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Friday, November 21, 2008 Emma, Community Member, asks

Q: Still confused...is ADHD a disability or a disease?

I see my daughters and how they behave and function daily.  I always wonder if they have the ADHD and every new school year I make it a point to talk to the teachers about their attention span....or lack of it and what to look for or keep an out for when their attention is on the verge of being lost.  "If you lose her interest in what you are teaching then you will have a hard time getting her back.  Once she is lost, there is no getting her back till the following day because a meltdown usually follows once she has lost interest in you." - my words to their teachers every new school year.  The teachers assure me every year that they have not seen any behavioral patterns to cause concern and their studies are right on the money - A/B Honor roll students every year.  My daughters are my pride and joy.....smart, creative, clowns, one is a social butterfly but has a hard time coping with adversity within her friendships and the other is unusually shy (until she gets to know you) but then you can't make her stop making you laugh with her funny antics.  One doesn't seem to do too well with kids her age but all the teachers know her and how helpful she can be....she is very smart but known to daydream in class if the teacher misses her cue.  The other is more popular with the students in her class but always fears of getting in trouble for not doing her work...she hates to bring attention to herself...it brings the shyness out in her yet is very distracted at home when it comes to starting tasks or finishing them at that.  I keep a close eye on them now that I know I have ADHD.  I also have a female cousin who has ADHD and her oldest son has ADHD.  Her youngest child has yet to be diagnosed but shows all the same issues that her oldest did 10 years ago at the age of 5.  I have an aunt in her 60s that I have a real reason to believe has ADHD but was never diagnosed.  That aunt has a daughter, another cousin of mine, that I think may had this as well.  Unfortunately, no one has medical insurance to find out.  Laughing

 

So, in order to better assess my situation and to keep a perspective on what the future holds for my children...is ADHD a disabiltiy or a disease?

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Terry Matlen, ACSW, Health Guide
11/25/08 2:30pm

Hi Emma,

 

Your daughters sound wonderful and YOU sound like a great mom!

Great question! Is it a disability or a disease?

 

There's not an easy answer, but here goes:

 

ADHD is typically seen more as a disorder than a disease, though some scientists do call it a disease. The ADHD brain is different from the "normal" brain, yet ADHD is not like, say, diabetes where if not treated, one could die from the condition. So perhaps it's a matter of semantics.

 

As for a disability, many believe that it depends on the severity of the ADHD. Some have mild ADHD; some have severe ADHD. If it's so severe that it impairs a person's functioning in school, at work or socially, it would be considered a disability. In fact, children and adults can be legally protected and get support in school and at work, because ADHD, when it is disabling, is covered under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

 

Since ADHD is highly genetic and you and other family members do have it, it would be wise to find a way to evaluate your daughters in the event they do need interventions at school, etc. so that they don't struggle or even fail. You can start by talking to the school psychologist about evaluation options.

 

Hope this helps!

Terry

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By Emma, Community Member— Last Modified: 11/02/10, First Published: 11/21/08