Jacob peeked through the front door window to see if he could spot his mom or dad in the kitchen. He was at his family home to surprise his dad on Father’s Day. He rang the door bell in rapid succession, and thought to himself that it might have been a bad idea to come all that way and find them not at home.
Standing on the front porch, Jacob caught sight of the tiny pinhole in the front bay window. He vividly remembered shooting the BB gun at the line of old stuffed animals...and missing. This was only one of the hundreds of unfortunate incidents that had occurred in his life to-date - others with greater consequence.
Jacob’s inability to self-regulate his behavior began very early in life. Fourth grade was a school year he and his parents would not forget. That year he tested into the gifted program and was diagnosed with ADHD within two weeks of each other. Unfortunately, he was never able to take advantage of the extended learning opportunities the gifted program offered due to behavioral issues that plagued him. The 504 plan he was put on never really supported the executive function issues that kept him from showcasing what he really knew.
By seventh grade, Jake had been suspended from school several times for his impulsive behaviors. His parents decided a residential school placement might help. When Jake begged to come back to his homeschool for his freshmen year, having done so well in the program, his parents relented. The next three years would be rocky, ending in Jake moving in with some friends in a downtown apartment.
Throughout the years, Jacob’s parents believed that he could turn his behavior around and tried hard to support him when he found himself in trouble. How could such a smart kid have so many academic and behavior problems in school?
According to the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, conducted by the CDC, 11% or 6.4 million US school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD in their lifetime. In a follow-up study, 60—85% continue to have ADHD symptoms throughout their teen years, but those symptoms manifest in different ways as they age. Also, 50% of those diagnosed as children report continued symptoms as adults.
The ADHD Awareness Coalition has developed these five fast facts to consider as parents contemplate whether or not to treat ADHD:
Fact #1: ADHD is Real
Nearly every mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organization in the United States long ago concluded that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a real, brain-based medical disorder that can benefit from treatment.
Fact #2: ADHD is a Common, Non-Discriminatory Disorder
ADHD is a non-discriminatory disorder affecting people of every age, gender, IQ, and religious and socioeconomic background.
Fact #3: Diagnosing ADHD is a Complex Process
In order for a diagnosis of ADHD to be considered, the person must exhibit a number of symptoms, demonstrate significant problems with daily life in life areas (work, school, or friends), and have had the symptoms for a minimum of six months.
Fact #4: Other Mental Health Conditions Frequently Co-Occur With ADHD
Up to 30% of children and 25-40% of adults with ADHD have co-existing learning issues. Experts claim that up to 70% of those with ADHD will be treated for depression at some point in their lives. Sleep disorders affect people with ADHD two to three times as often as those without it.
Fact #5: ADHD is Not Benign
ADHD is not benign. Particularly when it is undiagnosed and untreated, ADHD can contribute to:
Adapted from: ©ADHDAwarenessMonth.org
The door popped open, Jacob’s parents, welcomed him with open arms. They spent time catching up. He and his dad took the dog for a long walk, followed by lunch out; another tearful good-bye, and his ride back downtown. While he did feel hopeful about the GED program he had just started, he also felt trapped. Without an education, little money to work with, and trouble keeping a job, every day seemed overwhelming. He knew what to do to succeed; he just had difficulty making himself follow through.
The moral of this story: ADHD is serious and treatable. For children who struggle with ADHD, structured environments, understanding how the disorder affects behavior and learning, and a consistent plan of action, all support health. With early and targeted support at school and home, behavioral intervention, and with the possibility of a responsible medication regime, a child can grow to be a productive, successful and fulfilled adult.
Check out the Springer resource page for information on ADHD, executive dysfunction, and learning disabilities.