Use this information when you hear false comments about ADHD. The information and explanations below will help you fight the misinformation and stigma,
MYTH: ADHD is a result of a child eating too much sugar.
Research doesn’t support the theory that sugar can cause ADHD. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that sugar intake can affect the size of parts of a child’s brain, as is seen in patients with ADHD.
MYTH: Kids with ADHD are just poorly disciplined.
ADHD is a condition of the brain that makes it difficult for children to control their behavior. While researchers have been unable to find the exact cause of ADHD, they have discovered a distinct change in brain size and activity in children with ADHD. Because these children have difficulty controlling their behavior, they may be labeled “bad kids.” This is far from the truth.
MYTH: ADD is just a lack of willpower.
Persons with ADD focus well on things that interest them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really wanted to. ADD looks very much like a willpower problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain.
MYTH: Everybody has the symptoms of ADD, and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome these difficulties.
ADD affects persons of all levels of intelligence. And although everyone sometimes has symptoms of ADD, only those with chronic impairments from these symptoms warrant an ADD diagnosis.
MYTH: ADD doesn’t really cause much damage to a person’s life.
Untreated or inadequately treated ADD syndrome often severely impairs leaning, family life, education, work life, social interactions, and driving safely. Most of those with ADD who receive adequate treatment, however, function quite well.
MYTH: People with ADHD just need to try harder
While effort is important in overcoming obstacles caused by ADHD, it isn’t the whole story. You can likened the misconception of working harder in ADHD to poor eyesight: “We don’t tell someone with bad vision that he just needs to try harder to see well.” People with ADHD have been trying harder their entire lives, but don’t have as much to show for their efforts. This is why it’s important to address ADHD with appropriate treatment and ADHD-friendly strategies that take into account how the ADHD brain processes information.
MYTH: ADHD only affects school performance.
ADHD impacts a child’s functioning in all areas of his life, not just the classroom. Inattention interferes with his ability to complete tasks and follow directions; impulsivity leads to conflicts with parents and friends, as well as dangerous behaviors. Teenagers with ADHD are at higher risk for auto accidents, substance abuse, unprotected sex, and brushes with the law.
MYTH: He’s just lazy and unmotivated.
This assumption is a common response to the behavior exhibited by a child who is struggling with ADHD. A child who finds it nearly impossible to stay focused in class, or to complete a lengthy task such as writing a long essay, may try to save face by acting as though he does not want to do it or is too lazy to finish. This behavior may look like laziness or lack of motivation, but it stems from real difficulty in functioning. All children want to succeed and get praised for their good work. If such tasks were easy for children with ADHD to accomplish, and provided rewarding feedback, those children would seem just as “motivated” as anyone else.
MYTH: He’s a handful—or, she’s a daydreamer—but that’s normal. They just don’t let kids be kids these days.
It is true that all children are impulsive, active, and inattentive at times, sometimes to the extreme. A child with ADHD, however, is more than just a “handful” for his parents and teachers, or a “daydreamer” who tends to lose herself in thought. His or her hyperactivity and/or inattentiveness constitute a real day-to-day functional disability. That is, it seriously and consistently impedes the ability to succeed at school, fit into family routines, follow household rules, maintain friendships, interact positively with family members, avoid injury, or otherwise manage in his or her environment.
MYTH: ADHD Can Be Treated With Just One Treatment
Parents of children with ADHD are frequently forced to listen to “miracle cure” stories. Some people argue that medication alone can fix ADHD and that there’s no need to go to therapy or change parenting strategies. Others vehemently oppose medication, emphasizing that school accommodations and the right approach to parenting will “cure” the condition. The truth is that many people with ADHD have to try several different treatments before something works. The most effective way to treat ADHD is with a combination of medication, therapy, academic interventions, and lifestyle changes. If you skip one of these approaches, you’re reducing the efficacy of treatment.
MYTH: ADHD is a Personal Failing
ADHD makes everything about life more challenging. From getting up each day and going to school to finding and keeping a job, people with ADHD struggle more than the rest of us. Because everyone is familiar with procrastination and disorganization, though, the symptoms of ADHD can look a lot like the symptoms many of experience every day when we tackle the challenges of life. For people with ADHD, though, these symptoms are much more pronounced, and they can’t simply be thought away. Research now conclusively shows that people with ADHD are not choosing their condition. Instead, they have clear brain differences that can be treated with medication. Research also suggests a clear genetic component for ADHD.
Jodi Sleeper-Triplett, MCC, SCAC, BCC is a world-renowned expert in youth coaching and ADHD youthcoaching. She is the founder of the ADHD youth coaching movement and has been working with young people for nearly 35 years.