Evelyn Polk Green, ADDA President Elect
Yesterday my 16-year-old son and I did a presentation for a group made up primarily of very serious clinicians working with children and adolescents with ADHD. After hours of challenging travel and thankfully a good night's sleep, today I'm sitting here watching my 5-month old goddaughter laugh and giggle with her mom. It's a striking contrast.
But that contrast actually helped me make a connection between these two seemingly very different life experiences. You see these clinicians are the folks who work with kids and teens with ADHD—and their families of course. And my goddaughter's mother is one of those teens they work with—a very ADHD 18-year old who has gone through those periods of risky behavior we all fear so much, especially for our girls.
She thankfully has emerged from that scary phase in her life with a beautiful baby girl who'll grow up with lots of love and support. It may not have been exactly what her parents dreamt for her, or even the dream she had for herself, but it sure beats the other consequences that could have resulted from those difficult days. Today I get to watch her struggle with learning to be a good mother instead of fighting an addiction, HIV or any number of unthinkable things; or even worse, attending her funeral due to drunk driving—or suicide.
But back to the contrast—and the connection—between these two very different "scenes" from my life. My son and I were asked to come to this meeting of over 1000 clinicians, researchers, advocates and consumers to discuss the realities of living with AD/HD, particularly in the African American community. As we were engaging with the clinicians, even arguing (gently, of course ) with a couple of them about the validity of ADHD, I thought to myself, "THIS is why you do advocacy work Evelyn! This is why you fight to raise awareness about ADHD and can't afford to stop now... too many people don't know, don't understand the consequences or the societal burdens of untreated ADHD in children, teens and adults."
And here I sit this morning, relaxing and making plans for the baby's baptismal celebration, drinking coffee as I watch (and delight in) mother and daughter enjoying one another. And watching this beautiful teenager who we've agonized over the past few years grow into her new role as mother—and grow up right before our eyes. And again, I'm thinking to myself, "THIS is why getting to that meeting and then here despite the ridiculous itineraries, hotel snafus and delayed flights was worth it! This is the REAL reason you fight this fight and join your voice with so many others to raise awareness and understanding about ADHD."
THAT'S the connection: family, treatment professionals, schools, employers, and a public who are AWARE of and knowledgeable about ADHD. You see because of informed and aware parents—who made sure their daughter was treated for her ADHD by informed and aware clinicians—we have a success story instead of a tragedy. (Anyone who wants to argue with me about a teen mother being considered a success story is welcome to do so. I'll be happy to pull up all the stats on teen suicides, STD and HIV cases, drunk driving fatalities, etc, etc. particularly for teens with ADHD!)
ALL of our stories could and SHOULD be success stories. Our children don't have to struggle in school each day, not if their teachers and other school personnel are aware and informed about ADHD—and expected to demonstrate that knowledge in their classrooms every day and with every child.
Our teens don't have to suffer in silence, the burden of ADHD on top of those raging teen hormones making life too hard to face without drugs, or alcohol or unprotected sex—or all three. Not if we parents become informed about what to expect—and how to handle it; not if we know when and how to intervene and assist them because our schools, our churches, our doctors are informed and aware of the impact of ADHD and have helped us in this parenting role as they do with all the others.
And we don't have to hate waking up every morning, fearful that today is the day that I get fired, my partner leaves, the car gets repossessed or that I will have to face any one of thousands of little demons ready to trap me within my own ADHD. We wouldn't have to be so afraid if our employers, our colleagues, our partners and families, colleges and universities, our doctors, even law enforcement all knew and understood that ADHD is real, and that untreated, under-treated or mistreated it can lead to devastating—even deadly—consequences. If they knew that we don't ask for or need unreasonable accommodations or exceptions... but just a few simple modifications and the gift of understanding.
So, yes that's why I fight the fight... why I join my voice with others to raise awareness about ADHD and implore you to do the same. It's why I belong to ADDA and have committed to being its next president even through the exhaustion of 15 years of ADHD advocacy. It's why I urge anyone with ADHD, with loved ones with ADHD to join me—to join us—to get the word out, raise awareness and make sure that five-month old baby has an easier time of it than her mother did, than her mother's mother did, than you and I did. September 17, 2008 is ADHD Awareness Day... lets make the most of it for that little girl's sake!
Peace and Love,
Published On: April 07, 2008