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February 25, 2013
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Kristen James: Understanding ADD

ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, has been in the news a lot in the last decade, or even longer, but the condition is hard to understand.

There’s even debate about whether it’s real. One belief is that teachers and parents slap the diagnosis on any hyper kid so they can medicate and control them. Another belief is that medication is the answer and will fix the problem. Some people believe there should be an all-natural diet and/or behavior-training solution.

Here's the truth: ADD is complicated. Treating it is complicated. Even deciding what it is, and what the symptoms are is complicated, despite all the literature available.

I have a son with ADD. I’m not offering professional, medical or formal advice, but maybe a personal perspective will help.

First, the name is misleading. It’s a common idea that ADD means a person can’t focus, that they have some kind of deficit in their attention.

My son spends his time at home focusing on projects. He’ll spend an hour or two drawing, then practicing piano and creating programmed songs, and then building.

He does have a hard time focusing in the classroom, however. There’s just something about that learning situation that is a roadblock for him. He’ll have great days and bring home neat papers with 90 percent and better scores. Then he’ll have another day where he says it was loud at school and his papers are messy.

Another misconception is that ADD is caused by bad parenting.

I have three biological children and only one with ADD. All three are very different in their personalities and school habits, so I have actually wondered if personality determines ADD tendencies more than parenting.

There’s a wide range of severity and symptoms with ADD, and then there is ADHD with the hyperactivity aspect, and all this might be one reason why it’s hard to understand the condition.

I’ve come to see it, based on my experience, as a learning and behavioral disability. It means a child has more than usual hurdles in learning at school and conforming to classroom expectations for behavior. An ADD child can get frustrated and feel teachers don’t like him or her. He can feel singled out because he's always doing make-up work. She can feel like a "bad kid" because she loses focus during class time. You can imagine how a teacher responds if a child isn’t paying attention. It can be easy at that point to think the child is misbehaving and not trying.

We have a comprehensive plan for treating and helping my son’s ADD, but it doesn’t fix it or completely solve the problem.

At the same time, my son isn’t broken.

He’s wonderfully creative, a super talented speller, he likes to write stories with illustrations, and he’s very attuned to how others feel. I don’t define him by ADD, but sometimes I wish others could better understand how it affects him.

If anyone reading this knows a person with a learning disability, I hope I’ve given you some insight.

Kristen James is married with six children. Read her Mondays on Douglas County Moms. Also check out her personal site at writerkristenjames.com.

He’ll have great days and bring home neat papers with 90 percent and better scores. He’ll have another day where he says it was loud at school and his papers are messy.

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The News-Review Updated Nov 18, 2013 07:29PM Published Mar 4, 2013 08:53AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.