the topic with Dr. Lawrence Martin, a psychiatrist and researcher at McMaster University.  I was supposed to talk to him only about adult ADHD but as a true ADHD person myself, I got sidetracked and asked about kids.

So, back to the adult ADHD angle because he told me something fascinating.  I started the interview with general questions about ADHD in adults.  I asked how he became interested in etc. etc. etc. I was half expecting one of the answers he did give me: that it is hereditary and if your kid has been diagnosed, there is a 30 percent chance a parent will have it too which makes it an interesting area to study.  

However, what he told me was mindblowing. He said his interest also came from a trend that he and colleagues were witnessing.  Adults were coming in for treatment for depression but some weren’t responding to anti-depression drugs.  As they explored, the doctors fell upon the discovery that in fact, these adults were not suffering from depression but ADHD.  The meds that help depression do absolutely nothing for ADHD sufferers.  It was a light that went off and after proper diagnosis and therapy, their lives changed.

When people my age (40+) were growing up, let’s be honest. ADHD wasn’t a diagnosed thing so a lot of us grew up and while we still exhibit certain features of ADHD, we have figured out how to survive. 

However, with proper treatment, our lives could vastly improve.  It is the combination of meds to help stimulate the parts of the brain that have below normal performance with relearning or focusing on skills to deal with some of the issues that can help both parents and their kids.

PART 2 next week.