Ester Marsh column: What is ADHD?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2022

These days, many children and adults are diagnosed with ADHD. What is ADHD? It stands for Attention- Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The heritability of ADHD averages about 80%. That kind of brings me to my family. When we get together, we like to talk all at once. We jump from one story to another and for us we know and understand exactly how it came about! For people who do not have ADHD (all our spouses included) it’s hard to understand where our stories start and end. It does keep it interesting.

Needless to say, I am fully aware of passing on our hyperactive tendency. It has been estimated that 15% to 50% of those who are diagnosed with ADHD eventually outgrow the disorder or learn how to manage it. I function best when I am organized. The phones nowadays are small computers and I can get everything stored in one place. Certain things I remember for life and then there are things I don’t remember after one minute.

One thing that I have found is that there is a huge division about whether to use medication to treat the disorder (after it has been properly diagnosed) or not. People are completely against it or completely for the medication. I believe that it takes a team of people to first properly diagnose then find the right solution for your child’s challenge, or you as an adult. So not only speaking as a parent of once a hyperactive child, but also experiencing ADHD myself,  you need to keep an open mind, do lots of research and ask lots of questions. Then, after lots of feedback from your doctor or specialist, you make a choice. You don’t have to go on medication and/or stay on medication forever if you don’t want to, and with my son it took months before we found the right medicine and dosage. Just don’t ignore what is going on with your child or you as an adult. Here are some major characteristics of ADHD (not limited to):

• Having a hard time to respond at the appropriate moment (blurting out), having a hard time to stop and think before acting, or not having the ability to delay gratification.

• Excessive task irrelevant activity. Fidgety, restless, and always “on the go.”

• Having a hard time staying on task even when important tasks must be performed.

• Lack of remembering to do things or holding information to do things now, or at a later time.

• Hyperfocus or the exact opposite. Daydreaming.

Everyone has their “on or off” days. Just because your child is not sitting still, or is daydreaming, does not mean they have ADHD. There are all different tests that can help diagnose this disorder. You have lots of choices, and one of them is to keep them active in after-school activities like swimming, martial arts, basketball, football, etc. Judo, a form of martial arts, helped me to control my “bounciness” and helped me focus on schoolwork and control my temperament.

Don’t ignore issues that need to be addressed. Someone told me once, when I was struggling putting my son on medicine, “If he would need glasses, you would get them right? You don’t ask, just look harder.” It helped me understand more. He was on medicine from second through eighth grade and chose to come off in high school. He managed well, after some hiccups and graduated with high honors and GPA. And then I know people who were, and still are on medicine as an adult and it works very well for them. Communicate with your health professionals and find the best treatment for you and/or your child.

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley Family YMCA.