If your child has recently been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), your mind might be immediately jumping ahead and wondering what this could mean for their life in the future. Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick offers her advice to one woman who asks: can a child with ADHD lead a normal life?
Can a child with ADHD lead a normal life?
‘My daughter has self-diagnosed with ADHD. She believes it would explain a lot about her behaviour and struggles, which have been put down to anxiety. She is asking for my support in seeking a formal diagnosis, which means seeing a psychiatrist. I’m worried that having this label might have a negative impact on her life. What do you think?’ (Helen, 54)
Mary’s advice for dealing with a child’s ADHD diagnosis:
If we hear anything about ADHD, it’s usually a young boy who can’t sit still. That prevailing image means it can take longer to recognise ADHD in girls, but doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Frequently, women diagnosed in adulthood feel huge relief.
Signs of ADHD in girls and women:
Girls with ADHD tend to be inattentive rather than hyperactive. This means parents, teachers and even some medical professionals might not know what to look for. The difficulties with focus could manifest as daydreaming, zoning out or being labelled ‘the chatty one’.
For your daughter, this might mean feeling misunderstood and anxious and having low self-esteem. Psychotherapist Leah Leaves learned that she had ADHD at the age of 43. She had always struggled to be tidy and organised: ‘Without a different explanation, I turned it in on myself and believed I was lazy, fickle and useless.’
She has set up a support group for women diagnosed as adults. My own family has been on a similar learning path, and I’ve found great resources – not least to help with my guilt for not picking up on it earlier. The online magazine ADDitude has helped my understanding immensely, and so many things that we’d thought of as personality traits fell into place.
Treatments for ADHD
Treatment options include medication or behavioural therapy. Your daughter might have already experienced these for her anxiety, although these would have been aimed at the wrong target. Ask your GP if she can be assessed through the NHS Right to Choose. This allows you to pick a psychiatrist and doesn’t necessarily slow things down.
Both you and your daughter will find many similar stories of late diagnosis in Understanding ADHD In Girls And Women by Joanne Steer (Jessica Kingsley, £19.99).
Will ADHD affect my child’s future career?
Rather than holding them back or negatively impacting their career, ADHD can in fact help some people to thrive in their chosen field. Typical ADHD traits, such as enthusiasm, creativity and the ability to be hyperfocused can be a tremendous asset in working life. All are easier to harness once you know what’s going on. So, getting a formal diagnosis and professional guidance is key.
Mary Fenwick is a writer, speaker and executive coach; she’s also a mother, divorcee and widow. For more about Mary’s work in leadership and team coaching, her ‘Writing Back to Happiness’ programme and free resources, go to maryfenwick.com.