That sounds incredibly harmless, doesnt it? But that article, and the comment string, got me upset – actually, SAD – enough to sit down and start this blog and begin pouring my two cents onto this darn site.
What could have been so offensive? It was an article on Psychology Today about a book called Why French Kids Dont Have ADHD. You can read it here HERE if you are so inclined.
Now, aside from the generalized first world problems we all have since we have the luxury of reading books about parenting and trying to determine an appropriate parenting style (can you imagine your grandparents, or even parents even having that kind of conversation?) I was actually hurt by some of the conversation on that post and similar ones where the article was shared.
Why? Becuase my son has special needs. He is autistic and hyperactive. Yes, it is NOT ADHD the subject of this article, but the concept is similar to what you hear about the prevalence of Autism in America, and hyperactivity all the time. By devaluing the American standards of diagnois and the near denial of an actual condition this book and the commenters present, you not only blame me and other parents for our childrens conditions (a consession that some small percentage of kids actually have brain chemistry problems doesnt cut it here) but you create yet another hurdle for my already struggling child to jump over.
It is like someone with excellent vision telling the guy with glasses that he thinks most people with glasses are just faking it. “Oh, you know only about 10-20% of people with glasses actually have REAL vision problems. The rest of them could be treated with behavior modification, like turning the brightness down on their phone or not watching so much TV, or sitting a little closer to the TV or holding their book a little farther away to make it focus. They dont have REAL problems.” Can you imagine saying that to someone?
For the record – my child is NOT medicated right now, so Im not even enraged over that conversation. It’s the exacerbation of a social stigma around having a nonpshycial disability that has me so sad and enraged.
What do you see when we go out? You see a three year old who cant speak as well as his peers and literally cant sit still. Clearly, I didnt read the goddamn book about how the French talk to their children. Clearly, I didnt provide him enough structure. Clearly, I should have just let him cry in his crib by himself all goddamn night so he knew who was boss. Then he would be able to read my face, to make eye contact, to know what “NO” really means. He would know how to wait in line then. He would understand what is appropriaite in public and what conversational language is. Hell, he might even eat food that isnt mac and cheese or pizza. EXCEPT NOT. None of these things would have prevented a diagnosis. Some of these things, particularly the ones revolving around getting my son to “know who is boss” could have seriosuly hurt becuase my son was in no way ready to understand such concepts.
Sure, we overdiagnose. I wont argue on that. I am sure there are kids with labels on meds who dont need them. And hell, before I had my own children I thought the equation was as following the rules. Feed every x hours, channge a diaper, tummy time for x minutes a day determined by how old they are, scheduled nap time, Back to sleep, leave the room, blah blah blah…until that just didnt work. Sometimes, it just doesnt work.
Not only did we have to work to get an appropriate diagnosis (notice how I didnt say it was handed out like candy, here?) but we have a list a mile long of everyday challenges, and this just adds one more. I am judged. He is judged. Then I am faced with yet another article planting the seed to question whether his diagnosis is *authentic* per their facebook-informed standards?
I spend my days working. My mornings and nights and weekends, with my children. I am incredibly lucky to have a village to make it all easier. Little things like getting dressed can be a strain. First we get dressed, then we go outside. First we need shoes, then we can get in the car. First we eat breakfast (seriously, eating is one of the hardest) then we go see grandma. And, while I am getting some conversational responses, I am more often met with: “The boogie bear. ABCDEFG. hahahahaha. Bubble Puppy. Everybody Say Oh, Toodles. 12345678910. MommY? MOMMY? MOMMY! Oh, Baby. Hugs. Love. Hugs Mommy. Want to do this. QRSTUV. the itsy bitsy spider go up the water spout…” Yes, that is one continuous thought. My son memorizes pretty much everything he hears, and my understanding is that his brain just plays all of it on repeat all at the same time. No amount of structure is going to change that. We can teach him how to manage it, strategies for sorting through and applying filters – but we cant do any of that if we deny the valididty of his condition.
And while I sit here thankful to hear what is running through his brain, knowing what it is like to have a child who is pretty nonverbal, and with friends who would kill to hear even a seemingly disjointed string of many words – someone out there is telling me my kid only has problems becuase of my shortcomings as a parent? Sure, I have many shortcomings. But I did not cause my childs brain to be wired the way it is any farther than genetics is involved. I spend my days and nights worrying about him. Losing sleep before he starts his new school. Worrying that we wont have the right Speech Thearpist. Worrying that the other kids will be mean to him and he cant tell me. Trying to build vocabulary, trying to convey emotion, trying to teach social skills – and then to have one author and many, many commentors who dont undersand this day to day reality say that these kinds of problems are due to my parenting style? Because the French raise their kids differently?
Moral of the story here? Know that it hurts. Know that we take it personally. Know that every mom of a special needs child has spent many sleepless nights wondering if it was all their fault, but to have some stupid parenting methodology from France touted as the cure all rubs salt in very open wounds. I would rather live in a world where we overdiagnose and accept that some kids need more help and that is okay, and where EI services are provided and where IEPs are common than to live in a place where a child has to elimiate Red #40 from their diet before they can get speech therapy.
I should add…I am not even particularly upset or angry with the individual who indirectly brought the article to my attention. If you somehow read this, its not personal. I just think adding qualifiers to diagnoses is a terrible and dangerous road to go down that makes it harder for the kids who need extra help.