Sharing a Diagnosis: When You and Your Child Have ADHD
The ADHD Household
Of course, if you and your child – or children – all have ADHD, that can
interfere with the functioning of the whole family. Life can be terribly
One particular problem, Ramsay says, is that adults with untreated ADHD may
not be able to provide the ideal care for their child with ADHD. Kids with ADHD
require a lot of structure. They need schedules. They need to get their
medicine on time. They need firm and consistent discipline. That’s exactly the
kind of help that a parent with untreated adult ADHD may not be able to
“If you’re a parent with ADHD, you lose track of time, you’re disorganized,
and you put things off,” says McCracken. “A parent with ADHD and a child with
ADHD can be a terrible match.”
Not only is this bad for the child with ADHD, but it can put a huge burden
on the non-ADHD spouse, who has to take on all of the responsibility.
So sometimes, the best thing you can do as a parent of a child with ADHD is
get treatment yourself.
“Parents with ADHD need to see that getting treatment isn’t only for their
own well-being,” says McCracken. “It’s doing the right thing for the whole
Adult ADHD: Getting Help
If you think you might have adult ADHD, what should you do next? Here are
- Take a self assessment. Adler recommends taking the ADHD Adult
Self-Report Scale Screener developed by the World Health Organization. It won’t
give you a diagnosis. But it might give you and your doctor some sense of how
likely it is you have adult ADHD.
- Talk to your family. Often, it’s the people around us who have the
best impression of our behavior. Talk to your spouse or kids or close friends.
Show them some information about adult ADHD and get their take. In their
opinion, do the ADHD symptoms describe you?
- Research the condition. Start reading about ADHD. Ramsay recommends
web sites such as CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention
Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder
Association). Or you could check out any of the numerous books on adult ADHD
written for the public.
- Research your own history. To make a diagnosis of ADHD, your doctor
will want to establish that you had symptoms as a child. So delve a little into
your past. Talk to your siblings or parents and get their impression of what
you were like as a kid -- your doctor might even want to speak to them, if
possible. Start digging around in old files or your scrapbook. Doctors often
find documentation – like old report cards or notes from teachers – helpful in
confirming a diagnosis.
- See a doctor. You can always start with your family doctor, but it’s
quite possible that he or she won’t know much about adult ADHD. If you happen
to live in a big city or near a university, see if there’s a local clinic that
specializes in adult ADHD. If not, the best bet may be to talk to a child
psychiatrist or psychologist – maybe even your son or daughter’s doctor.
Experts say that they’re often much more knowledgeable about ADHD than those
who specialize in adult mental health. Your child’s doctor might have the best
advice about where to go for a diagnosis and what sorts of resources are