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Personal Stories

ADHD-One Mother's Perspective

By: Kathleen Turner

"I think Devon has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder," the kindergarten teacher whispered in my ear. I paused with no reaction. It sounded like my son had just been diagnosed with some terrible, incurable disease. The blank look on my face must have somehow urged her to continue on. "We'll need a psycho-educational assessment and the results will have to go to the IPRC Committee, but that's not until February. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, you may have to have it done privately. The cost could be between $800 and $1000. They will likely designate him exceptional-communication."

Exceptional… finally a word I understood. Nothing was wrong with Devon. I knew my son was exceptional… the way he could ride a two-wheeler before anyone else, how he could sing with perfect pitch, how he would dress up in the most sophisticated and creative costumes, and dance, he could dance for hours. The teacher and I were not on the same page.

The teacher continued, "We will then be able to set him up with an individual education plan as soon as possible. I know you want your son to get the best education based on his special needs." Special needs!… my son has special needs! I knew what THAT meant! They think he's retarded, stupid, a dummy, weird. My mind was rocketed back to my own childhood and the names that THOSE kids can get called.

I knew Devon was difficult, I even read the book, "How to Raise a Difficult Child." I loved my son. Nothing was wrong with him. I began my quest to prove it, mostly for myself and especially for him. Tunnel vision can have a positive side.

I read and I read about how to treat it with medicine, how to parent it, teach to it, feed it and what not to feed it, and how most people in jail have it (that scared me). I talked to teachers, doctors, psychologists, other Moms, even strangers. I listened to radio shows and watched TV shows, anything where there was a discussion on it. I soaked it all up like a sponge, began to think, and came to some conclusions.

How could nature have made such a mistake – but is it a mistake? At least 10% of North American children are considered as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and millions of kids are put on Ritalin because of it. Doctors do the prescribing, but it's the schoolteachers that make the decision that if the child is to attend school, they should take the prescribed drug. How did these sets of personality traits, abilities and skills become labeled as a "disorder?"

Thom Hartmann states in his book Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, "Generally, people view behaviors they don't understand or which are not the "norm" as inferior. The fact that people in the 17 th to 19 th centuries debated whether or not Native and African slaves were human, highlights the extremes to which people tend to take notions of culturalism. Accepting the notion that ADHD is an inherent trait, consider the types of people who would risk life and limb for a journey across the Atlantic in the 17 th century. People who are different are often lumped into a "not quite human" or "abnormal" category. Labels are very powerful things. They create for us paradigms through which we see ourselves, the world, and our place in it. Applying a label that says, "you have a deficit and a disorder" is more destructive than at all useful."

Attributes should be presented as strengths not as weaknesses or disorders. Easily distracted, short attention span, disorganized, impulsive can be viewed instead as constantly monitoring the environment, able to switch tasks on a split second's notice, very independent, thinking for themselves, flexible, incredible bursts of energy, thinking visually, will face danger that others will not, a willingness to take risks and quick decision making.

ADHD people are associated with high achievement, creativity, and a most successful adaptive style. A few famous people who would today be diagnosed with ADHD are Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Richard Francis Burton and Ernest Hemingway to name a few.

School is the hardest place for these children to be. Education has a long way to go before all of our children's different learning styles and intelligences are embraced to ensure that every child is successful.

My son knows that he is an intelligent, loving and competent individual in spite of the barriers that have been placed before him. Advocating for my son and others like him has become a part of my life. We're lucky to have each other and we've also been lucky enough to realize that learning creates understanding and perspective is everything.