Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Burdens and Attitudes

The May 2007 issue of the journal Pediatrics contains an article on “Psychological Functioning and Coping Among Mothers of Children with Autism.” This article resulted in some interesting discussion within CHADD’s lay and professional leadership and in a later blog I will summarize some of these discussions. The conclusion of the study was that mothers of children with autism were highly stressed and more likely to report poor or fair mental health than mothers in the general population. While this study focused on moms with children with autism, the same daily stress applies to any mother or father of children with special needs.

As the father of a 16-year-old son with AD/HD and several co-occurring disorders, dealing with disappointment and stress has been with me for 16 years. There are many moments of happiness and satisfaction but it is no bed of roses, as they say.

So along comes Dr. Joyce Brothers in an April 17 column that we just saw a little over a week ago. She calls adults with AD/HD “hypochondriacs.” Her solution to dealing with adult AD/HD: just “muddle through.” She said there is no need to seek medical advice—just muddle through life and do the best you can.

CHADD has written Dr. Brothers expressing dismay that without relying on published science she dismisses the existence of AD/HD and says that it is a mild inconvenience that one should get over. The result of her article is perpetuation of the stigma associated with AD/HD and will likely result in individuals with AD/HD and their families not seeking medical and associated professional assistance. I really wish that one could rid oneself of AD/HD and related disorders by willing it away. But the reality is that AD/HD for many people is a lifespan disorder that manifests itself in many ways.

Not only is muddling through not the correct answer, but untreated AD/HD can result in school failure, relationship problems including social isolation that my son has experienced, employment problems, and driving accidents. What kind of parents would we be if we merely told our children and family members with special needs to “get over it”? CHADD is here to respond to such misplaced attitudes, but how I wish we could spend more of our energy and resources on helping people deal with these stresses rather than the need to counter ignorance.

A sister organization initially issued a press release on Dr. Brothers. A week later CHADD wrote to Dr. Brothers. A week after CHADD wrote to Dr. Brothers, CHADD joined our sister organizations—American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Mental Health America (MHA), and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)—in writing an open letter to Dr. Brothers. We will keep you informed about any progress or developments.

Write to Dr. Brothers via King Features, 888 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10019.

May we reach a time when we don’t have to deal with these public attitudes so we can increase our efforts to improve the lives of persons with AD/HD and related disorders.


1 comment:

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Thanks so much for alerting all of us CHADD members to Dr. Brothers's unfortunate message. My husband and I have just written to Dr. Brothers, and I have posted about this on my blog.