It was all I could do to remain civil. This woman had her mind made up that ADHD is over-diagnosed, over-medicated, and actually just a problem of entitlement (her unspoken sub-message: bad parenting). Based on her perspective as a prosecuting attorney, she’d cemented her opinions from observations of the impact of untreated, unmanaged ADHD. She was not exactly open to any other perspective than her own.
Adding insult to injury, she had an accompanying belief that there is not really such thing as reliable scientific evidence. Since she had learned in college that all scientific experiments are subject to tampering, she decided that doctors are medicating ADHD out of convenience, and as a result kids are growing up unable to manage themselves. It was not possible, to her mind, that there could be a medical or neurological explanation for poor self-management.
Pretzel logic? Well, yes. Close-minded? Absotively! (Okay, I know it’s not a real word, but it should be!)
I was captive in a car with a woman (in this case, a Super Shuttle to the airport), who wanted to talk, clearly didn’t want to listen, and already knew more than anyone on the subject at hand, about which she had no expertise, but a great deal of subjective opinion. In fact, her OPINION was the only reality she was willing to consider.
It was early in the morning, and I wasn’t exactly bright eyed and bushy-tailed. I tried to teach, explain, raise awareness – as I do almost every time I encounter the knee-jerk “ADHD is over-diagnosed” bias so often found outside of the world of special needs. But, frankly, I was tired, a bit impatient, and it didn’t take long to realize that it was just not worth my breath.
Sometimes, people really do NOT want to be open to a new way of looking at something, and no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise. They are so committed to their world view, or to their interpretation of “the truth,” that they close off, shut down, cross their arms – and feel justified in their ignorance. I’m finally beginning to learn that when it comes to raising awareness about ADHD, it’s our job to educate and inform. It’s not our job to convince.
We encounter bias in the world of ADHD – a lot. SO many nay-sayers, so much judgment. No wonder it’s hard for parents to acknowledge and talk about their child’s ADHD – we live in a world that finds such comfort in blaming and shaming that it’s difficult to feel safe, to know whom we can trust.
Here’s the irony of this story.
That weekend, I was at a Writer’s Workshop (as was my shuttle companion), trying to get my thoughts together because I’m finally ready to write a book for parents about raising ADHD. There are so many things we need to know, and so much information to synthesize – that I was trying to get some clarity for myself about what direction to take.
As is often the case, as people at the conference discovered what I do, parents of ADHD kids came out of the woodwork, seeking me out at breaks and lunch to share their stories, and offer encouragement for what we’re doing at ImpactADHD. No one wants to feel alone. Parents of kids with ADHD are like a secret society where no one knows who else is a member.
So, on the one hand, I left the hotel that morning feeling validated and confirmed. But, truth be told, I was a little frustrated that I had not reached more clarity about my book.
As I arrived at the airport, it hit me. While I was busy seeking clarity from a world of possibility, this nay-sayer gave me a gift. My clarity, ironically enough, is that I need to be writing more about standing up to the ignorance of blame and shame.
Parents need to understand that ADD does not come from poor parenting (though it can be dramatically improved by conscious parenting). That just because people doubt the existence or “over-diagnosis” of ADHD does not make it true. That we cannot live by the expectations of others, and must continuously set realistic expectations for our selves and our children.
We’re going to run into a world of closed-minded ignorance “out there,” and we cannot protect our children from it. But we can teach them to respond respectfully, thoughtfully, and consciously. We can teach them to understand themselves and the way their brains are wired. And we can teach them the art of self-management.
Ultimately, that is our greatest vindication against the ignorance of others.