Explaining To My Son Why His Friends Need ADHD Medication

Every child is different, and at different stages of my son’s development I have had to explain certain things, one of which is why his classmate in kindergarten needed hearing aids. Another was the reason his friend’s cousin had two mommies in second grade.

As my son grew, these conversations became less and less. Then in his 9th grade year he asked why some of his friends took ADHD medication. Here is what I told him.

talk to kids about add medications

Explaining ADHD Like a Neighborhood

I tried to explain the brain like a neighborhood, with different streets where information, impulses, and emotions form. At every street was a little speed bump, where thoughts slowed down before crossing. This allows the brain to think of consequences, figure out what to say, and filter through information to better understand it.

Unfortunately, some people don’t have these speed bumps, but instead rush through the streets, causing them to act without thinking. There is a lack of regard to what might happen, or become easily distracted by things around them. When that happens, they need a medication to help them slow down, and better consider situations before acting.

Another Way Of Looking At It

I have read two other excellent analogies for ADHD. The first is from Miami Children’s Hospital neurologist Dr. Robert Cullen. His comparison is similar to how a vending machine works. Everything is there for the taking, and it just needs money to get the item of your choice. If, however you were to put a crinkled dollar in, you may try to simply smooth it out and find that it will then work.

Another way of putting it comes from Dr. Gary Yorke. He believes that a child’s brain is similar to a physical computer. All of the files are available in their hard drive, but what happens when there is a malfunction in the system? The right tools and expertise can allow that computer system to access those files and programs, correcting the issue, which works the same as how medication can work to access the mind of an individual with ADHD.

kids ADHD

The Growing Number of ADHD Diagnoses

Believe it or not, the number of confirmed cases of ADHD is pretty low (around 5% of children under 18). Yet, more and more kids are being medicated for the condition, with 11% reported in 2011, and rising. Why the change? Is the number of ADHD really rising or is there a potential for misdiagnosis?

A report has speculated that the rise in cases may be a combination of pressure from parents and educators for medical professionals to diagnose this often misunderstood condition, and kids getting less active time outside to run out their energy. They are taking that energy back into the classroom and home, making them hyperactive and restless.

Could We Be Overmedicating Our Kids?

Some children need medication to function. However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, anti-depressants and other mental health medications that are being taken by children under the age of 18 have increased significantly. Could we be overmedicating our kids?