If ADHD is primarily a learning issue why are we still addressing it as a mental health issue? - ADHD Dude - Ryan Wexelblatt
If a kid has lagging executive function skills as a result of ADHD they don't have a mental health issue, they have lagging executive function skills.
If a kid with ADHD struggles socially, it is because the have not learned social information intuitively. This is a learning issue, not a mental health issue.
If a kid with ADHD struggles with regulating their behavior/emotions they have a social/emotional executive functioning issue (that may be exacerbated by learning, language or sensory issues.), not a psychological disorder.
[About 30% of people with ADHD also meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. People with ADHD may also have concurrent mental health issues, particularly in adulthood. Therapy can be a useful tool in these cases.]
❓So where did parents get the idea that "talk therapy' is the answer to addressing their child's ADHD related challenges?
- When I was in graduate school ADHD was glossed over in one class, one time. The information did not go beyond "difficulty sitting still and paying attention".
- When I worked at private schools where many of the students were diagnosed with ADHD I never received any professional development training in addressing ADHD.
- When I took the state licensing exam for the highest level of licensure there was maybe one question about ADHD.
- When I took a required course to obtain my Behavior Specialist License there was zero information about ADHD, executive functioning or social learning challenges. All behaviors were simply put into 3 categories, "escape, avoid or obtain."
When a parent reaches out to me for the first time 9 out of 10 times they tell me that they tried one or multiple therapists for their son that were not helpful. 10 out of 10 tell me that social skills groups they tried were not helpful.
👂I have spent years hearing from parents how a therapist created a speculative narrative to try to explain their child's ADHD related challenges.
- "He's traumatized because he was adopted 2 days after he was born, he needs trauma therapy."
- "He explodes when you make him get off video games because he has underlying anger. I need to get him to open up to explore where that anger is coming from."
- "His defenses are so built up so he's not opening up to me yet, this could take months or longer."
- "He can't maintain friendships because he lacks empathy."
🤿When I wanted to dive deep into ADHD I learned that the mental health field did not offer much in terms of practical strategies I could share with families. Checklists, "star charts", social skills groups, etc. are not strategies that work for most kids with ADHD yet this was all the mental health field seemed to offer aside from scientific/academic explanations about ADHD.
🔎This led me to searching outside of the mental health field, making a tremendous time and financial investment in learning from people in the fields of Speech-Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy and people who study ADHD as an academic discipline. This is how I developed my skill set over the years.
🌎There is no particular place one can go to learn everything I've learned and continue to learn.
⚬A mental health professional listing ADHD as one of their specialties on their website does not mean they have sought out any specific education in treating ADHD.
⚬A person who runs social skills groups is not required to have any training. My joke is that the requirement to run a social skills group is that you have a pulse.
The mental health field gets most things right. Unfortunately ADHD is not one of them, in my opinion. The entire process of talk therapy was not designed for boys, particularly boys with ADHD.
❓What is your expectation of how talk therapy will address your son's ADHD related challenges?
▶️Subscribe to the ADHD Dude YouTube channel for practical help for you and your son. Videos for kids are in the "Dude Talk" playlists: https://www.youtube.com/c/ADHDDudeRyanWexelblattLCSW