Every couple of months, I have the opportunity to guest co-host a Twitter chat that focuses on learning and attention differences.
The chats, which are organized by Understood.org, attract a passionate group of parents, teachers, and other professionals who are eager to share strategies and resources for supporting children with ADHD and other learning challenges.
That’s how I met Dr. Sharon Saline — an enthusiastic participant in many of these chats.
Sharon is a psychotherapist and the author of a brand new book, What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sharon about the many misconceptions that children with ADHD (and their parents!) have to contend with on an ongoing basis.
What follows are the highlights of our conversation.
Ann Douglas: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about ADHD?
Sharon Saline: That ADHD doesn’t exist. That people with ADHD just need to try harder. That ADHD is a false diagnosis because people with ADHD can pay attention to things that they are really interested in….
Ann Douglas: I’ve definitely encountered each of those misconceptions over the years, while advocating on behalf of one or more of my children. The third misconception that you mentioned is one that I really struggled with when my children were newly diagnosed. I had a hard time understanding why the very same son who struggled to maintain his focus long enough to remember to put on a pair of socks could spend hours pouring over a software manual or playing a video game. What would you say to parents like me who may be trying to make sense of this apparent contradiction?
Sharon Saline: The ADHD brain is able to hyper-focus on things that it finds interesting and compelling…. If something is inherently uninteresting, those of us who do not have ADHD are able to say to ourselves, “This is kind of boring, but when it’s over, I’m going to be glad it’s done.” We’re able to project into the future, in other words. People with ADHD — and, in particular, children with ADHD who have brains that are still developing — simply aren’t capable of making that kind of forward projection yet. Their brains are focused on the rewards that they’re getting right now. That’s because the ADHD brain is a “now” or “not now” brain. The reward that a child might experience an hour from now when an uninteresting homework task is finished simply doesn’t matter because the current moment [when the homework is being done] is so unpleasant.
Ann Douglas: That’s incredibly profound. I wish someone had explained that to me a decade or two ago. It would have made it so much easier to understand what my children were experiencing (they were doing the best that they could with this skills and abilities they had at the time) and, at the same time, it would have encouraged me to remain hopeful about the future (to recognize that my children’s abilities to manage their ADHD could — and, in fact, did! — improve remarkably over time). Holding on to that kind of hope is really important when you’re in the ADHD trenches as a family. Thank you for writing a book that will help families to hold on to that hope and for having this conversation with me. It has been such a pleasure to get to know you and to witness the compassion and empathy that you bring to your work with children and their parents.
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