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Dealing with a New Diagnosis of ADHD

By Rachel Martin, AMFT

We all have an image in mind about what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) looks like. Maybe it’s a young boy racing around creating chaos while the adults around him try to minimize the destruction. Or maybe the image is of a teenage girl trying desperately to look like she’s focusing so she doesn’t get called out in front of everyone in class. These are scenes of undiagnosed or unmanaged ADHD.

What if we begin by picturing what ADHD can look like after the diagnosis and treatment? Now picture a young boy, who is able to participate not only in class, but in games at recess, and he is finally making a friend. Picture the teenage girl, and her teacher understands that she’s still tracking everything being taught when she doodles in her notebook. With the right mix of treatments and support, these images can be the reality for kids with ADHD and their families.

But where to begin with treatments? Once you or your child have received an ADHD diagnosis, considering the options for treatment can be overwhelming to say the least. How do we figure out where to start? There is a lot of advice available from doctors, teachers, friends, well-meaning family members and the internet. Discussing the options to make decisions is hard work. Parents may not agree about what might actually work for your family. Overwhelm and disagreements can create stress between parents as they attempt to make decisions about treatment and navigate the information overload.

While a diagnosis of ADHD might seem like a sentence to life with chaos and hyperactivity. At first, I would like to offer up a more useful way to look at a diagnosis: as a way to understand our children and their behavior. We can catch ourselves reacting to yet another sibling argument turned fight. We can pause to realize that impulsive hitting might be caused by his brain literally not yet having the capability to stop and think. We might even go so far as to have a moment of hope that some type of treatment might help reduce this impulsiveness.

Sadly, a diagnosis of ADHD is sometimes looked at as a door slamming shut on our child’s potential. If we take this view we are left struggling against the shut door, maybe giving up hope of things ever changing. But I’ve worked with kids, teens and adults with ADHD for several years now. I would like to offer up the hope that parents and loved ones will realize that other doors open when we can hold the understanding that ADHD is not the result of a willful, disobedient child or person. ADHD is a brain disorder that results in a multitude of behaviors, including hyperactivity and inattention. By adjusting our lenses, we can come to realize that our child isn’t doing these behaviors to spite us (although on the bad days, there may be some of that mixed in), but that children with ADHD simply lack the foundation or tools to think of or try another way. Finding the right treatments for your child can make that difference.

To find out more about your options, please join me for CFCG’s San Jose Parenting Class on Tuesday, July 24th from 7:30-8:30pm. It’s a free event, and open to parents dealing with ADHD who want to find ways to make family life a little easier. RSVP to

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