The Case of 7-Year-Old Billy with ADHD

Child with ADHD

~ By a Pediatrician in Australia

Many kids (and adults) have no filter and just say whatever comes into their heads or is on their mind. People with Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) do so even more. Children often aren’t aware of consequences or that others may think differently to how they do.

As such, many of my patients with ADHD readily tell others that they have the condition and take medication for it. Thankfully many children don’t care about this, and it worries them more if the other child is better than them at sport or may be more popular.

However some children, like a recent seven-year-old patient of mine, said that he had been teased for having ADHD and even a teacher said to the class, “It looks like Billy hasn’t taken his tablet today” when he was disruptive and inattentive. ADHD is not being naughty, and insensitive comments followed by the inevitable laughs, taunts and jeers that follow make Billy feel even worse about himself. I think the teacher’s behaviour is unacceptable. They wouldn’t comment about the thickness of a child’s spectacles or that they should get a cane if they are wobbly on their feet.

Child psychiatrists often take a different stance and encourage talk about mental conditions and taking medication to treat them, in order to reduce social stigma. However with kids I am not so sure. Sometimes they should keep personal information to themselves to protect themselves and which others don’t have a right to know. Sometimes children tell strangers personal things like where they live when they shouldn’t. At other times they tell me who else in their class takes medicine and about parents who are mentally ill. We don’t ask what medication people are taking at our workplace, so why should kids?

Some schools will run a mainstream class information program in Kindergarten, e.g. about autistic or anxious kids. They never usually identify the child with the condition, however children are rather bright and know which student in the class is the affected child (which may defeat the purpose of the program!).

Do you think children should openly tell others about what mental health conditions they have and the medications they take?

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