ADHD is NOT a Choice!

ADHD, blog

Over the years I have heard lots of advice to kids and parents of kids with ADHD. Much of it sounds like this: “Apply yourself” “Try harder” “Pay more attention” “Just Focus”. You get the idea.  All of this makes it sounds like the person with ADHD is doing it on purpose.  NO ONE CHOOSES TO HAVE A HARD TIME!!!

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Let me say this again…ADHD is not a choice. You or your child did not choose to have hard time staying focused on uninteresting things. They are not choosing to have their mind wander during math class or while reading.  No one wants to forget to turn in the assignment they spent twice as long as their peer completing!! No one wants bad grades, or be told they have to miss recess (the only opportunity to move during the day for some kids) because they have a hard time not moving for long periods of time!! (Really taking away opportunities to move is the most counterproductive thing ever!)

I get it, I know there are times that is seems like your child is purposely making life difficult for you or for themselves. It is NOT on purpose.   Usually there are many things going on that you can’t see that are getting in the way of making other choices. Sometimes the feeling of failure are so intense it seems better to just not try. You can’t fail if you don’t try! Sometimes they feel so overwhelmed they cannot find a place to start. Many times they just forgot or are too distracted to remember what they are supposed to be doing.

I have also heard “but they can focus on video games” Do you want to know why?? (This one is easy) BECAUSE THEY ARE FUN!!!! Who doesn’t prefer to do something fun?? It is so much easier to focus on things your enjoy and find interesting than on things that bore you to tears. Some people have the correct balance of chemicals in their brain to allow them to complete boring tasks even if they really don’t want to do it. Other people do not have the correct balance (especially dopamine) so doing things that do not help this balance of dopamine is just too hard to do alone. (This is why many people with ADHD benefit from stimulant medication, it helps with the use of dopamine in the brain)

No one can control their neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) on their own. Some people are lucky enough to have a good balance and others are not so lucky. We have got to stop blaming the person with ADHD for not trying hard enough. In reality they are trying harder at most things ALL DAY LONG! It takes more effort to complete tasks, pay attention, stop what they are focusing on and focus on what someone else says is important.

Since ADHD is not a choice, rewards and punishments don’t help. You MIGHT see a reward work for a short period of time, but usually because the person is not choosing to struggle therefore  they cannot continue to meet your expectation without other supports (accommodations, medications, reminders, etc.) (See This link for a list of classroom accommodations).

The best way to help a person with ADHD is to educate your self on it. Try supports, reminders, list, medications, etc.  Talk to the person and help them problem solve the best ways to help them. Think about things that are really important (and why those things are important). So many times once we eat go of arbitrary expectations the level of stress goes do and things are much easier over all.

One of my favorite site to better educate yourself or anyone else working with a person or child that is struggling is

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