ADHD: A Family Affair?


The amount of children getting ADHD diagnoses has been steadily rising, with the CDC noting a 42 percent increase in diagnoses from 2003 to 2011. With newfound insight and increased research into the disorder, parents are becoming savvier at spotting symptoms and seeking evaluations. However, there has been a fascinating (and often life changing) side effect of these rising pediatric diagnoses: parents discovering they have ADHD, too. This month, The Washington Post published a piece highlighting how a child’s diagnosis may spur a parent’s late-in-life diagnosis, which had several relevant takeaways for all of us at the Enrichery.

Many of us came up at a time when ADHD was less understood and recognized. Instead of being evaluated for the disorder, individuals were told they were disorganized or scatter-brained. Like Natachi Onwuamaegbu notes in this article, many of these adults have experienced “years of struggling to focus on schoolwork, being told they weren’t living up to their potential, getting bored at jobs or losing track of things.” They’ve navigated their academic, professional, and personal lives through a lot of trial and error, figuring out ways to keep themselves as organized and on top of things as possible. Now, as they watch children of their own struggle with similar issues and receive diagnoses of ADHD – a “strongly genetic” disorder – things are clicking.

For the parents in the Washington Post article, their own diagnosis was beneficial in several ways. Some chose to begin therapy and medication, while another became an “ADHD coach” to help teachers and parents work with kids with the disorder. They learned new skills and techniques for living with their long undiagnosed ADHD. Most importantly, however, they gained new empathy and patience for both their children and themselves. They began offering themselves the understanding and grace that they showed their children who are navigating the same difficulties.

As we’ve written in previous blog posts, executive dysfunction – many of the symptoms of ADHD – is often seen as a personality trait. “That’s just how I am.” Clearly, for so many of these parents receiving ADHD diagnoses, they’d long accepted that they were simply forgetful or messy. However, as we tell our students time and time again, executive functioning can be improved with dedicated practice and skill building. Many adults were left to figure things out on their own, coming up with their own methods and techniques that work for them. Fortunately, whether your child has been formally diagnosed with ADHD or is just experiencing executive dysfunction, there are so many ways to help them now so they aren’t left entirely to their own devices.

The moral of the story? ADHD is often a family affair, but a diagnosis for anyone can be a positive thing. When you name and understand what’s going on, you can start taking steps to improve your functioning (whatever that looks like for you). Additionally, you can give your child the support and head start that you may have missed out on yourself, like the Enrichery’s executive functioning mini classes. These classes, offered for elementary, middle, and high school students, focus on the study skills needed for academic success. Students meet two to five times per week for 30-minute sessions, where they’ll develop study skills systems that keep them on track.