Family Health Guide

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ADHD: Child's Experience

Children with ADHD can be angry, frustrated and depressed, especially before they’re diagnosed and treated. Think about it – kids love to please. Imagine trying, day after day, and failing miserably, and wondering what is wrong with you and why you are different. Kids reports feelings of sadness, anger and frustration:

  • “It’s like he’s in a three ring circus trying to juggle five things – and he can’t juggle,” says Carla Nickerson, of Largo, FL of her son, Jacob Aylen, 11. Jacob and his step brother both have ADHD.
  • “In kindergarten he cried a lot and was very sad and felt he couldn’t do things to the expectations of teachers and parents,” says Penny Williams, of Asheville, NC, mother of Emma, 10 and Luke, 7. Luke was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago.
  • Jeanne Bailey’s daughter, now 16, of Alexandria, VA began to have problems keeping up in school age nine and worked hard to compensate in school. Under that pressure, she became explosively angry with family members at home.

Because children don’t know they have a medical condition, they may not share their feelings with parents until after they start treatment and realize the difference in their ability to keep up with peers and control their behavior. Once they realize they are not “bad” or “stubborn” or “spacey,” they can feel relief.

  • “When I take my medication, I hear everything,” is how her stepson describes it to stepmother Carla Nickerson. When Jacob Aylen’s medication wears off, he tells his mother, “I’m so confused, I need to take my pill so I can ‘come back.’”
  • Getting ADHD diagnosed and treated early can make a positive difference in a child’s attitude and personality, says Karran Harper Royal, of New Orleans, the parent of two sons with ADHD, Khristopher, now 23, and Kendrick, 14. Kendrick was diagnosed more quickly than his brother because Harper-Royal knew about ADHD the second time around. “Kendrick did not go through years of getting kicked out of the classroom and it makes a difference in his whole disposition. He doesn’t have that built-up anger and rage.”

Some kids may be embarrassed about having ADHD. Parents, doctors and counselors each play an important role in making children feel confident and comfortable with the fact they have a medical condition that needs treatment, just like asthma or diabetes. For children who find reporting to the school nurse for meds embarrassing, long-acting medications that can be given at home and last the whole school day can help.