Fidgety. Lazy. Unfocused.
These are often the adjectives used to describe a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. But are they accurate descriptions?
Dr. James Wiley, a physician with Focus-MD in Mount Pleasant, doesn’t think so. With more than 6 million children diagnosed with ADHD, it is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders. But that doesn’t mean those children can be lumped into a category of unfocused, undisciplined children.
A number of myths persist when it comes to ADHD:
Myth No. 1: ADHD means BAD.
A child with ADHD may be acting out because of frustration or confusion. It may take a child with ADHD twice as long to complete a task as another child, so why wouldn’t he feel frustrated? Those frustrations and even anger can manifest themselves in bad behavior, but that doesn’t mean the child himself is bad.
Myth No. 2: ADHD kids are lazy.
Parents and teachers are concerned because the child seems to give up easily and doesn’t want to do her homework or participate in class. It might take a child with ADHD 30 minutes to do what would take her classmate 10 minutes to do. The child with ADHD isn’t getting her work done quickly, so she gets upset and shuts down, Wiley explains. To a teacher or parent, that might look like the child is lazy and doesn’t care.
Myth No. 3: You can’t be successful if you have ADHD.
Plenty of well-known names – singer Justin Timberlake, actor Will Smith, swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles, to name a few – struggle with ADHD but are talented, extraordinary people. And like them, any child with ADHD can be successful. In fact, with better diagnosis and treatment options, children with ADHD today are well equipped to manage their condition – no matter what they want to do with their life.
Myth No. 4: ADHD medication is a gateway drug to substance abuse.
ADHD itself causes a threefold increase in the risk of substance abuse. But the earlier a child starts treatment, the less likely the child is to abuse drugs or alcohol. Starting and maintaining stimulant medication before age 9 erases this increase in risk and, even if started later in life, there is no increase in risk.
Myth No. 5: Every kid who can’t pay attention has ADHD.
There are many reasons a child isn’t paying attention or loses focus, ranging from a lack of sleep to dealing with a parents’ divorce, Wiley says.
Parents shouldn’t jump to conclusions and buy into these myths about ADHD. It’s one of the reasons Focus-MD uses a FDA-cleared objective test to improve accuracy in ADHD diagnosis. This computerized test objectively measures activity, attention and impulse control and compares each patient’s results with other kids of the same age and gender.
Wiley says ADHD is both over-diagnosed and under-diagnosed. There are plenty of people who have it, but don’t know it. And on the flip side, doctors don’t always take the time to make an accurate diagnosis.
It’s important for parents to slow down and pay attention to how their child was diagnosed, Wiley says.
“How careful was the evaluation? Did you feel comfortable? Was it a quick interview and then a prescription?” he says. “Did the doctors take their time and get to know the kid a bit?”