Truths and Myths about ADHD


With all of the information available to us, it is important for us to clarify some of the misinformation that is out there.  ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder that can result in weaknesses in attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It’s more common in boys than with girls. Treatment options consist of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and coaching aimed at finding strategies to maintain attention to task, complete assignments/work, and build social skills. The combination of medication and cognitive behavioral coaching is ideal; however medication is a personal/parental choice.

creativeWith that said, there are some myths about what ADHD is, how it can be managed and how to teach our children the skills they need to channel their non-focused energy into specific targets.

Myth #1 : ADHD is not real. It’s a disorder of the spoiled, non-disciplined child. Parents just need to be stricter and the hyperactivity and impulsivity will go away.

False, false, and false again. ADHD is a physiologically based disorder in which there are deficits of neurochemicals in the brain as well as under-developed areas of the frontal lobe, which is responsible for our executive functioning skills. What are those, you ask? They are the skills that we develop as we mature, such as time management, organization, inhibiting things we want to say, knowing how to read social situations and act accordingly.

It is not something ‘caused’ or ‘created’ by parents. It’s like saying to a diabetic that he should tell his pancreas to make more insulin and he will be fine. There is a true neurochemical imbalance.

Children with ADHD have amazing skills and capabilities. They are not necessarily functioning at a disadvantage because of their disability. Instead, they have a great ability to think abstractly, see the big picture, and have creative and imaginative ideas. They are great problem solvers and out-of-the-box thinkers.

I’ve heard teachers say that their school year was that much better because of the richness of ideas that were shared by a child with ADHD! That student was encouraged to express his ideas and thoughts that triggered more abstract ideas for others. What a way to recognize and encourage this learning style within the classroom!

Myth #2: All kids with ADHD are impulsive and hyperactive.

No, they are not. There is also the inattentive type as well as the combined, impulsive and hyperactive type.  The inattentive child loses focus and can daydream often. This type of child may appear to have ‘lost’ information along the way, but is not distracting to others, fidgety or restless.

This type of ADHD can be easily missed because the ‘squeaky wheel’ tends to gets noticed, while the inattentive student may ‘fall between the cracks.’

You may wonder if your child will be able to succeed in this world and be able to get through college, maintain friendships, and hold onto a job. The answer is an absolute YES! Your child will find his areas of strength and find outlets for himself. So, she may not be a detail oriented person – she won’t choose a detail-oriented field. She may need an administrative assistant to help organize her schedule. Whichever your child’s strengths and weaknesses, he will find the field that will let him thrive and strive!

Just a little clarification on what ADHD is and what it isn’t. With the right supports at home, and accommodations at school, your child will be able to achieve great things!

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Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist who specializes in treating children with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, and learning disabilities. She created the ACHIEVE program to coach students with ADHD to create organizational systems that work for them. Dr. Liz serves as Parent Coach, in which she helps parents develop boundaries and maintain consistency in the home environment. She has been effective in helping to decrease anxiety in children, adolescents, and adults using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques. She is also a sought-after contributor to numerous publications, blogs and radio shows!

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