Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is certainly not a rare learning disability, nor is it nearly as stigmatized as it was 20 or 30 years ago, when the stereotype of the hyperactive, easily distracted young boy informed most of America’s notion of what ADHD looked like.

We now know that there is a significant disparity in a) the presentation of ADD symptoms and b) the rate of diagnosis. These disparities exist across races, with children of color often being left behind, and genders, with girls being diagnosed less often and facing more internalized shame about their perceived inadequacies.

This is why early diagnosis is so important, as is dispelling the prevailing myths about this very manageable disorder.

  1. It is uncommon.
    The national prevalence of ADHD is a great deal higher than most would believe, with the CDC’s 2016 report indicating that over 6 million American children between the ages of 2 and 17 have received an ADHD diagnosis.Curiously, students in rural areas are more likely to receive a diagnosis and treatment, while students in larger cities are more likely to fall between the cracks.While we’re not sure why exactly this is the case, it seems reasonable to conclude that public schools in urban areas have larger class sizes on average, which don’t allow teachers much time for one-on-one guidance. At a special education school in a location like Grand Rapids, you can expect more personalized treatment. Plus, every teacher will be truly invested and engaged.
  2. It is simple to diagnose.
    Many parents mistakenly believe that ADHD can be diagnosed with one simple test. The truth is a bit more nuanced.

First of all, there is no one-size-fits-all test to determine whether a child has ADHD. Information is collected from a variety of objective sources, including caregivers, parents, and teachers who have observed the behavioral development of the child and can attest to their struggle with ADD symptoms.

Secondly, even if it seems like the most likely diagnoses, it’s important to keep in mind that ADHD looks a lot like other conditions. Physicians are advised not to diagnose students prior to the teen years, due to the similarity in presentation of ADHD symptoms to other disorders, including mental health conditions.

  1. It is unmanageable.
    Some of the best and brightest minds in history showed ADD symptoms. A diagnosis is certainly not an academic or professional death sentence. A cohesive treatment plan set in place with the help and guidance of trusted clinicians, special education teachers, and psychiatrists—plus consistent parental support—will enable any child to succeed, and even thrive, despite their learning difference.

The reality is that, while ADHD does involve attention issues and executive dysfunction, the manifestation of symptoms can and will depend on a variety of factors—and treatment plans greatly vary, too.

Some physicians will prescribe stimulant medication, such as Concerta or Ritalin, while others will suggest a more cohesive treatment plan, including moving to an alternative school or arranging an IEP.