It is important to understand what ADHD is and what it isn’t.  First and foremost, it is not statistically a learning disability.  People with ADHD usually do not have difficulty learning (approximately 25% may have a learning disability on top of ADHD).  They are just as smart as the average person.  Some studies have suggested that they may be smarter and more creative than the average person while others suggest there is very little intellectual differences.  Therefore, it is impossible to suggest that it is a learning disability.  ADHD is considered a neurodevelopmental mental disorder.  To put simply, when the ADHD person’s mental functions are taken into account and the studies provide adequate time and distraction free environment with mental breaks, the ADHD person tests are no different from the average person.  When the ADHD person is forced to take tests on the same standards as people without ADHD there is only a 8%-9% difference is test scores.

ADHD was first written about in 1798 and documented as “mental restlessness” by Sir Alexander Crichton.  In 1902 George Still gave a series of lectures to the Royal College of Physicians in London that gave a clear representation of what ADHD is.  I bring this up because of the number of people who maintain that this is a “new diagnosis” and suggest that it is a bogus one.  So, please inform these people when you meet them that doctors have been writing about the symptoms since 1798, which could not, by any logical person, be considered a new thing.

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has had ADHD in their manual since 1952 when it was labeled as “minimal brain dysfunction”.  Then in 1968 it was labeled “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood”.  In 1980 is was given the ADD diagnosis and in 1987 they changed it to ADHD.  In 1994 it was split into three subtypes: ADHD inattentive type, ADHD hyperactive-impulsive type, and ADHD combined type.  Anyone who claims their child is ADD and not ADHD are using diagnosis standards that are 30 years behind.  So, if your doctor has said your child is ADD and not ADHD, you need to find a new doctor.  One that is more up to date in their knowledge.

I was diagnosed in my twenties with moderate to severe ADHD inattentive type.  My son, Paddy, was diagnosed with severe ADHD combined type, and my daughter, Kit Cat, was diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type.  What does this mean for our family?  It means we rarely have a quiet moment in the house yet no one seems to notice that we never stop moving.  My husband, Stu, who is statistically the exact opposite of us, is well adapt at ignoring the chaos he calls home.

As a parent, I am my children’s advocate.  The mama bear of children with special needs.  The school systems are not up to date on what ADHD is and they still list it as “other health impairment” on IEP’s (Individual Education Plan).  It is listed with 10 other “health impairments”.  Those are diabetes, epilepsy, heart conditions, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, pneumatic fever, sickle-cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome.  If you are anything like me, you are now completely overwhelmed with the desire to sing at the top of your lungs the Sesame Street song, “which one of these is not like the other”.  I’m unsure as so how ADHD and Tourette’s can be seen as an “other health impairment” when seeing that the other health impairments are all medical ones and not mental ones.  This shows how behind our school systems are.  I will discuss more on IEP’s and the school systems on a later post.

It is up to us, the parents of children with ADHD, to be their voices.  Too many parents try to avoid the diagnosis, or try to deny it.  Too many people believe that ADHD is something to be ashamed of, but it isn’t.  It is a wonderful mental disorder!  I would never want to live without it.  It makes me different in a good way.  I see the world in a way the average person doesn’t.  I see the beauty in things that others just pass over.  I not only think outside the box – I live outside the box!  Do I really believe all that?  Well, no.  But my children will never hear me say anything different.  They will be raised to embrace who they are.

And I will leave this post on one final note that I tell all children with ADHD.  (I work in the office at a private school, so I meet many children with ADHD).  I tell these children and their parents that we are all created in the image God.  This means that God has ADHD!  And, if you really think about it, that explains the platypus!  The platypus is a duck-billed, semi-aquatic, egg laying, mammal.  It has a beaver tail and otter feet.  And the platypus has a spur on its hind foot and the male can delivers venom from it.  Yea.  Only a creature with ADHD could come up with that.

One thought on “What is ADHD

  1. Thanks for this! I wish this had been around when I was first diagnosed. i always felt so “out there” like I wasn’t good enough. I remember hearing my parents fighting over what to tell me about ADHD, they would fight about how to make sure I got through school. And they put me in a lot of programs to help me get through Elementary, middle and high school. It wasn’t until college when I really learned how to manage, and then another huge learning curve entering the work world and having to adjust routines, and “cope” with some of the side affects, like being tired…. for example. But thanks for putting it the way you did. 🙂


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