10 Myths Debunked about ADHD

(Excerpt from I Can Learn When I’m Moving: Going to School With ADHD)

  1. ADHD is a behavior problem controllable by the student.

ADHD is a neurological disorder.  People are born with ADHD and have a deficiency of a neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, which is related to levels of dopamine.  Neurotransmitter patterns are impaired in four different regions of the brain directly related to executive functions such as impulse control, self-regulation, transitioning from one activity to another, organization, focus, and hyperactivity. Through treatment plans that include behavior modification and classroom support, children can learn coping schools to improve, to varying degrees, in these areas (Blum et al., 2008).

  1. Children with ADHD are lazy or do not put in enough effort.

Having ADHD has been described by many as having a brain that “never stops” or having an internal computer with hundreds of tabs open.  Given this mental state, it requires a great deal of effort to focus in class.  Sometimes students are either not able to maintain focus or, in many cases, feel worn out from the strain.  Because focusing is difficult, there can be a natural resistance to tasks requiring sustained focus.  This is where empathy and support can have a huge impact (Blum et al., 2008).

  1. Kids with ADHD are incapable of focusing.

ADHD is really a disorder of attention, not a “deficit” of attention.  In fact, a common symptom of ADHD is hyperfocus.  This can be seen in the fact that children with ADHD more frequently have an “addiction” to screens.  When they are in this mode, they easily lose track of time, perspective, and other responsibilities.  It’s not that children with ADHD aren’t able to focus; it’s more accurate to say that they are less able to regulate their attention span.  Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of hyperfocus in children with ADHD has perpetuated the myth that their ability to focus is selective, not due to a neurological disorder (Porter, 2019).  

  1. All kids with ADHD are always hyperactive.

Some children with ADHD present as “hyperactive/impulsive” while others are “inattentive.”  Therefore it is very possible that a child is not hyperactive but distracted and still has ADHD.  Also, no one is hyperactive every moment; there are times when people with ADHD have low levels of energy and prefer to be still.  Jason basically has two extremes; he’s either unable to sit still or he is calm, reflective, and very focused.  

  1. ADHD is more common in boys.

It’s actually more like ADHD tends to be more obvious in boys.  ADHD and ADD are both very common in girls and in fact underdiagnosed.  Girls are more likely to present as inattentive than hyperactive.  Unfortunately, since their symptoms are less visible, they are less likely to be diagnosed, which in many cases leads to higher negative outcomes later in life such as drug addiction, depression, bulimia, etc. (Ali, 2019).

  1. ADHD is a learning disability.

Although approximately 30-50% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability, ADHD is not a learning disability.  This point can cause confusion because often the symptoms of ADHD can get in the way of learning.  For example, a child that struggles with focus may find learning to read difficult; however, the child does not need support with decoding like a child with a reading disability would (Disabilities Association of America, 2020).  

  1. ADHD can be controlled by letting kids play outside more.

All children thrive with time to play outside.  Play and physical activity offer numerous health benefits and social-emotional learning opportunities.  That being said, although the hyperactivity associated with ADHD can be managed with movement, ADHD is a complex condition that requires multiple levels of support in several areas such as organization, self-regulation, and focus (Blum et al., 2008).  Therefore although movement and time to play outdoors offer tremendous benefits, they do not cure a child of ADHD.  

  1. Kids outgrow ADHD.

Many adults struggle with ADHD.  In many cases, this is exacerbated by not being adequately supported as children.  We can support children with ADHD and help them to learn ways to manage their symptoms and to be more successful, but we must understand that ADHD is a lifelong neurological condition (Blum et al., 2008).

  1. ADHD is a result of poor parenting.

It would be hard to find a parent of a child with ADHD who has not both been blamed and shamed by others, and questioned themselves about their own parenting; however, ADHD is a neurological condition that people are born with.  There are strategies that encourage positive behavior, but all parenting strategies come with a learning curve.

  1. ADHD is not a serious condition.

The first sentence of The Center for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) web review of ADHD is: “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a serious public health problem.”  The article goes on to explore the effects on both the individual with ADHD and society as a whole (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).  I daresay that a neurological condition that affects social relationships, emotional stability, self esteem, and productivity from childhood to adulthood is rather serious.

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