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Web letter by Holli Seabury: ADHD treatment far more nuanced than writer portrayed

I was disappointed in The Journal Gazette’s decision to publish the article, “ADHD medication no substitute for effective parenting” (Dec. 23), which promoted the misconception that ADHD is a side effect of bad parenting. As a parent of a child with ADHD, I expect a lack of understanding from the general public, but I don’t expect it from special education professionals like the author. I would encourage Rama Cousik to explore more recent research showing ADHD has a genetic cause.

I wholeheartedly agree with Cousik’s opinion that preschoolers should not be treated with ADHD meds, and I don’t know any reputable professional who would diagnose a preschooler with ADHD. If her intention was to encourage parents of preschoolers to try behavioral interventions, rather than labeling these parents as “bad parents” she would have better served parents by giving them realistic tactics to try.

Effective tactics for preschoolers who seem to have attention issues include working with their child’s preschool teacher to use behavioral interventions in the classroom; making sure their child has firmly established daily routines and gets at least 12 hours of sleep a night; and setting clear expectations for behavior, with appropriate consequences for negative behavior and reinforcement for positive behavior.

Here’s what I can tell you as a parent of an ADHD child – in most cases parents whose children have attention issues are under extreme pressure by the schools to put their children on meds. Two weeks into kindergarten my son’s teacher called me and informed me my son needed to be put on meds or he was going to fail kindergarten. I have a master’s degree in education and was better armed than most parents are in fighting to keep my son off meds as long as possible. I was also lucky to have been able to change school districts so my son had teachers in his early grades who were willing to work with him. Most teachers have not been trained in behavioral interventions for ADHD and do not have the time needed to spend working with an ADHD student.

It’s easy for Cousik to lecture parents on the potential side effects of medication, when clearly she has not been in the position most ADHD parents are in. We did not, as Cousik states, “force” medication on our son – we made a heartbreaking decision after years of trying behavioral interventions. We entered the decision to use medication with a clear understanding of the risks – and a clear understanding that a child who was in the gifted program was going to fail academically because of his inability to complete his schoolwork and pay attention to directions.

I am the parent of seven children; only one of my children, my fifth, has ADHD. He is an intelligent, well-behaved, witty 13-year-old, who also happens to have ADHD. I am secure enough in my parenting skills to know bad parenting did not cause his ADHD, but Cousik’s article, I am sure, made many parents feel they are to blame for their child’s ADHD. They are not.

They will have to parent better, parent harder and fight for their child more than parents whose children do not learn and behave differently than is the norm. Let’s support parents who deal with ADHD because they walk a hard road – I would bet that there is not one of us who doesn’t cringe when we see the school’s number come up on our caller ID.

The next time The Journal Gazette publishes an article on ADHD, please use your forum to support parents with meaningful information, not lecture and blame them.

HOLLI SEABURY

Fort Wayne

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