ADD/ADHD: REAL or IMAGINED?

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1 Author: Becky MacKenzie, 2006 ADD/ADHD: REAL or IMAGINED? Is ADD/ADHD a legitimate mental disorder? The subject of ADD/ADHD came up in class the other night. A student asked if ADD/ADHD was a real disorder genetically linked to the parents. My biology teacher decided that while she didn t know whether it was real or not, she did believe that a lot of people use it as an excuse for laziness. She also said it was not genetically linked to any parent because she had not seen any proof of this. She went on to say she did not believe adults could have the disorder and that pharmaceutical companies were only out to make money by advertising Adult ADD. Nobody in the class knew that ADD and ADHD were a part of my family. Although I was able to hide my emotions, I couldn t help but take her words as a personal attack against my daughter and myself. Her comments sparked a defensive nerve in me, yet I was unable to speak up; all of a sudden I felt like a little kid again trapped in my surroundings. The self-esteem I have spent my adult life building crumbled a little under the weight of her words. This research paper is my chance to speak up. I will talk about how ADD/ADHD affects people who have the disorder. I also intend to provide evidence, which shows ADD/ADHD is real. Let s start with a situation I am most familiar with. I have ADD. My daughter, Emily, has ADHD. We spend a lot of time trying to keep up with the rest of the world; often feeling frustrated that we are left behind. Forgetfulness 1

2 and procrastination are a big part of our lives. I might forget to plan something for dinner, or forget where I put my car keys. Emily will forget a book at school or which assignment she is supposed to do for homework. There always seems to be enough time until time runs out and we wish we had more of it. Prioritizing is something we are not very good at. For me, it s all I can do to get the kids fed and in bed between 8:00 and 9:00 PM; in reality they don t get to bed until 10:00 PM. We will procrastinate over just about anything. I don t always know how to get started on a new assignment and it becomes overwhelming for me. I procrastinate over things that are overwhelming for me because I have a fear of failure. I believe Emily feels much the same way. So, just because I understand her life, does that mean I make excuses for her? I fight every day to be a better person, to be more dependable, and to teach my daughter not to be like me. I realize she has this disorder and I do know what she is going through. I do not, however, allow her to use it as an excuse to be lazy. She is expected to have her homework completed, along with any classwork she needs to catch up on. She is also expected to follow directions given to her by her teachers and parents. She is reprimanded when she fails to accomplish these things. Part of having ADD/ADHD is learning how not to let it take over your life and not to let it become an excuse. As taken from Adult ADD Pathfinders, by Linda Lose, MA., LMFT, Thom Hartmann writes, "If ADD is part of our genetic heritage, it cannot be an excuse for a person's failings. It's merely an explanation, one that 2

3 then provides the first steps toward overcoming those obstacles which in the past, so often caused failure." As parents of a child diagnosed with ADHD, my husband and I wondered if we could have prevented the disorder with more discipline or structure in Emily s life. Outsiders often assume my husband and I have poor parenting skills. However, studies have shown a genetic link with ADD/ADHD. According to the online encyclopedia, Wikpedia, Scientific evidence suggests most strongly that, in many cases, the disorder is genetically transmitted, and is caused by an imbalance or deficiency in certain chemicals that regulate the efficiency with which the brain controls behavior. Current research is examining which genes may be involved. And from WebMD Medical News, For the remaining skeptics, Russell Barkley, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, points to more than 4,000 studies on children with ADHD. The studies on adults are not as numerous, but he says they show that up to 5% of them have the disorder. There are also scientific advances that show ADHD as a clear medical problem, says Barkley. We've identified at least 2 or 3 genes that contribute to this disorder, he says. We now have a number of studies that repeatedly document areas of the brain that are not as well developed in people with this disorder. (Zamora) Considering that I can see a pattern of ADD/ADHD tendencies throughout members of my immediate family, this information does not surprise me. 3

4 Testing for ADD/ADHD has taken on a new level. Doctors can now use SPECT scans, PET scans, and fmri scans to view differences in brain function for a person with ADD/ADHD. The debate over whether or not ADD, ADHD and bipolar are real is by showing the areas of dysfunction in the brain. Based on research of thousands of patients using brain SPECT imaging (one of the most sophisticated functional brain-imaging studies in the world), doctors and researchers have been able to see where these disorders reside in the brain and why it has such a negative impact on behavior. Right or wrong, humans have an innate distrust of the intangible, but seeing the ADD/ADHD or bipolar brain can cause the destructive myths and prejudices to fade away. (momsanddadsathome.com). Thinking back to the opinion of my biology teacher, I am concerned with whether Emily is receiving fair and impartial treatment while at school. I understand there are laws to protect Emily, but how far are the teachers and faculty from her school willing to go to accommodate her needs? What if they feel, as my biology teacher does, that Emily s diagnosis of ADHD is just an excuse for poor performance? According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ( Emily cannot be discriminated against because of her ADHD; the school must make special accommodations to meet her educational needs. The teachers can do things such as reduce the amount of her homework, allow her extra time on tests, or give her oral tests instead of written ones. These are just a few of the things the school can do to 4

5 help Emily. Every child with a mental disorder has different needs. Parents need to set up meetings with the teachers and work together with them to determine what should be done to help the child with ADD/ADHD. ADD/ADHD is not an easy thing to live with. Emily and I face many obstacles, which cause frustration from time to time. What we do not need is negative feedback from people who do not know enough about the disorder. In no way does a negative attitude help anyone with this disorder; it only causes bad feelings and low self-esteem for someone with ADD/ADHD. For me, support from my loved ones has given me the courage to attend college at this stage in my life. I could not be doing this without their help. They have given me the love and encouragement I need to move forward with my life; Emily will receive that same love and encouragement needed for success in her life. 5

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