There was a time when my answer was clear and firm.
I used to say…. sure, go ahead and test. Getting a label takes the pressure off the child who’s been thinking he’s defective.
A label gives you a reason for all the clear challenges that have been a part of his life.
It removes personal blame.
In fact, the preface of my first book How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On To Learning takes this stand with enthusiasm.
“Put the Label on the Table” I happily burble. “If you don’t come up with a label, your child will gravitate to their own self diagnosis. And what they typically come up with is ‘I’m stupid.’ So yes, yes, and yes. Get a label as soon as you can.”
I still believe in the value of having a clear recognition of just what is going on. But the years have added to my understanding of the ramifications of that label. It doesn’t simply give you a name to call this condition. It gives you much, much more. There are things that come with this label than I had not originally realized. And because of that, I have had to make an addendum or two to that original statement. So today, my answer is not as clear and firm. It has several “but’s” and “perhaps…” that must be considered before such an action is taken.
So let’s look at how I answer this question today.
- When you want to medicate your child.You simply cannot obtain medications without a diagnosis and a prescription. At SizzleBop we have never taken a “Thou Shalt Not Medicate” stance. We’ve been able to avoid it in our own household, but there are many families who feel it was the only option left to them. I will not stand here from a distance and proclaim them to be wrong. Indeed, I have seen behaviors from some children and thought to myself…If that were my child, I would be asking the doctor for some medical possibilities as well. Do I think medications are options too quickly chosen? Yes. But would I say they should never be an option? I can’t go there. So…if you want to have the option of medication for your child, you must get a diagnosis.
- When you’re not sure WHAT you’re dealing with. There are many other conditions that share symptoms of ADHD. Sometimes these other issues may have much more serious ramifications. You think it might be ADHD, but there are some things that don’t quite fit. If something more serious needs to be ruled out, then testing is in order.
Now we come to the “but’s….” portion of our journey. (not a pretty word picture). These are some of the issues that have resulted from having obtained an ADHD diagnosis that surprised me along the way.
- You’re expected to proclaim this condition in many activities. When your child goes to camp, when they join the Scouts, when they go on a field trip, when they go to Sunday School– each of these events can sometimes be accompanied a request to inform the powers that be of your child’s condition. They may well have good reasons for it. But sometimes it has a way of singling out my child in ways I would rather he’d not been singled. Usually it is handled well, and in truth, if they didn’t ask, I might still have taken aside a counselor or leader and informed them of what to expect. But I was nonetheless, taken aback. My low blood sugar might be an issue for my Sunday School class as well, but I’ve never been asked to declare it on a registration form.
- Job applications Will Often Ask: This one is a double-edged sword. On one hand, we’d rather not be asked. It’s personal and may well be irrelevant. And it may be used against us unfairly. On the other hand, ADHD folks are often seeking accommodations for their disability via the ADA act for job related expectations. Not all people with ADHD qualify as being disabled. But some do, and those folks are able to use this act to acquire reasonable accommodations. So having this question appear on a job application may be reasonable. But then again, it may not be at all necessary. And in the latter cases, it is simply intrusive with the potential to present unnecessary problems.
- Your Auto Insurance Will be Higher – There is indeed a bona fide increased risk of car accidents with ADHD drivers. (Although this can be greatly lessened by having your ADHD teen driving a stick shift rather than an automatic.
- Armed Services aren’t Welcoming I think that this was the hardest one of all for our family. My son had always planned on joining the military. We come from a big military family. My father, father-in-law, both siblings, and most uncles were all in the military. And my son fully intended to continue the tradition. So it was disheartening to learn that the military wasn’t warm and fuzzy about those with ADHD. I was particularly surprised about this as my father is very ADHD and yet rose to the rank of Sargeant Major in the Army. The highly structured life in the army is often exactly what some ADHD folks need and indeed, is perfectly suited for them to thrive. My son’s sudden change in career options was a blow that he’s still seeking to recover from. His path had been so clear in his mind, and now he must seek out another. To be fair, the military is trying to work out a better approach. In fact, every time I’ve called recruiters to get the latest, it’s different from the last pronouncement. Take a look at an article here that attempts to give recent and up to date information. http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/801.html
When all is said and done, the truth is I wish we had not obtained a diagnosis when my son was younger. Since we did not medicate him, it didn’t provide us with many positives, but we were awash in the negatives. In addition, the very same tools and strategies that we used to help this child thrive could have been used just as easily without a diagnosis. In other words, I was permitted to play toss it, put motion into learning, use ditties and homeschool… all without a little piece of paper that proclaimed my son officially ADHD. I’m not sure just what we gained.
I’m glad that I KNEW that he had ADHD because otherwise I would have forever wondered if something dreadful was wrong with my child. This knowledge was a relief and freed me to act upon the challenges that he presented without fear.
I don’t have a clear answer here. And I don’t want you to read my mailing as an attempt to talk you out of getting a diagnosis. But I do want you to have the fullest understanding of what is involved. In the end, sometimes it’s worth it, and sometimes it’s not.