May 23, 2007

Is it ADD/ADHD or Just Bad Behavior - Part 2

Why am I including an article on learning disabilities in a Blog about parenting? Two reasons: first, because so many parents come to me wondering about kids and hyperactivity; second, because the success rate for teaching coping and adapting skills for learning disabilities goes up exponentially if the process is started early.

Fear Factor

I receive so many questions about Attention Deficit Disorder and I find that many parents are so frightened about it.

The BIG Mistake

The biggest mistake I see so many parents making when it comes to ADD/ADHD and other learning disabilities is thinking that diagnosis of a learning disability and labeling of a child with the name of a "disease" somehow helps in some way! To me that is as foolish as going to the doctor and having him tell you that your child has Strep Throat without doing anything to help the child get over the infection!

It seems to me to be a universal dilemma to find someone who has been diagnosed with ADD who has been given NO tools for coping with the diagnosis!

I meet kids and adults all the time who tell me, "I (or my child) has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD."

I always ask, "What is your number one strategy for dealing effectively with your situation?" Most everyone answers with a blank stare. Someone has diagnosed a problem but done little or nothing to teach compensation or adaptation skills!

A Clear Definition - Hard to Find

When I ask for a definition of ADD/ADHD from these parents who are scared of it, everyone seems to give me a different definition. Not many people have a clear picture of what they are dealing with. As a matter of fact, I spent three entire days on the Internet, trying to find a clear definition of ADD/ADHD. I found myself in the same fix I was in as a teacher. I saw an extremely vague label being used to make decisions about teaching children. I went to 33 websites dealing in various ways with the syndrome, and only one had a definition of ADD/ADHD I could use to identify whether a child had it.

It's not too surprising that this man offering a clear definition was also the one authority who had solid procedures for helping a child adapt to this unique way of perceiving the world. That one wonderful article helped me understand why so many people have trouble working with kids who are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

I have since met that author, Dr. Ned Hallowell, who wrote the article, and Ned and I share many beliefs about raising self-sufficient, self-reliant kids. Dr. Hallowell has not only studied ADD/ADHD, he has it!

A Real Authority

So, to me, he's a real authority. He helped me to understand I was not wrong to think of ADD/ADHD as a unique level of talent and exceptional intelligence. In fact, the "disease" has been one of the major contributors to his success!

With his permission, I have included a link to his website where you can go to read about his amazingly successful work with children with ADD/ADHD.

The main point in today’s article is that before taking any action after suspecting that a child has ADD (or any learning disorders for that matter) you must decide what definition you are going to use to define what you are talking about.

Next, and of most importance, you must commit to never labeling any difficulty that you may perceive your child to be having, without finding some tools for teaching that child to deal with whatever you perceive to be a problem.

The Only Important Question

As a parent, the only important thing to establish is “How am I going to help my child to adapt and learn to use the abilities and capabilities that they have to be an independent and self-reliant and capable person!”
(I must go on record as saying that using drugs as a first approach borders upon irresponsibility. Drugs can have a role in treating some learning disabilities, but they ought to be used as a last resort and they must be carefully monitored. Often the side effects can be worse than any natural difficulty your child might be experiencing.)

Check back for my next article in this Blog, as I will offer some very specific techniques for teaching a child to use their special capabilities! (If you would like to read more please get my books, Parenting with Dignity, and Parenting with Dignity; The Early Years.


Carolyn Chambers Clark said...

Hi Mac,

Great blog on add/adhd.

Thanks for providing so much helpful information for parents and teachers.

All Best,


Ally said...

Thank you for this article! For over three years we have been trying to come up with a clear consensus on what we are actually looking at with our son. After seeing various specialists etc, it appears he has mild to moderate inattentive type adhd, a learning disability in non-verbal skill sets and is also gifted in the verbal arena!

I love your comments about meds as a first resort being irresponsible. We have walked away from a few medical professionals who wanted to give him ritalin at age 6 as the first response and more recently, another who wanted to give him Risperdal (without telling me of all the risks involved) for an incredibly minor 'emotional regulation problem'.

We are continuing to implement systems at school and home to help with our son's organization, focusing on his giftedness so he experiences success, and on behavioral modification and other coping strategies to deal with his frustration.

Thanks again and have a wonderful day.

Mac said...

Dear Carolyn,

There is so much to learn. Every day as I read and talk to people I learn new and amazing ways to help kids function at a high level in their worlds.

Thanks for your comments.



Mac said...

Dear Ally,

I will mention the following in more detail in a future article, but I want you to hear a little bit of it now.

Following the advice and wisdom of Dr. Ned Hallowell, who I consider to be the leading source of solid knowledge on ADD/ADHD, do not feel that Drugs such as Ritilin are to be totally avoided. I do not feel that they should ever be the first response, but... that being said, drugs can serve a purpose in treating ADD.

Dr. Hallowell has taught me that having ADD is sort of like driving a car in a really hard rainstorm with a bad set of windshield wipers.

He says that, on occasion, the drugs can work like getting new windshield wipers. However, the huge caution is that getting new wipers does nothing to teach the person to drive a car!

So many people who prescribe the drugs to kids diagnosed with ADD think that the drug will make the kid do homework and and immediately make the child study effectively. They won't! No drug can do that!

All that drugs might accomplish is to allow the child to be able to quiet down sufficiently in order to concentrate! But, the drugs will teach the child no skills... No drug can do that! The job of teaching the child remains the domain of the parents and teachers!

Keep checking back on this blog for more help with this common issue of ADD/ADHD.



Meri said...

I really have got to "thank you"
(1) for this article
(2) for referring Dr. H's website leading me to read the empopowering parents website.
I'm going through a hard time with my four year old son by myself and have been his whole life. I really need the tools to take this head on and be able to give him a fighting chance in this world and me some peace in this world.
I truly appreciate your help.
Thank You

Mac said...

Dear Meridith,

You seem to be living proof that some exciting new research is true... namely that many single parents are doing a superior job of raising well adjusted and self-directed children! Congratulations for doing the research and learning necessary to give your children the best opportuniuties possible in life.

Keep up the good work!


Mac Bledsoe

Meri said...

Awww shucks, & thank you for the inspiration!!!!!!!!!!

Mac said...

Dear Meridith,

If you would like to read some interesting information I would highly recommend that you read some of the articles and books by Dr. Stephanie Coontz from Evergreen State College. Here is a link to one article that I found particularly interesting:

In this article she presents strong statistical evidence showing that divorce and single-parenting have NOT resulted in more risks for children! While she is not advocating that parents should try to do the job alone, she does propose that many of those who find themselves in the role of being a single parent actually do a pretty good job! She proposes that this trend is likely due to the fact that many single parents realize the extra burden they carry and they seek and get help and education!

It is interesting reading.



Meri said...

Thanks Mac!

The title itself looks interesting enough alone. I like reading anything like that, it helps me to get a grasp on things.
You're a big help,
Thank You!

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Mac said...

Dear Sarah,

I am glad that you are enjoying what you are reading. if you like this might i suggest that you get a copy of one or the other of my books. they are organized in a way that you will probably get more out of them than this Blog.

Good luck,

Mac Bledsoe