Unlike some of the children in the aforementioned research, it seems clear that writer Joe Newman most definitely did have ADHD: In his MomsRising essay, he tells of being a difficult, aggressive toddler ("By age three I’d learned how to use the screwdriver and began taking everything in the house apart') and an even more difficult, aggressive grade-schooler ("By first grade I was getting into fights every day at school."). He was put on Ritalin in the second grade, and he shares in the piece how he viewed his disorder and treatment as an adult:
Ten years later I still carried the shame of being A.D.H.D. It had been a secret no one but me, the doctors and my parents knew. Ritalin was the disguise I needed to survive behind enemy lines. Every time I took that pill, I also swallowed the belief that I was broken, disordered and not like everyone else. But the last ten years had begun to teach me something else.
Instead of being the one who couldn’t sit still, I was the one who kept moving and got a lot done. Instead of being unable to focus on one thing, I was able to do several things at once and adapt quickly. Instead of being too impulsive and aggressive, I was spontaneous and driven. Instead of asking too many questions, I was a good problem solver. Instead of being unable to follow the rules, I was creative and unafraid to take risks. The flip side of those characteristics that had been called a disorder, and needed fixing with medication, were actually my strengths.
Newman, who now works as a behavioral specialist for children, doesn't come across as particularly pro- or anti-medication - but he encourages parents to think carefully when making the decision about treatment. Ritalin is "a two-edged sword and not a silver bullet," he says, and today's parents - unlike his own - have other options.
Photo by FGMB