Dr. Mom Mondays: Is ADD “Real?”

20 Mar

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?

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10 Responses to “Dr. Mom Mondays: Is ADD “Real?””

  1. 2bkate March 20, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    I LOVE Dr. Mom !!! Can she adopt me I have issues 🙂

  2. gigi March 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    I only wish her well and say go with your gut. You can always decide whether to agree with the results of the assessment or pursue more testing or go in another direction!

  3. Christina March 20, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    I am really going to love this series, I can tell. Your mom is awesome and it really shows through her writing.

  4. Ilana @ mommyshorts March 21, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    Great advice! Love the new Dr. Mom segment.

  5. Sandy Quinn Smith March 21, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Loving your articles, Mary! Great info!

  6. Camille Quinn March 21, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    I love Mimi!!!!

  7. La Jolla Mom March 21, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Super interesting! It’s nice to have an expert weigh in. I’m pretty convinced my husband has it, actually.

  8. Rhea March 21, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    To the person who asked the question: do you have more than one child?

    Before I had kids…I thought that the whole ADD/ADHD “thing” was obnoxious and children were being diagnosed left and right to lazy parents who just didn’t to discipline. But then, I had my 3 sons.

    My oldest is VERY different. He behaves different, reacts different, crys easily and BOUNCES off the walls. When I started to see the differences between him and his brothers, I realized that ADD/ADHD is VERY real.

    I have my theories on the increase in diagnosed children of late. But in order to HELP your child, you need to know what you are dealing with. Being ADD will not define your child, or you. But knowing will help you help him. Have him assessed.

  9. Michele March 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    As a teacher who has worked very closely with these types of students for the past 11 years, I have to say she is dead on… and very well said!

  10. CJ March 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    As someone who has worked with ADD/ADHD children and whose spouse has struggled with ADD his whole life, it is a very REAL issue. ADD is often tossed around casually, so I understand that it can be seen as a “fad” or Over-exaggeration, but if there is an authentic concern, IMHO, it is best to assess it as soon as possible and as thoroughly as you can. I think Dr. Mom answered this question beautifully!

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