“My child is having significant problems in school and may be exhibiting signs of ADHD, but we’re not sure. My husband struggled in school, and he says it’s normal. Should we have her tested?”
Parents of children suspected of having ADHD (inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or combined forms) often deny even the possibility of testing, let alone treating the disorder. This denial is often understandable, and may in some ways be somewhat protective and well-intentioned. However, it may make matters worse – it prevents finding out the truth, and if the problem is there, allows it to grow and worsen.
A number of reasons for this denial may exist. One is an extension of a simple childhood fantasy: “If I don’t admit to it, it’s not really there.”
A further cause of denial is the “self-protective” one. Some parents (often fathers) see any problems in their children as a reflection of themselves; therefore, something wrong in them or something they did wrong as parents. When dealing with ADHD children, this specifically is not the case. However, the urge to self-protect, even misdirected, is a powerful one.
ADHD is often hereditary. This means that the parent could have ADHD, too. When comparing their children to themselves, parents may not see any problem…even if others clearly do.
Also, the perceived solution to the problem may be seen as so unwanted that parents will exclude the possibility of the problem entirely. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t help. For ADHD, the unwanted solution (often seen as unavoidable) is usually medication. This concern is valid. These drugs often have serious physiological and psychological side effects, and must be taken for life.
However, this is not the only solution!
As scary as the possibility may be, the most protective thing a parent can do is to see if ADHD is there, and if so, treat it. We said that denial, although understandable, might actually make the problem worse. How? First, academic progress builds on previous progress; the longer the testing and treatment (if necessary) is delayed, the increasingly harder school will get. Second, children act out of their forming self-image. If their experiences teach them that they’re “not smart” (actually people with ADHD tend to have higher than average intelligence) or are “trouble-makers,” they will increasingly see themselves as such, and act accordingly. Finally, practicing denial teaches our children to deny problems, and that can create a sense of hopelessness and despair toxic to growth, achievement, and success in life.
We mentioned that medication is not the only effective treatment for ADHD. 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. Steve Ferrari, Alta Neuro-Imaging Neurofeedback