Family Health Guide

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ADHD: Parents' Experience

Parents of ADHD kids often experience some of the same feelings as their children – frustration, anger, sorrow and a sense of failure.

  • When Khristopher was little, Karran Harper Royal had never heard of ADHD. All she knew is that she was the mother of the “bad” child in kindergarten. She even quit her job to work in the classroom to try and control Khris. “It was always ‘Mrs. Royal, Khris did this, Khris did that!’ He was always being put out of the classroom,” she remembers. She was humiliated – and worried. Her brothers had behaved just like Khris, and ended up as dropouts. One even went to prison. When a teacher told her about ADHD and she had her son evaluated, she was relieved – he had a condition that could be treated. (Khris is now a successful musician who attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.)
  • One of the most difficult decisions, parents say, is whether or not to put their children on medication. Because ADHD is a mental condition and there are no specific tests, like MRIs or blood tests, to diagnose it, some critics insist it doesn’t exist, despite the fact that the same thing is true of other conditions, like depression and schizophrenia. Acquaintances and family members not educated about ADHD can be dismissive and even cruel.
  • “Society is so judgmental,” says Carla Nickerson. “People say ‘how do you know it’s truly a syndrome or disease?’ Even I thought it was crazy!” She notes that no one criticizes her in the same way for giving Jacob, who also has diabetes, insulin.
  • “It took me about three or four days of grieving before I agreed to do the medication,” says Penny Williams. “Like the general public, I had this [mistaken] idea that was going to medicate my child to get him to comply.”

Once ADHD is diagnosed and kids are started on a course of treatment, parents say things get smoother – but only with hard work. Parents have to rethink their discipline and organizational techniques, keep up with medication schedules, watch for troubling side effects, and advocate with schools so their children get accommodations and the best education possible. Many describe it as a full time job.

  • “I had to stay involved every step of the way,” says Harper Royal of raising two sons with ADHD. But the payoff, she says, has been huge.. “I don’t have to worry about my son going to jail or being a drug user.” (statistics say children with untreated ADHD are more likely to do drugs or get into trouble with the law.) “He’s made good choices.”