“I think ADD is seriously overdiagnosed,” a new acquaintance of mine said recently. “I think doctors just use the label to medicate difficult kids.”
Have you ever had a conversation like this? I have had this discussion with two different acquaintances recently. Neither of these women knew about Ben’s brain injury. Neither of them knew about my involvement in Chosen Families ministry. These were just normal parents expressing their views about an issue they don’t really understand.
I have found that many kind, generous parents who have neuro-typical children simply do NOT understand the complexities of the brain. I prayed about how to respond with grace. Finally I initiated more conversation by saying, “the fact that you have that opinion makes me think you’ve been blessed with children who do not have any kind of a hidden disability. What a blessing for you.”
I never know what my role should be in a conversation with someone who, in my opinion, is either lacking in information or grossly misinformed. I generally shy away from talking about controversial topics with people I don’t know very well. I am a middle child and a peacemaker by nature.
But I am also an educator. I was a teacher for many years (which is another reason why I believe that ADHD is a neurological issue and not just a behavioral issues.) And I have learned so much about the brain in the seven years that Ben and I have lived with his acquired brain injury. I simply can’t let a good opportunity for education pass me by.
“My husband has a brain injury,” I’ll tell people. “He is aware that he can no longer focus the way that he used to; that he is easily distracted and that he can’t always organize information easily. He is aware of brain fatigue when he is in a room with lots of stimulus. I’m so thankful that he is aware of his own disability so that we can work together to manage his environment and help him succeed regardless of his limitations. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a child whose brain is not functioning properly. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have serious limitations like Ben has, but not to have the maturity or the communication skills to understand what is taking place. I have seen parents labeled “bad parents” because their child was so much more difficult than everyone around him … yet the behavioral difficulties were a result of the neurological challenges that child faced. I have a heart of compassion and support for parents of children with neurological issues … these parents not only need to find strategies to help their child succeed, but they also need the wisdom of God to help them understand what areas are disobedience and what areas are caused by a brain that might not be functioning properly.”
I am neither a crusader nor a natural evangelist. I rarely talk about politics or religion with my non-Christian friends. But when confronted with misunderstandings about hidden disabilities, I have discovered a new side of my personality. I have become a passionate advocate (I like this term so much better than crusader or evangelist) … an advocate for educating people on issues of the brain.
That is why I am thankful to participate in this ministry. That is why I willingly engage in conversations that may provoke anger, disagreements or uncomfortable silences. Too many people have limited understandings about hidden disabilities, yet they have strong emotions and convictions about them. My desire is to help educate people about the very real impact our brains can have on our behavior.
How do you respond when someone tells you that neurological issues are over-diagnosed or that children are overly-medicated?