Why Posting an Ignorant Graphic About Childlike Qualities Doesn’t Make ADHD Any Less Real

 

This ridiculous graphic was floating in my Facebook feed today, like a dead fish in the aquarium of my mind, stinking up the place:

 
ADHDIgnorance

 

Jesus.

And just like that, even though I believe in the power of raw vegetables and love all things holistic, I will now “unlike” the Rawforbeauty Facebook page.

 

Because this is so ignorant and disappointing to me. Of course these are all “childhood signs and symptoms” and characteristics that children share. Duh. They’re kids. We get it. They can’t learn adult behavior until we teach it to them, and we all had to gradually and eventually be taught culturally acceptable adult behavior. Is there anyone who doesn’t know this? (Because that would mean they were never a kid themselves, so wow. Magic! And again, duh.)

But this graphic completely oversimplifies the issue of ADHD, and the fact that one of the main issues with ADHD/neurologically atypical kids is that they’re years behind their peers behaviorally.

 

So yes, my 7-year-old child is exhibiting this snarky graphic’s “CHILDHOOD SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS” and acting like a typical childa typical 4 or 5-year-old child.

 

And that is the difference between “just being a kid” and “having ADHD.”

 

Because the impulse control center of his brain is so immature for his age, it makes it impossible for my son to behave in a manner that his same-age peers are able to, causing him to be repeatedly reprimanded for improper behaviors. Because he can’t understand why he keeps repeating things he knows he’s not supposed to do he constantly feels like a failure.

Multiple studies have shown that the behavioral issues kids with which ADHD-brained kids struggle can lead to a lifetime of feeling like a failure, and can become a self-fulfilling prophesy for many. A recent study showed that untreated ADHD and the low self-esteem that arises from it can lead to early experimentation with sex and drugs, as well as difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.

 
Here’s the prognosis we were given if our son goes untreated (source: http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/overview.html):

“ADHD is a long-term, chronic condition. If it is not treated correctly, ADHD may lead to:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Not doing well in school
  • Problems keeping a job
  • Trouble with the law

One third to one half of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity as adults. Adults with ADHD are often able to control behavior and mask difficulties.”

 

The above description pretty much sums up my childhood well into my 30s. I have untreated ADHD, like my father before me, and like my son has now. This is biological, folks, and it is nothing to be ashamed of, but more than anything, it is not just “kids being kids.” Wake the fuck up. Observe a diagnosed ADHD child in a room full of same-age peers for at least a month, and get back to me. Or better yet, try to raise one, and then we’ll talk. Because I’m a fucking amazing, strong, loving, protective, structure-giving, engaged, present, open-minded, consistent, goofy-kid-behavior appreciating mother, and everything I do, I do with my child’s best interests in mind, and yet, still—here we are—with my son who is almost 8-years-old, yet can’t stay seated or keep his mouth shut at an age appropriate level like the rest of his classmates. The psychiatrist described him as a 7-and-a-half-year-old boy with the behavior and impulse control of a 4-or-5-year-old boy. 

 

And that is the difference between “just being a kid” and “having ADHD.”

 

I’m also a fruit and vegetable-loving hippie chick who has been drinking green drinks, eating healthfully, and studying the effects of a good diet my entire life, and I have tried everything mentioned by healthy eating advocates to try to help my son behave at a level closer to his age, in addition to a very costly year of behavioral therapy, with no improvement… as we watch his self-esteem drop lower and lower because he’s so frustrated and mad at himself for not being able to do the same things kids his own age are all able to do.

 

And that is the difference between “just being a kid” and “having ADHD.”

 

My child wants more than anything in the world to share the same impulse control his same-age peers do, and he can’t because his brain is wired differently. And he’s not being defiant, as many of the adults in his life have misinterpreted. He is a sweet, kind, good-hearted empath like his mom who wants nothing more than to make everyone around him feel happy.

I know he’s not being defiant, because I’ve seen the bewilderment and fear in his eyes when we ask him, “Why did you do that behavior you know you weren’t supposed to do?” and he cries genuine, scared tears, and replies, “I don’t know.” And then cries some more. Because he’s honestly sorry for misbehaving, for repeating the same behavior he’s been asked 100 times to stop, and he can’t understand why his impulses make his body act before his brain can halt them, and feeling out-of-control is terrifying to deal with at any age, but a 6 or 7-year-old child has no idea how to process it.

So he often has emotional outbursts, and fits a 4 or 5-year-old child would have, and weeps loudly in his room because he’s so mad at himself for something he can’t control the way other kids his age can control and there’s nothing I can do to comfort him but hug him while he cries, and try not to let him see the tears running down my own face because my child’s pain is my pain. And because I know exactly why he’s frustrated because he got his ADHD racing-brain from me, and I grew up feeling like a failure and different in a bad way instead of in a good way, too.

 

And that is the difference between “just being a kid” and “having ADHD.”

 

He’s been like this since he was in utero and hyper, since he wouldn’t sleep through the night until nearly a year (and by “sleep through the night” I mean 5 hours in a row), and stopped napping at 18 months. If you observe him around kids his age, he is obviously different, and is often singled out by bullies for this. He is hyperactive and has bright red hair, so my son is basically the human equivalent of “waving a red flag” to get the attention of bullies. It sucks, because I can’t always be there to protect him, and I know that he needs to learn how to fight his battles. But sometimes I lie in bed praying and pleading with the Universe, please, just please let him get a little bit older and a little bit bigger before he has to start learning to fight battles. Because he was already getting bullied at 5-years-old. He was already different, and bullies zero in on different. And oh my God, why does my son already have to deal with bullies and fighting battles at 5-years-old? (But I guess that’s just “kids being kids,” too, right, Rawforbeauty?)

 

And before anyone mentions diet, please know that you are insulting someone who is extremely knowledgeable about all things health and diet. We have no cookies, candy, processed food in our house, he gets no red or blue dye number cancer EVER, we give him minimal sugar to the point that he gets sick to his stomach from what he eats at other kid’s birthday parties, and yes, I have tried keeping him dairy and gluten-free, and his behavior actually got worse. I also give him Omega-3 supplements and fresh green juice when I make it for myself. Sometimes we share an avocado together for breakfast. He loves vegetables because we’ve always given them to him. He has asked me for a salad for dinner. He has never had diet or caffeinated soda, ever, and won’t ever have it in my house.

 

In short: I am smart, health conscious as they come, have done ALL the research and tried ALL the things. And guess what? My son is still very obviously neurologically different from the other kids in his class. Watch him for 15 minutes and you’ll shut the hell up with your “boys will be boys” nonsense. Or if that doesn’t work, then take him. (Please. I’m a tired woman. I could use a break.) Take him for a week, and let’s see you do a better job. Let’s see you “fix” him. (I placed “fix” in quotations because I don’t think he’s broken, I think he’s different. And different isn’t bad, it’s just different, because we’re ALL different.) Because I’d bet one million dollars that at the end of the week, you’ll bring him back with bags under your eyes to match the ones under my eyes, admitting that no, kids will not “just be kids.” Some kids are different, and lack the impulse control they are supposed to have at their age.

 

And that is the difference between “just being a kid” and “having ADHD.”

 

ADHD is a physiological, “brain-wiring” issue, not a diet issue, or a “boys will be boys/kids will be kids” issue, and I’m sick to death of ignorant people thinking they know more than scientists, psychologists and doctors—intelligent people with degrees who’ve studied neurology, rather than doing their research by “liking” text-covered Facebook pictures and deciding they now have the answers—and then telling me they understand ADHD better than someone living with ADHD, which is actually something extremely complex and beyond easy “Facebook graphic” definition.

ADHD is not a parenting or school failing, it’s a biological, physiological difference. And the attitude expressed by the above image grossly oversimplifies what is a very real neurological condition, and puts the blame on parents, and teachers, which is the meanest and least helpful thing you can do to people who love children and are already dealing with the many stressors and societal guilt trips that come with trying to help or raise a neurologically atypical child.

So please consider thinking about the feelings of parents dealing with this issue before you share images like the one above, show some empathy, and try to wrap your mind around the crazy thought that maybe, just maybe intelligent people with college degrees who study human brains professionally for a living with no “Big Pharma” agenda just might know a little bit more about neurologically atypical children than strangers who post obviously inflammatory and controversial graphics on the Internet to get attention and hits on their raw-food-themed Facebook page.

Because yes, maybe some kids are misdiagnosed as having ADHD because the adults in their life are trying to control them and don’t want to try harder—I can’t know this unless I have lived their lives—but when you share the thought that all kids diagnosed with ADHD are simply “just being kids” as exemplified in the image above, you are insulting the parents who have tried everything to help their kids behave in an age-appropriate manner, and are working hard to protect their ADHD-brained child’s self-esteem every way they possibly can.

 

And finally, that is the difference between “just being a kid” and “having ADHD.”

 

And yes, sometimes that means medication. Because we have tried every dietary suggestion on the Internet, and a year of really expensive behavioral therapy, with absolutely no improvement, and our son continues to refer to himself as a “troublemaker” and a “bad kid” and a “pest” because he can’t control himself the way all of his classmates can, we are about to try medication to help our child behave the way his classmates do in school so he can feel like a success again, and feel proud of himself rather than humiliated and frightened by his uncontrollable behavior all the time.

This decision is coming from a person who before having a child with ADHD also used to think that ADHD medication was often used for the convenience of the adults dealing with hyperactive children. But now that I’ve watched my son go from a confident, happy-go-lucky, gregarious little toddler into an anxious little boy with a low self-esteem who feels like he’s failing all of the time, I am willing to try medication. Not for my convenience, but for my son’s soul. Now I get it. Because everybody deserves to feel good about themselves.

So please, before you judge me, and other parents who choose medication to help their children control their impulses and behave in an age appropriate manner, please think about how the children feel. Imagine feeling like everyone around you can do everything the way kids your age are able to, and you can’t. Imagine feeling ostracized when your teacher faces you alone in the Bad Kid Desk against a wall for the first 4 months of school because you can’t control your impulse to stand or talk out of turn, until your parents finally have multiple meetings involving the principal to get you moved back with the other kids. (I’m talking about my son at age 6, you guys.) Imagine that during your IQ test, during the vocabulary part, when asked to define “pest,” you give the psychiatrist your own name, and when asked to explain, you tell her that you’re a pest because you bother everyone in your life and nobody wants you around. Because that’s what my kid said. The doctor also said that while he scored well into the gifted range, he would have scored even higher, but his behavior was so unfocused and classic ADHD that she couldn’t get him to answer many of the questions.

 

Do you understand why we are so desperate to help our child yet? Do you understand that we are watching his self-esteem go into the toilet, and possibly his future with it, so we want to help our kid feel good about himself any way we possibly can yet? Or do you still want to write me off as someone who just doesn’t get that “kids will be kids”?

 
Ugh.

 

I beg of you, please, don’t insult parents of neurologically atypical/ADHD children by dismissing their children’s inability to behave at an age-appropriate level as “they’re just being kids.” This is horrifically ignorant and cruel to people who’ve dealt with watching their children continuously get in trouble, draining the self-esteem of the child and the parents, as we all feel like we are failing in some way. I cry all of the time and take Xanax because I can’t “fix” this for my child. He’s hurting and failing in school and I’ve tried everything to help him and it’s breaking my heart on a daily basis. And this makes me feel like I’m failing parenthood, and my husband, and my in-laws, and myself, and worst of all, I feel like I’m failing my child. I officially have more Mommy Guilt on my shoulders than I can bear without anxiety medication and psychiatric visits. So how dare you write off my the pain of my son, my husband, and myself as our inability to recognize that he’s just “being a kid.”

By sharing that image up there, you’re essentially saying that all of the professional educators, psychologists, therapists, doctors in my son’s life, my husband, and myself are all too stupid to know the difference between typical behavior for a child my son’s age and the behavior of a child 2-3 years younger, which is what he exhibits. And you’ve never even met the child.

Do you understand how ignorant and insulting of you this is?

Kids with ADHD aren’t “just being kids.”

It’s just not that simple, folks.

You can’t even imagine know how fucking badly I wish it was that simple, but it’s not.

 

So stop judging people and children and situations and genetics and research about which you know absolutely nothing.

 

Or you can go back to posting your ignorant Facebook graphics that oversimplify very complex neurological issues to make yourself feel self-righteous and superior to other people who haven’t done the extensive Facebook graphic-reading “research” you have on the subject, if that’s what floats your boat, I guess.

It’s a free country.

 

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About T.L. Crider

Mom. Musician. Professional Worryist. Disappointed Idealist. INFJ. Scorpio with 5 planets in Scorpio. I really miss bread.
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3 Responses to Why Posting an Ignorant Graphic About Childlike Qualities Doesn’t Make ADHD Any Less Real

  1. Tom says:

    I’m an almost 40 year old adult who was diagnosed with ADHD in the first grade. I’ve been where your son is, and my mother was right there with you on the rest.

    Part of the problem with ADHD is that the symptoms DO look like kids just being kids to most of the population (particularly when they’re not interacting with their own age group for comparison). The symptoms often DO look like poor parenting to those who don’t know the parents. The problem is that ADHD isn’t any of those things. It’s much, much more complex.

    I applaud you for leaving that Facebook group. I sincerely urge you to send them a link to this blog as well. They need to be educated, because as ridiculous as it sounds, people will look at that graphic and believe it. 🙂

    • tawnysea8888 says:

      I am about to get treatment for myself as well as my son, and so agree with you about how ADHD can just look like poor parenting or just “energetic” kids to those who haven’t watched ADHD kids try to interact and behave the way their classmates can behave. You’re absolutely right.

      I left that Facebook group, and left them a link to this article. I hope they read it, because shaming people never helps anyone do a better job as a parent. If they actually care about children, shaming their already frustrated and humiliated parents into feeling like they’re failing even more than they already feel like they are is about the worst thing to do to them, and by proxy, their kids. It makes me sad.

      But you’ve made me happy with your support and kind words. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Tom. 🙂

    • Tom says:

      I was glad to do it. I have something akin to a personal vendetta against these people who deny that ADHD is real. I’ve lived with it my whole life, and it’s amazing the number of people who will look at me and tell me that this condition I’ve been diagnosed with for almost 35 years isn’t real. They seem to think that if I just wanted to, I could be “normal”

      My new tact is to as ask them if they would say the same thing to a blind person. Would they tell a paraplegic that they could walk if they just wanted it enough? Would they tell a deaf person that the problem was really all in their diet?

      Of course not. Unfortunately, ADHD isn’t that way, so we who advocate about this condition have to stick together 😉

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