Welcome to the second installment of “Dr. Mom Mondays” at The Little Hen House! Thank you to everyone for the fabulous support you showed my new weekly series. It was hard to pick just one question, but my heart really feels for this mom. The reader asked to remain anonymous, and I’m sure we can all relate to her desire to protect her son’s identity. If any of you would like to be featured on the next Dr. Mom Mondays you can email me your parenting or relationship question to morgan(at)thelittlehenhouse(dot)com.
Question: My pediatrician just suggested that I have my 7-year-old assessed for A.D.D. I am wary of what I think is an “ADD frenzy” and dislike the idea of kids having such labels. What do you think?
Dr. Mom says: I understand your dislike of labels and your wariness about the recent increase in the ADD diagnosis. However, I offer you another view of this issue. I would suggest that you go ahead and get the assessment that your pediatrician has advised. Here is why:
First, the assessment process is very educational in itself. Even if you don’t buy into the ADD label, or even its existence, you will learn some very important things about your child’s learning style, coping mechanisms, and brain habits, so to speak. Pick up a book (ask the assessor’s for a reference) and see what you learn about children and brain/behavior/learning differences. It is fascinating stuff. To be smart, we must all increase our understanding of our own brain’s “operating style” – nothing is more important in the quest for better and better self-management.
So learning about our child’s is the most helpful thing we can do as we teach him how to manage himself as well. Having the assessment your pediatrician suggests will be a wonderful opportunity for you to learn some things about your child that you probably don’t yet know. You can ignore the fact that this is all done in the vein of ADD assessment. Think of it as “learning style assessment and learning management assessment.”
Another reframe is this: If indeed your child “qualifies” for the ADD diagnosis, consider accepting it and getting it on his record at school. It could give him some considerable benefits– the diagnosis may be to his advantage in many ways. He can receive extra help as needed in school, like tutoring, note-taking, special study guides, organizational aids, language therapy, and such (all mandated by state laws, and free of charge). He might receive extra time on tests (including the SAT!!), private space for test-taking, accommodations for where he sits in the classroom, use of calculators, and much more. Kids with the ADD diagnosis often quality for special scholarships to college, can even receive consideration for college acceptance with somewhat easier requirements, and so forth. In these days of stiff competition, some edge can make a difference.
Perhaps the most important consideration for you is this: watch carefully your child’s succeeds or struggles with peer relationships. Kids with “different” learning and behavior styles, whether you call it ADD or just a difference, often have struggles socially. Kids can overcome educational weaknesses with time, but social weaknesses can dramatically affect their self-esteem, affecting success in school and in life. The resulting poor self-image and possible “social labeling” by peers (the “weird kid” or “dumb kid” or “disruptive kid” and so forth) can stay with them for years, making a painful, life-changing situation. In that case, it is better to accept the ADD label, treat the symptoms, and give a child a chance at more acceptable peer and school experiences.
We all want to help our kids make the most of what they have and overcome obstacles. Following your pediatrician’s advice about getting this assessment might be your best bet in that honorable quest.
Mary Quinn has a Ph.D. in Therapeutic Psychology and is Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in San Diego. She is also a wife of 31 years, a mother of three, a step-mother of two, a grandmother of seven, a passionate gardener, and a writer. She survived a childhood as the only girl with five brothers, and always wears red toenail polish.
Thanks Dr. Mom! What about you guys? Do you have any words of wisdom for our friend?