ADD diagnosis in children not dire life sentence

Q: Dear Mr. Andrews: The bottom line from the notes we got from the school last year focusing on our 13-year-old son is that his teachers and school administrators believe that he is struggling with attention deficit disorder.

To me this is devastating. It is like we are closing the doors to any kind of future for our son and subjecting him to a life of disappointment and who knows whatever drugs and addictions he might encounter along the way.

I’d like to think that it is not that bad but at the moment I have no reason to believe so. Can you point us in a direction that blazes a few more opportunities for our boy than we have so far discovered?

Thanks Mr. Andrews. That would be great.

A: Thank you for your note. I can appreciate your apprehensions about life as it is unfolding for your son but I can also assure you that your misgivings are a little more intense than they need to be.

Two psychologists have only recently released long-term studies they have conducted on 1,000 young people living in New Zealand.

The psychologists followed their subjects for more than 30 years. What they found was both interesting and revolutionary. They found that young people who had been diagnosed for attention deficit disorders when they were wandering throughout the corridors in their elementary schools did not show those same symptoms when they matured into the responsibilities of an adult.

Many of those same young people appear to have outgrown attention deficit disorders and are settling into becoming an employee, a parent and a partner.

In a somewhat simplistic appreciation, we can understand that attention deficit disorders generally refer to an undisciplined neurological concert hall.

It is like performing in a symphony without a conductor, serving in an army without a captain or studying in a classroom without a teacher. Kids with ADD frequently seem to be going around in circles without any preferred destination. The resolution to all of this is to develop an executive office in the brain that will generate the guidance the kids need to succeed. This can happen in any number of ways.

Three that come to my mind are:

  • Learning to live within the confusion of ADD. I once saw a young man studying for his final exams while watching TV, talking on the telephone, babysitting his kid brother and gazing fondly at pictures of his girlfriend. That goes against all of the rules for proper studying but, be that as it may, it worked for him. He now has two university degrees and a great job in the money markets.
  • Nurturing your passions. I knew a man, diagnosed with ADD, who loved engines with a passion. He got excited anytime he heard a ‘chug, chug, chug’ from a gasoline driven turbine. He followed his passion, started repairing lawn mowers, and now has the controlling interest in a multi-million dollar small engine repair and rental shop.
  • Submitting to discipline. Not all people with ADD will be successful in the armed services, the RCMP or our forestry protective agencies, but some will and many of them thrive on the discipline, the structure and the routine built into life within the forces. That self-discipline that they cannot generate for themselves is compensated when that nasty drill sergeant puts them through their paces in basic training. The outcomes can be impressive.

I have no idea how your son will resolve his attention deficit disorder. Right now, neither do you.

Your job is to listen as closely as you can to whatever it is that he is either saying or doing. Don’t judge him too severely. He may do things differently than you might. That is OK.

The idea is to reach the goal in one way or another, to make sure that the bird house he built looks like a bird house, and in the process for him to figure out how he is going to perform in a symphony without a conductor.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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