I really want your opinions on this.
When I see kids and diagnose them with ADHD, I explain to them that our brains work differently then other people - not better, not worse, just different. I explain that other people think in nice neat lists, and are happy to get all those thoughts into a box, but our thoughts are scattered all over (there are a lot of hand motions, etc that go with this, so you'll just have to imagine it!). Anyway, I also tell them that because we have ADHD, our thoughts are in colour, and they glitter, because we are really really creative. They usually like that. I explain that we take pills to get all of our thoughts in front of us so that we don't forget them, and get tired and frustrated as much. The kids all seem to understand the explanation, and, more importantly, they are quite upbeat about it, telling me about how their thoughts get scattered, but also about how the "colours" and "glittery" thoughts are good.
I have had some parents mention, when they come back for follow-up, that they are very happy with how things are going, except.....yes, their children are actively telling people they have ADHD and explaining about the lists, the boxes, and the "glittery" thoughts. The parents are just not sure that this is a good idea. One parent said that "it is almost like he is proud of his "colourful" thoughts (she then characterized them as distracting) and is so excited that they will all be where he can see them". Another said that her daughter now comes home from school with pictures she has drawn, saying "look mom, I used my glittery thoughts on this one!!", and the teacher had asked mom for an explanation of glittery thoughts - mom wasn't too happy, as they did not want the school to know about the ADHD. In general, it is like the parents are upset that this is an interesting and exciting thing for their children, as opposed to something the kids are ashamed of and find embarrassing. Oh, apparently the fact that their doctor thinks this way too is also a big thing for the kids (yes, I tell them I have an ADHD brain too.)
To my mind, there is no reason for the kids to feel shame or embarrassment. I am not teaching them to use ADHD as an excuse for not being able to do things, or for things being more difficult for them. I find that self-esteem is the most difficult thing to fix in kids. It is like the nursery rhymes say - Jack fell down and hurt his head, but that was mended. However, Humpty-Dumpty (read self-esteem here) was beyond help from all the kings horses and all the kings men.
It is their ADHD - if they want to tell people, why shouldn't they? Will some people tease them or say things? Probably. However, if they are portraying ADHD in a positive manner, maybe not.
Sure, we all remember that ADHD kid in our class - the one who didn't listen, never sat at his desk, and was always in trouble. Wouldn't it be great if our kids, when they are adults, can say they all remember the ADHD kids in their class - the really creative one, who told great stories, came up with cool solutions to things, and always pointed out the most interesting little things?
What do you think? Should I be changing the way I talk to kids about ADHD? Should we be leaving them with ADHD as their "dirty little secret"?
Oh, this is such a tough one, because it is not really about the kids. It is the reaction of the parents. You're probably already doing this, but I would talk to the parents about your treatment options and somehow teach the parents that it is better for the child to be open and honest and not feel ashamed by hiding 'something'. Parents do not want their children to be ashamed, but they also don't want their child to be seen as defective. The child is not defective, but it is important for the parent to understand and accept. I think in these cases you’re not only treating the child, but also educating the adults?
What do you think?
May I voice a view? I agree with the way you interract with the kids and explaining how the ADHD mind works is fantastic. It is the parent's hang up because society usually shuns anything that doesn't fit in the box of sameness. With my own daughter, for self-esteem purposes I explained to her that the world is made up of all kinds of very different people, just like how we have a lot of different fruits. Society wants everyone to be an apple, but guess what, the world has apples, oranges, bananas, grapes....... so the world is really one big fruit salad ;) It's ok to not be an apple.
this is tricky, because you are promoting self esteem in the kids, and by coming out, they are helping to reduce stigma. but if the parents want to keep it secret, you are in a tough spot. maybe you could get the parents permission to talk with the teacher so the teacher will know whats going on, that would help fight stigma too.
so you are helping this one child with their problem, but you are also working on the bigger issue of the stigma in general. i wish i could figure out a way you could help the parents and get them on the kids side.
you are doing a great job
do you get the tolerance magazine from splc (southern poverty law center) and their classroom materials? has a good article on this.
First of all: I love your simple and fun explanation (might use it myself sometime;), and I'm sure it helps the kids understand what they're dealing with.
One of my first thoughts on this was that at first you want to make them understand they're not better or worse than other people, just different. But then you explain their "inner workings" in a way that - however wonderful and apt - does make it seem way much better than those boring lists ands boxes of the other kids and grown-ups, and I can totally understand they want everyone to know about it.
I also totally understand people around them not knowing how to deal with all the glitter and rainbows, as (sadly) that's not the way the world we live in works. (Nice turning of the tables, though;). That's probably not something the kid, parent or therapist is going to be able to change anytime soon, so won't that eventually lead to the kid feeling (even more) misunderstood? By the way: that's an honest question. I'm curious, not an expert!
It is a good question. However, really, it hasn't so far. The kids seem to get that they think differently then the rest of the world, and that makes some things more difficult. NOT because they are "stupid" or "lazy" (the most common explanation I hear, from kids and parents alike). I do keep talking about this in different ways when they come in to see me.
Nobody gets to use ADHD as an excuse in my office. As an explanation, yes, excuse no.
"I can't do x because of my ADHD". NOT
"X is difficult for me, because of my ADHD. I need to figure out a way to be able to do X" YES
Not all of them talk about their colourful thoughts (lol), but they get the point that it is okay to think differently. They know perfectly well that it is hard to be a square peg in a round hole, I just try to make them feel okay about being a square peg. They seem to like the fact that someone understands that they are a square peg, and that that is tough!
Okay, now I am rambling.....my melatonin is kicking in, and my Vyvanse has worn off......time to get off -line and go to bed!!
I don't think ADHD is either positive or negative. It has aspects of both, but it is just the way your brain is hardwired.
What I was seeing, though, was kids who would come in and chat nicely with me about general stuff, but when I asked why they had come in to see me, literally the head would go down, they would curl up, and very softly say "I have ADHD". They so clearly saw themselves as defective due to their diagnosis. I don't want the diagnosis to be tantamount to a "you/your child will never do well" sentence. It shouldn't be. It has negative aspects, yes - trust me, by the time they get into my office, the kids are WELL AWARE of this. What they are not aware of is the postitives. We are more creative in our thinking and problem solving. (Yes, I am generalizing a bit here). I do talk about the negatives of it - but more in the vein that we do on this site in the "you know you have ADHD when" sort of posts. When I describe to the kids things that I end up doing because of my ADHD, they literally light up, and start nodding, and agreeing, and will often start throwing in their own stories. A mom told me once that after they left my office after their first visit (her child was already diagnosed, and had been for several years) he said to her "She gets it - she understands, and she doesn't think I am being bad or not trying! And I think she likes me, even though I have ADHD!" His mom thanked me, but also told me that she was stunned when he said that - she hadn't realized that he felt badly about his ADHD.
I wish my son could talk with you ♥
I love the "glittery thoughts" line - I'm definitely going to use that with my girl.
When I read this post a thought came rushing to the forefront in my mind's eye. I saw myself as a 7 year old kid with big oversized glasses to correct my near-sightedness and astigmatism. I felt better back then about being able to see better, but I will never forget the fact that I was made fun of constantly by shool mates, as well as my brothers. My self-esteem took a beating and I decided to quit using glasses, even if my vision was blurry. My point is, people in general will reject anything that stands out or is out of the norm, so if these kids publicize the fact that they have add, they will actually be drawing unwanted attention to themselves and stick out like a sore thumb.
I agree that we shouldn't have to hide our true selves, but I'm afraid modern society is still in the dark ages as far as tolerance is concerned.
As I write this the thought of Thomas Edison's life came to me. Edison was called "addled" by his teachers and was made fun of in school. He dropped out in 4th or 5th grade, if I'm not mistaken. But thank God for Edison's mother because instead of whipping the boy for such a disgrace, she actually encouraged the scientific explorations the boy had all the time. In fact, before dying, Edison gave credit to his mother for everything that he had accomplished, because he had someone that he shoul not disappoint. Maybe in the end it's not important whether the add child mentions the glittery thoughts (I like that!) or not, but rather, that they have an adult in their lives who will encourage their natural talents, not suppress them, in my humble opinion.