More than 1 in 10 children are diagnosed with ADHD each year in the United States and the numbers are rising. Whether this phenomenon is an indicator of an increase in the "disorder", an increase in our understanding of it, or an increase in parents and doctors too quick to label their children with a disability that might explain poor performance in school. Whatever the cause, it is a phenomenon that deserves to be studied and taken seriously. I, personally, started taking it seriously when my son's teachers began to mention that he has a difficult time staying on task and finishing his work. I began taking it even more seriously when I realized that his performance in school was suffering. Was all of this something he would grow out of? How would it affect his confidence? How will the teachers view him as a student? Will he continue to get farther and farther behind in school if we don't intervene? All of these questions led me to begin my research into the fascinating condition they call "ADD".
As of right now, whether for better or for worse, my son is still officially undiagnosed. We decided that being labeled as ADD or ADHD wouldn't change anything. He has most of the classic symptoms of ADD, but, after all, it is just a term coined by the medical field describing a set of characteristics. It is also not a matter of whether you have it or not, it is a continuum. Whether you exhibit one ADD tendency or many, you can still be diagnosed with "ADD".
We like to think of ADD as just a different way of thinking. To help him understand how his brain works, we have explained to him that his brain is much like a super fast Ferrari with the breaks of a golf cart, an analogy we learned from Edward M. Hallowell, Delivered From Distraction. This has helped him understand why he has to mentally reign himself in when he is speeding off in different directions and why he has to put in an extra hour of homework each night. We have also explained that the Ferrari brain is a good thing in some ways. He has creativity and less fear of trying new things on his side. He also notices things that my super focused brain may not notice. As it is genetic, many of our successful relatives have been diagnosed with ADD. He knows that they have something in common and that he will have to work extra hard as they did to achieve success in their lives.
This success came regardless of the fact that they attended public schools in the United States. Most standard public schools in the United States are not built for the type of learning that is needed by people with characteristic ADD or ADHD. This is a fact that has led us to decide that if a school is not benefiting our children, is causing a low self esteem, or is ineffective, we will look at other options for schooling before turning to medication. The jury is still out and the research is still going. If there is anyone willing to share their experiences with similar circumstances or insights, please share. In the mean time, happy researching to us all.