The media is at it again — publishing sensationalized articles that further stigmatize ADHD and ADHD medication. This time, Time Magazine has published an article by Marilyn Wedge, author of A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic, called “The ADHD Fallacy”. Wedge’s theory is that ADHD symptoms are “just childhood” and best treated with natural “remedies” like therapy, medication, and more physical activity. She even proposes that ADHD “medication defines the disease” when it comes to mental illness. Of course, Wedge also claims that stimulant medication changes one’s personality and squashes creativity.
Ms. Wedge, ADHD is considered an “illness” because it’s a physiological difference in the brain and the nervous system, as proven in many studies. If it’s just over-activity and just “childhood,” then that kid doesn’t have ADHD. Those who truly have ADHD struggle to function in all aspects of life. They often feel very defeated, sad, broken, and worthless.
Wouldn’t it be great if every kid with ADHD could get more exercise, change their diet, and have remarkable teachers who do all the right things for them like your example, Aiden? Wouldn’t it be great if no child needed medication for ADHD, depression, anxiety, OCD, etc.? Hell, wouldn’t it be great if no kid needed insulin or chemotherapy? Of course! No one will argue with that.
But that’s not realistic. By suggesting that ADHD medication is the enemy and not necessary, you are clouding the judgement of millions. That, in turn, keeps kids who are truly struggling, who truly need medication, from treatment potentially. And those without treatment have poor self-esteem, feel stupid, and often abuse drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate.
When my son, who happens to have a gifted IQ and the kindest heart around, was just five years old, he was crying a lot, felt like he couldn’t do anything right, and constantly called himself “stupid.” He couldn’t achieve anything, not even focusing on Legos (an activity he loves) for more than a mere five minutes. We tried behavior modification, therapy, OT, dozens of supplement programs, a gluten-free diet, and more, and none of it helped him achieve success and happiness in life. Nothing, except medication.
ADHD medication saved my son. Does he still struggle a great deal? Absolutely! It’s still heartbreaking for this momma. But, he has the opportunity now to achieve success and joy. And you know what’s the best part, he’s still my active, creative, inventive, loyal, kind, loving boy. ADHD medication doesn’t change one’s personality or squash creativity — if it does, it’s the wrong medication or dosage, or maybe the wrong diagnosis altogether.
The reality is, most kids don’t have all the stars align like your patient, Aiden. Most kids are made to feel broken and stupid in US schools if they have learning differences. Is it okay to raise a down and defeated child because you prefer they didn’t take ADHD medication?
Every single parent of a child with ADHD prefers our child didn’t need ADHD medication. We anguish over the decision, for years. It’s time society and fear mongers cut us some slack and accept that ADHD is a physiological difference that negatively alters people’s lives.
If you can help even the playing field for a child who was born with neurological differences, I find it reprehensible not to.
Author: Penny Williams
Penny Williams guides and mentors parents raising kids with ADHD and/or autism. She’s the parent of a son with ADHD and autism, and the author of three award-winning books on parenting kids with ADHD: Boy Without Instructions, What to Expect When Parenting Children with ADHD, and The Insider’s Guide to ADHD Penny is the current editor of ParentingADHDandAutism.com, Founder and Instructor for The Parenting ADHD & Autism Academy, and a frequent contributor on parenting and children with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications.