ADHD is not just bad behaviour

I swear if I read one more meme about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) being a made up condition, I will scream. If I see one more post about kids with ADHD just needing a ‘kick up the arse’, I will explode. 

ADHD is not just a child being naughty.  It is a documented disability.  It is not a new condition. In fact it was first added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980.  At the risk of alarming anyone, that is nearly 40 years ago.

In April last year, Mr 7 was diagnosed with ADHD – Inattentive Type.  In his own words, his brain goes too fast to make sense of the things he needs to do.  These issues really became apparent when he started year 1 at school.  His teacher knew he could do the work, but Mr 7 just wasn’t completing it. He was getting frustrated that he couldn’t do the things that he too knew that he could do.

Mr 7 has had sleep issues since just before he was 2. He wasn’t bad because he couldn’t sleep. Him not sleeping wasn’t because he was being deliberately disruptive. He just couldn’t wind down mentally after his day. While neurotypical kids would be exhausted after a big day of activities, he was wired and unable to calm his thoughts.

When Mr 7 was diagnosed with ADHD, the pediatrician suggested medication to help with his concentration issues. For me it was a no brainer. I knew for myself, how much the right medication can help when you are struggling mentally. I also knew there was a stigma around medicating for ADHD.

Some people have the belief that medicating ADHD is unnecessarily drugging kids with something that is borderline legal narcotics. They believe that ADHD is just a behavourial issue, not a neurological one. They believe the horror stories of kids turned into zombies and refuse to listen to the success stories.

I went into trying medication with an open mind. I knew that there was the possibility that it wouldn’t work for us, that the side effects could outweigh any benefits. I was prepared to take him off them if they were doing him more harm than good. However I would approach any medication in the same way. It wouldn’t matter if it was for a physical illness or a mental one.

ADHD often manifests itself as naughty behaviour in children because they are frustrated. Imagine if you couldn’t pin down any of your thoughts, no matter how hard you tried. Now imagine that this happens all of the time. Imagine that even though you wanted to do well in class, you wanted to listen, you wanted to do the best but those swirling thoughts were all you had.

Now imagine someone told you that a simple white pill could mean that you could take hold of some of those thoughts. Wouldn’t you want to give it a try? Wouldn’t you want to give it a try for your child?

Medication isn’t the only answer for treating ADHD, and it doesn’t work for everyone. However I would hate to think that I had stopped my son from reaching his potential because of the stigma around a white pill. Seeing how proud of himself he is, because he is achieving things he didn’t think he could is worth it. Seeing him being able to learn about the things he wants to, makes it worth it.

Are you slightly freaking out that 1980 is almost 40 years ago?

Do you know someone with ADHD, do they medicate?

13 thoughts on “ADHD is not just bad behaviour

  1. Lydia C. Lee

    I think all these things are dealt with historical ignorance until it happens to us. So our parents teach us something stupid because that’s what was thought back then, and we keep carrying it even though medicine and science has caught up (even some doctors still think outdated ideas because (a) they learnt medicine years ago or (b) they grew up with a sheltered world view and have never expanded their knowledge so the dismiss the new findings).
    I always think about how epilepsy and autism sufferers were locked in mental asylums and dyslexics and stutterers were treated as stupid. Yet we know better now.
    The converse of your 40 years is WHO only deciding Homosexuality wasn’t a mental illness in 1996. Can you believe that? I sort of lost faith in them when I learnt that (in an ad by the AFL, of all things). Astounding.
    So, while I don’t know much about ADHD, I do know it’s not a parenting issue or ‘being naughty’. Just as women don’t ask to be raped…

  2. Bec Bowyer

    A friend of mine was finally diagnosed with – and treated for – ADHD at the ripe old age of 35. It’s changed her life and she finally has some measure of peace. She’s spent decades going through depression and anxiety meds and elimination diets and testing for possible allergies.

  3. Renee Wilson

    I don’t know anyone diagnosed with ADHD. If medication can help and make a huge difference in a child’s life it really does seem like a no brainer. Why let them suffer when you know you can help?

  4. Nicole @ The Builder's Wife

    I am of the opinion that parents will do what they think is best for their child, far be it for me to question that. If medication helps, isn’t that better for all involved? As always I don’t understand why others feel they have the right to an opinion on the lives of another family. x

  5. Kirsty @ My Home Truths

    My brother grew up with ADHD (ADD in those days, back in the 80s!) so I know how effective medication and other strategies can be to help with attention and behaviour. So many similarities here to autism. So many memes about slapping autism out of your child, etc. I wish people could live in our shoes for one day and see that these are real conditions requiring more than just firm discipline. I’m happy to hear that medication seems to have worked in your son’s case. We haven’t medicated as yet but it’s always an option (although in our case it would be to address anxiety rather than attention).

  6. Vanessa

    I was diagnosed with ADHD at 37. As soon as my psych mentioned it a lightbulb aha moment happened and all the negative comments ever written in my school reports or said about me by parents and other family (lazy, lives in a vacuum, day dreamer, impulsive) made sense but could have been avoided if we knew then what I know now. The constant blame for my “bad” behaviour effected my self esteem massively and I ended up down the well trodden path of ADHD types of alcohol and drug abuse starting in my late teens. When I noticed similar behaviour from my Mr 8 when he was about 4 I knew I wanted to deal with it completely differently to the way my parents dealt with it. It’s fair to say though in the 1980s and early 90s girls were not being diagnosed with ADHD as it was considered a hyper boys condition. When Mr 8 said to me at the end of a trouble filled kindergarten year “my life is in chaos” I knew something had to be done. It took 8 months of therapy and a long wait to see a specialist and many tests to get a diagnosis and a script for Ritalin but it was worth it. My boy is now calm and learning and happy as ever. It still shocks me though when I’ve repeated this story that I get negative comments that I choose to have my son medicated. Do I want a boy who is illiterate and bashing up kids and property out of frustration like I had when he was in kindy and year one or a kid that is doing well and living a normal life? The question shouldn’t even need to be asked.

  7. Bec Senyard

    There are so many theories around ADHD, any wonder you want to hit your head on a wall. Parents are the ones that see the condition first hand with their children and deal with the behavior – not only at home, but also in public. If a doctor prescribes medication, then listen to the medical advice and do what’s right for your child. As for learning that 1980 is almost 40 years ago… um NO way. Although my hubby was born in 1981 and will be celebrating his 40th in a couple of years. Crazy times!!

  8. Tracy Williams

    My son was diagnosed with ADHD the year he turned 13, and then we realised my husband is also wired exactly the same way, and all of a sudden a whole bunch of things made so much sense!

    A diagnoses like this is so incredibly unique to each person, so as a parent, it’s my job to educate and inform my son’s teachers about what he needs. I’ve just had parent-teacher interviews and had to inform all his teachers (again) that he requires them to support him, with his organisation. At VCE level, that means we need them to give him specific study tasks so that he does the extra study required at that level. They also need to know he misses about 30% of what goes on because his brain tunes out.

  9. Robyna May

    Let’s not dwell on the 80s being so far away. I have friends whose kids use medicine to manage their ADHD. Like everything in families – you do what works for you.

  10. Bron

    I think some of it is generational. Often those memes start with “in my day…”

    Thank goodness the world is a more open and loving place than it was 50 years ago. Children and young people are so open minded, we are creating an amazing place on the planet now.

  11. Denyse Whelan Blogs

    Good for you and your stance. I think if the diagnosis is made, and you see your child struggling then medication can help. You are showing this. I know of the stigma and I know of ‘all the talk’ that went on in the 1980s. I know of someone who went through a myriad of tests to demonstrate the diagnosis of ADD (no hyperactivity but inattentiveness). I also know that all of us has a degree or so of this. It’s that when it is interfering in a major way of learning, life, recreation, and so on it does need to be investigated and help sought by whatever means works.
    I do not like teacher or parents ‘making the diagnosis’ because I believe that’s where all the old wives tales etc start. I do believe in saying to a parent, confidently and quietly, I wonder if it might benefit your child to go see your GP to see what he/she says about the ways in which we might be able to get some learning/behavioural help for him/her. When I taught pre-service teachers at Uni the subject was Inclusive Education so you can imagine we covered quite a few of the better known conditions which can be barriers to learning but we emphasised over and over again. We are the educators…not the medical practitioners nor diagnosticians. We only report on what we notice as educators. Great post!!


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