Is ADD a Diagnosis or an Excuse??

By Katherine Smith
Katherine Smith
Katherine Smith
is a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as a gifted divorce mediator in NYC. She is a former high school English teacher and college counselor with a passion for enhancing the lives of others. Additionally, Katherine has extensive training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, family systems, and group therapy. Readers can contact her at AskKathyMFT@gmail.com.
October 13, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

Dear Kathy,

     My daughter is getting low grades because she doesn’t take school seriously. She fights us tooth and nail about doing her homework, doesn’t study for tests, and talks to her friends instead of paying attention in class. She has to face the consequences for her lack of responsibility. If she doesn’t straighten up soon it will be too late. What kind of a life will she lead without an education?

     My wife insists that our daughter has ADD and we should get her help, not punish her. Letting her off the hook by telling her she has a syndrome will only give her an excuse to slack off when what she needs is to apply some elbow grease.  We both respect your opinion. What do you think?

Aggravated Dad

 

Dear Caring Mom and Dad,

     It is very clear that both of you agree that your daughter’s academic issues need to be addressed in a manner leading to positive change on her part. The key question is why does she resist doing homework, studying for tests, and lack focus in the classroom? A thorough evaluation by an educational psychologist will provide you with the requisite information to make the best informed decisions about your child.

     If she does have ADD/ADHD, the formal diagnosis will entitle her to certain academic supports. She will be expected to apply the necessary “elbow grease,” though. ADD/ADHD is a disorder, not an excuse.

     This issue is near and dear to my heart. I have ADD/ADHD as do some of my children. My personal and professional journey through this neurological maze as an individual, mother, and marriage and family therapist has provided me with multiple perspectives on the related issues. 

     I attended elementary school and junior high school in the 1970’s and was labeled an “underachiever.” The label devastated me because I was an ambitious and hard-working student who demanded much of herself. When I was formally diagnosed at 39 years of age, it changed my world. I researched the field extensively and utilized every possible cognitive behavioral technique to set myself up for success.

     As a mother, I do the same for my children. In our home, ADD/ADHD is a legitimate disorder, never an excuse. My children are responsible for working hard to succeed in both school and life. That being said, our home and family life is ADD – friendly and supportive.

     My advice is to glean information about your daughter’s learning challenges and inter-personal style from school staff (teachers, guidance counselors, the school librarian, and others who interact with her regularly) as well as family members and close family friends. This information will be invaluable to the educational psychologist who completes the psycho-social evaluation for your daughter prior to testing her.

     Keep your mind and heart open. Once the necessary information is gathered and analyzed, your wife, daughter, and you will have the opportunity to work together as a team to solve this problem. Please let me know how it all works out!

Blessings,

Kathy

P.S. October is ADD Awareness Month. Readers, please share your feedback regarding this situation in particular and ADD/ADHD in general by commenting on this blog or e-mailing me at AskKathyMFT@gmail.com. I love hearing from you!

 

is a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as a gifted divorce mediator in NYC. She is a former high school English teacher and college counselor with a passion for enhancing the lives of others. Additionally, Katherine has extensive training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, family systems, and group therapy. Readers can contact her at AskKathyMFT@gmail.com.