As I was sitting with the different professionals during the recent ADHD Adult Summit, one of the things that struck me was the amazing amount of knowledge about ADHD available today.
Over 20 years ago, when my son was just two years old, I took him to the doctor and asked about hyperactivity. The doctor was sure this was just a case of the "terrible twos" and a very active little boy. Hyperactivity was much more intense, he said. It was the same year the American Psychiatric Association changed the name from "Attention Deficit Disorder +/-" to "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." The APA noted this was a medical diagnosis but could cause behavioral problems.
Even though the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder had been around since 1980 (prior to that it was called "Hyperkinetic Disorder of Childhood" or "Minimal Brain Dysfunction"), I had not heard about it. I had heard of hyperactivity, but did not really understood what it meant. I knew, however, my son was more active than a "very active toddler." I asked about ADHD when he was in preschool, when he was in second grade, when he was in third grade and when he was in sixth grade. It was not until 10 years after my original visit to the doctor to ask about hyperactivity that my son be diagnosed with ADHD.
During those ten years, the research into ADHD flourished. In 1998 it was deemed "one of the Best-Researched" disorders by the American Medical Association. So much more is known, and understood, about ADHD now than when I first began my quest for information and answers.
Parents, children and adults have more information, more knowledge and more experts understanding the symptoms of ADHD, how it impacts school, learning, social and family relationships. There are more medications available, at the time I began my quest, Ritalin was the only medication available and by the time my son was diagnosed, Adderall was also on the market. Educators are more aware of ADHD and have had more experience in dealing with children in the classroom with ADHD.
The Summit I participated in reminded me of this. Looking around at the ADHD professionals, I saw a vast amount of knowledge. Even those adults coping with their own symptoms understood ADHD more than at any time in the past.
Over the years, I have frequently been asked what I contribute the increased number of people being diagnosed with ADHD. Is it over-diagnosis, they wonder? But instead, I point to the amount of knowledge, the amount of understanding that we have gained. Yes, there certainly are more people diagnosed with ADHD today than there were 20 years ago. But I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. I see it as a result of our continued quest for knowledge.
Published On: December 15, 2008