Sylvia Anderson, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.
School has only been in session a month, but already your child is having problems.The teacher says he's having trouble paying attention in class. He forgets things and blurts out answers before questions have been completed. "Maybe you should have him evaluated for ADHD," she suggests. Ouch. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it doesn't mean your child is bad or lazy. Nor does it imply your parenting skills aren't up to par. In fact, it may mean he has a gift that needs to be discovered. "My definition (of ADHD) is that it's part of the evolutionary process, broadening the band of humanity," says Dr. Kevin Ross Emery (known as Dr. Kevin), author of "Managing the Gift of Your ADD/HD Child." He sites examples of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Jefferson and Steve Jobs, as architects of the 20th century and all with the characteristics of ADHD. "They think differently," he says. "But if they find their passion, they will shine -- and the right support system." Thomas Edison at the age of 12 was deemed inappropriate for education, he says. Because he got out of the school system, he went on to create 1,093 patents to change the way America did everything. Michael Phelps is known all over the world for being the most decorated Olympian in history, but he also was told by his teachers he could not focus on anything and was diagnosed with ADHD at 9 years old. "That just hit my heart," Debbie Phelps said in an interview with ADDitutdemag.com. "It made me want to prove everyone wrong. I knew that, if I collaborated with Michael, he could achieve anything he set his mind to." Unfortunately, the diagnosis of ADHD is not as simple as taking a blood test. If a child is suspected of having symptoms of ADHD, it's important to get answers from the right source. "ADHD is a mental health disorder and only a licensed professional such as a pediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist or clinical social worker can make the diagnosis that a child has ADHD," says Cindy Crouse, coordinator of guidance and counseling for the St. Joseph School District. The provider will evaluate your child in the area of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, Ms. Crouse says. Behavior checklists are a part of this evaluation, and teachers, school nurses and/or school counselors may be asked to provide information based upon their observations. "It should be a team approach to gathering all of the data before a diagnosis is made," she says. "Parents can help their children by providing routines, giving guidelines, providing choices when possible and by using positive attention." Providing the right amount of structure is very important, too, Dr. Emery says. "They need just the right amount of structure to fly," he says. "Not enough and they don't get off the launching pad. Too much structure, and they self destruct the structure, because they are in essence, claustrophobic." Getting support from other parents who have children with similar issues can be very helpful, too. One such group in the St. Joseph area is called Families Offering Children Unified Support (FOCUS) Empowerment Group through Circle of Hope. "Families are excellent resources for educating each other," says Andrea Aderton, project director at Circle of Hope. "They are sometimes overwhelmed with hearing information from a variety of professionals, and the system is really fragmented when it's time to access services." Although FOCUS is a support group for families with children who have any mental illness or disorder, the most common diagnosis, she says, is ADHD. The group meets once a month and provides information and resources. You can get more information from its website http://focusempowermentgroup.com or call Circle of Hope at 671-9190. For more information on diagnosing and treating ADHD, visit drkevin.com. Sylvia Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPAnderson. (c)2012 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) Visit the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) at www.newspressnow.com/index.html Distributed by MCT Information Services