As is unfortunately the case with many health diagnoses, there are harmful misconceptions about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These misunderstandings can leave those with ADHD burdened with the belief that they are different, but not sure as to why or how to effectively address it.

Struggling within a classroom environment, not understanding why aspects of education are so difficult for them produces anxiety for children and adolescents. This experience paves an unsteady path towards future success in academia, and can foreshorten educational attainment. The lack of knowledge about ADHD creates unfair and inaccurate conclusions about a child, affecting them socially with their peers.

If there is a silver lining to ADHD, it’s that we now know from ongoing research, clinical data and progress in the development of medications, that help is available. However, myths persist that cause confusion and can delay diagnosis, treatment and support. They include:

Kids with ADHD are always hyperactive
This is a common myth. There is a pervasive belief that a child must be manifestly hyperactive to have ADHD. While certainly a common feature, hyperactivity is not a prerequisite for the diagnosis.
People with ADHD cannot focus
A central challenge for those with ADHD is to have trouble concentrating. However, diagnosis may be delayed when parents assume their child cannot have it because they can effectively play an entire sports game or watch a two-hour movie. In fact, the ADHD child can intensely focus on something they are very interested in, passion about. This is called hyperfocus.
It is helpful, once a diagnosis is made, to encourage and enable your child to participate in those things about which there is keen interest, which could lead to a vocation where that excitement better ensures success
ADHD doesn’t affect girls
ADHD does affect girls. While the estimates vary, recent research supports that more females have ADHD than previously thought. This myth may have arisen because, generally, young girls can be less hyperactive than boys. They don’t display as many behavioural issues as boys, whose acting out may lead them sooner to evaluation and diagnosis by educators and parents.

Since girls with ADHD too often fly under the radar screen, without treatment, they can be at higher risk for anxiety, eating disorders, obesity, depression and suicide.

It is so important that we pay attention to signs pointing to the prudence of evaluation for both sexes. These include a dislike of school, procrastination in homework assignments and a wide variance in grades. I.e. high marks in those subjects of interest, but substantially lower ones in the others. Should ADHD not be diagnosed, testing may discover a learning disability, which is also an important outcome to better understand the reason for the child’s struggles

ADHD will be outgrown
Another misconception about ADHD is that children outgrow it. Many, perhaps most, never will, although some amelioration of its impact may be seen, especially after a diagnosis leads to new ways to manage it and medication assists.

If you are an adult who thinks you may have ADHD, please reach out to your doctor to discuss evaluation and treatment options. Consider asking about the World Health Organization Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale, developed by WHO and other experts

It is the parents’ fault when a child has ADHD
This myth asserts that “poor parenting” causes ADHD. While research suggests that ADHD is inheritable, it is certainly no one’s “fault” when a child has “hard-wiring” for it. It is also inaccurate to point to the child’s upbringing as the cause, although some parenting practices may affect ADHD symptoms. When outsiders view the child’s behaviour as ill-mannered, they may be quick to blame or judge the parents.

Parental guilt comes with the territory of raising a child! It is common to question “Am I doing the right thing?” Parents of children with ADHD may feel acute regret that there should have been an earlier recognition or more done to address the child’s ADHD challenges.
In fact, the child may have developed compensatory, masking strategies. A boy with ADHD may not have been diagnosed because of the belief the behaviour was attributable to being born in the last quarter of the year. There are many valid reasons a child may not be diagnosed; parents should not carry angst about it. You did your best!

There’s never a quick-fix for ADHD and the journey will likely be long, but an informed trajectory greatly increases the likelihood of a more successful life. If you think you or your child could have ADHD, there’s a wealth of available resources. Further on-line assistance can be found at The Canadian Pediatric Association, The Learning Disabilities Association and