Parents of children suspected of having ADD (inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or combined forms) often engage in denying even the possibility of the need for testing, let alone treating the disorder (if necessary). This denial is often understandable and may in some ways be somewhat protective in nature and well-intentioned. However, it may actually make matters worse since it prevents discovering the real truth. If the problem exists, denial allows it to actually grow and worsen.
A number of reasons may exist for this denial. One is an extension of a simple childhood fantasy: “If I don’t admit to it, it’s not really there.” Even as adults, we still indulge in a lot of this “magical” thinking.
A further cause of denial is a “self-protective” one. Some parents (often fathers) view any problems in their children as a reflection of themselves, and therefore something that’s wrong with them or something they did wrong as parents. In children with ADD, this is specifically not the case. However, the urge to self-protect, even when misdirected, is a powerful one.
ADD is often hereditary, which means the parent could have ADD, too. Therefore, in comparing their children to themselves (a device that often prevents us as parents from getting the best help for our children), parents don’t see a problem, even if others do.
Also, the perceived solution to the problem may be seen as so terrible that it’s best to exclude the possibility of the problem existing, therefore excluding the solution as well. For ADD, this solution (often seen as unavoidable in treating the problem) is usually Ritalin, or one of the other stimulant-based drugs. This concern is valid. These drugs often have serious physiological and psychological side effects and must be taken for life to control the ADD. However, it’s imperative for parents to know that this is not the only solution! More on that later.
As scary as the possibility of the problem existing may be, the most protective thing to do as a parent is to find out if it’s there, and if it is, to treat it.
We said at the beginning that denial, although understandable, might actually make the problem worse. What do we mean by this? First, each academic year builds on the previous years’ foundation, so therefore, the longer testing and treatment (if necessary) are delayed, the increasingly harder school will get. Secondly, children act out of their forming self-image. If their experience at school and elsewhere teaches them that they are “not smart” (although people with ADD actually tend to have higher than average intelligence) or are “troublemakers,” they will increasingly see themselves as such and act accordingly. Finally, practicing denial in turn teaches denial, and the consequent hopelessness and tendency to give up are toxic to growth, achievement, and success in the child’s life.
We mentioned that medication is not the only effective treatment for ADD. There is a treatment that corrects the problem for life, as well as adding a sense of self-determination and success for the child. This method of treatment is Neurofeedback, an effective, drug-free, painless procedure in which the child learns to re-train the attention mechanisms of their brain, alleviating the condition. Once training is completed, no further treatment is necessary.
Dr. Stephen Ferrari is the Director of Alta Neuro-Imaging Neurofeedback