As the parent of a child with ADHD, I have dealt with many rude and ignorant remarks from other parents, sometimes these remarks were well-meaning but misguided. Parents of children with ADHD are forging their own paths. They are moving on a path without a map, doing the best they can. If you know someone with a child with ADHD, the following are things you should not say:
Everyone has a little ADHD. It isn’t a big deal.
It’s true that everyone is distracted at some time, especially when preoccupied with life’s problems. It’s also true that everyone forgets things from time to time. But ADHD is a combination of specific symptoms and, is considered an "impairment." If you don’t forget often enough to cause a problem or are occasionally forgetful, it isn’t the same as having ADHD.
ADHD isn’t a real disorder, it was made up by "Big Pharma."
It’s surprising that with all the research done on ADHD, this is still around but it is. Big Pharma, I would imagine, has better things to do than to sit around and make up diagnoses. They also have a great deal of drugs on the market, many of which are highly successful and profitable. There are plenty of legitimate medical diagnoses, besides ADHD, that need medications. Besides, there are references to symptoms of ADHD in literature dating back to the 1700s - way before Big Pharma was around. For the many people who struggle with ADHD every day, it is a real disorder, with real symptoms and thankfully, with real treatment.
He just needs more discipline.
Children with ADHD don’t need more discipline, they need different discipline. They don’t always respond to traditional types of discipline. If you "ground" a child with ADHD, chances are by the time the grounding is over, he doesn’t relate the grounding and the misbehavior and if he does, probably not in a meaningful way where it is a preventive measure. Positive reinforcement and discipline measures that are immediate are much more effective.
But kids didn’t used to have ADHD.
Yes, kids did have ADHD years ago. It was just called other things, for example, in the 1960s it was called, minimal brain dysfunction. It also wasn’t recognized as often, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t around. Many children with ADHD were referred to as "stupid," "lazy," "underachievers," or "daydreamers." They may have spent a lot of time in detention or simply been labeled as someone that wasn’t going to amount to anything.
It’s all about the food we eat. Can’t you just change his diet to (gluten free, dye free, etc)?
Some children, a small percentage, are helped by diet changes. But then, a percentage of children without ADHD also do better with diet changes. Children with allergies or sensitivities to gluten aren’t confined to children with ADHD. Some children without ADHD improve when placed on a gluten-free diet because stomach problems that accompany gluten sensitivities go away and they can concentrate better. Their behavior improves. But this doesn’t help every child with ADHD just as it doesn’t make a difference in every child without ADHD.
I would never medicate my child.
Chances are, if your child had a medical condition, you would medicate your child. ADHD is a medical condition. Some children don’t need medication, behavioral interventions are enough. Other children, however, benefit from medication. It is not life-or-death. It is not comparable to insulin or cancer treatment. It is not "essential" to our children’s life. But, it does greatly improve their quality of life.
She’s a girl, ADHD isn’t as bad in girls.
A common misconception about ADHD is that girls are less severely affected by symptoms of ADHD than boys. ADHD can look different in girls and often goes unrecognized, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, creating problems now and in the future. Untreated ADHD increases the risk of alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking, self-injury and academic problems. GIrls, as well as boys, with ADHD should be identified and treated.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.