“ADHD isn’t real.”
“ADHD is a pharmaceutical conspiracy.”
“Heavy discipline cures ADHD. They just need more discipline.”
“Kids with ADHD just have bad parents. If they had good parents, they wouldn’t have ADHD.”
“Take away video games and kids won’t have ADHD.”
“If a kid can sit still for a video game, they don’t have an attention problem, just a motivation problem.”
I could go on for quite some time. I could find and post pages and pages of this uninformed nonsense. But the further I go, the angrier I get, so I’ll stop the list here.
I have been aware of an uneducated and offensive public opinion on ADHD since my son was diagnosed with ADHD at age six in 2008. The minute I educated myself on the condition and mentally linked that with his behaviors and struggles, I realized that so much of what I thought, and the majority of what the public thinks of ADHD is just plain wrong. It’s based on misinformation, fear, and an enormous lack of empathy.
Back in April of 2009, I wrote the blog post Get the Facts About ADHD or Shut Up. That was just five months after my son’s diagnosis — five months into reading and researching about ADHD. I found myself so frustrated by the public judgement and ignorance surrounding ADHD that I felt compelled to set a few things straight and to ask all those who didn’t want to base their opinions on fact to just shut up. This sentiment is so common among parents of child with ADHD and people who have ADHD themselves, that ADDitude Magazine picked it up and printed a version of it in their Fall 2010 issue under the title, Blah! Blah! Blah!.
After about the first year of knowing I had a child with ADHD, I began to grow a thicker skin, an armor to protect myself and my child from the hurtful opinions of others. I learned to let these things roll off my back. I often left comments on articles to try to set someone straight, but sometimes I told myself I can’t change the world and just let it go. I have actually done really well with letting it go as of late. That is, until this past Sunday when an article about my experiences parenting a child with ADHD and how they correlate with a new study on added parental stress of raising a child with ADHD, Mother-Child Bond Takes Stressful Toll When Child Has ADHD, was picked up by MSNBC.com.
The first few minutes, I was actually really excited to see our story in the Today Show Parenting section, a major news website. I re-read the article in it’s entirety, even though I had already read it earlier in the day where it first appeared as The ADHD Rollercoaster: Stressed Parents Need Help Too on LiveScience.com. Then I reached the end and encountered the comments.
I immediately and instinctively knew I should not read the comments. I looked at Daddy with a tormented expression, “I know I shouldn’t read these comments. I know they’ll be judgmental and hateful mostly. But I can’t help myself. I want to see the good ones.”
“You really shouldn’t go there,” was Daddy’s only reply. He knows me. He knew I couldn’t help myself.
I dove into the comments quicksand. I got trapped very quickly. When I discovered the article there were 92 comments. From the very first one, they were so very wrong. They were debating medication for ADHD when medication was never once mentioned in the entire article. They were debating whether or not ADHD is real. There were a couple warrior moms replying to every misinformed comment they could and getting nowhere but deeper in the muck. Hatred and ignorance are powerful forces.
I read about 50-60 or so before I couldn’t hold back my fingers and just had to try to set some people straight. I knew they wouldn’t listen to me. I knew their inflammatory comments were like a plague. I knew… but I tried anyway. In the hour or two I spent reading and replying, the comment count jumped to well over 200. Faster than I could even read them. The monster had overtaken me — really it had the advantage all along.
While I know the article was helpful to some, to those living with a child with ADHD, I am disappointed by the true lack of knowledge and empathy of the general public. For almost three years now it’s been my goal to educate the public about ADHD, but I am afraid I still haven’t figured out how. In an age when people believe everything they read on the internet, how do we educate the public on the facts? How do we turn information into acceptance and understanding?
How do you handle the naysayers in your life?
By the way, a warm welcome to all of you who discovered this site through the MSNBC.com article! We are glad to have you here and look forward to getting to know you.