Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Discriminating H

When Dylan was first diagnosed, the official diagnosis was ADHD-Inattentive Type. This corresponds with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, which provides the standard diagnosis language and assessment of mental disorders used by mental health professionals. 

At one time, the DSM recognized attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder separately. I don't pretend to know why the Powers That Be that write, edit, and classify things in the DSM made the change, but I suspect that it had to do with the great deal of crossover among the different types.

Today, the DSM definition of ADHD is broken into three classifications: inattentive, hyperactive, and combined types.

Over time, it has become apparent that Dylan is actually classified as combined type. While inattention to things that are not compelling to him is easily the area that most handicaps him, he also has trouble sitting still, he talks a blue streak, and he's impulsive.

As not just an ADHD parent, but also an ADHD advocate, I will pretty easily share our story. The more parents share what they, their kids, and their families go through, the more I believe the stigma will be reduced. I fear, however, that there remains two distinct levels of stigma.

Often when I share that Dylan has ADHD, another parent will be quick to respond, "Oh, my son has ADD" or "My daughter has that, but without the H." It's obvious that there's a subtle distinction begin made.

If we're ever going to make a difference in the lives of kids and adults with ADHD, we don't need to be making distinctions that could serve to separate some of those who suffer from this disorder. We need to share what it's like, how it makes our kids' lives difficult, what the challenges are, what the successes are, and what makes these kids special, not what separates them from other kids or from each other.

Skin color should not divide us. Sexual orientation should not divide us. And neither should an H.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013


  1. Is there a big difference between ADD and ADHD? I wonder if the parents were trying to be sympathetic without realizing they were making a distinction. I would hope so.

  2. Interesting. If you do not have the H are your challenges less?

  3. Sorry for not replying to both of you sooner. My next post should explain my delay.

    I guess what I was trying to say above is that there is a subtle discrimination against hyperactivity. If you're distracted, well, we all get distracted from time to time. But hyperactivity is seen as being outside the norm and causing trouble.

    Mia, you are right - these people may not mean anything by it. And there may be good reasons to differentiate, but I tend to think there's strength in numbers and in shared goals and experience. If we are all part of the same group, perhaps we can alleviate stigma more than if those with more of a problem with hyperactivity are segregated. Even though Dylan does not seem hyperactive to the average person, I would never just say ADD. I think it's important to include it and stand up for the disorder.