Unlocking ADHD writer Tricia Lim shares her learnings from the ADHD Palooza for Parents (July 26-28, 2021). This discussion – Innovations in Psychiatry and ADHD – features experts Dr Ned Hallowell and Dr Sarah Vinson.
Although I am not a parent, I thought that attending the “ADHD Parent’s Palooza” sessions would give me more insight into Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I was right. While the title of this session alludes to discussions on psychiatric treatments for ADHD, the talk covered a wide range of topics.
On ADHD Diagnoses
While many often think of a diagnosis as nothing but bad news, Dr Hallowell believes that this is not necessarily the case. Calling it a “good-news diagnosis”, he reasons that the situation can only get better after knowing about the underlying ADHD.
- If you are the parent of an ADHDer, a diagnosis can point you in the right direction and allow you to adopt appropriate parenting practices.
- ADHD is a wiring issue rather than a willpower issue, and ADHD is not a case of your child “not trying hard enough”. Understanding this can spare you and your child a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration.
On ADHD Treatment
According to Dr Vinson, “The best treatment isn’t always the ‘gold-standard’ treatment – it’s what is indicated as medically effective and something the patient and their family is willing and able to do.”
Stimulant medication such as Ritalin is often lauded as the best option and main component of ADHD treatment. However, if a family member has had a bad experience with medication, the patient may be less willing to start medication. In this case, other treatment methods may well be better options.
Dr Hallowell”s approach:
- Education: Framing ADHD in such a way that ADHDers do not feel ashamed of their condition or view it as a weakness, but see it as an asset. While ADHD may have its drawbacks, its advantages will be clear when it is properly harnessed.
- Environmental Engineering: Creating and fostering environments that the ADHDer can thrive in. For example, a big difference can be made by incorporating daily reminders and regular exercise.
- Option of Medication: Dr Hallowell offers the option of medication, but with less emphasis than on the above two components.
On Other Resources
It is not always possible to access the medical or therapeutic help that is needed for ADHD treatment. Thus, here are some other options:
- ADHD organisations – in our local context, it would be Unlocking ADHD and Spark Singapore
- Books on ADHD e.g., Driven to Distraction, ADHD 2.0 (lots of self-help tips),
- Magazines e.g., ADDitude,
- Social media, e.g. Unlocking ADHD’s Facebook, etc.
- Work with your child’s teachers for a better learning environment
When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, the child’s parents often descend into a spiral of worry and despair. However, Dr Hallowell stresses that parents should not fear the diagnosis. Rather, parents should fear ignorance. Ignorance is what leads to bad treatments, bad outcomes, stigmas and everything negative. Therefore, the best thing you can do is to embrace the diagnosis and learn as much as you can.