Positive Diagnosis

While there seems to be no shortage of questions about attention deficit disorders and the use of drugs to treat them, there is also no shortage of parents who say that the diagnosis and medication have radically improved their lives. One of those people is Peter Hubbard, who, after watching his adopted son improve his behavior under Ritalin therapy, wondered if he had ADHD too.

Hubbard's son, Joel, was diagnosed last year, a few weeks after he entered the first grade.

"I thought of him as an active boy," says Hubbard, "fearless, a good athlete. I thought he was a kid with personality."

But there were times when Joel was exasperating, Hubbard recalls. He would always interrupt conversations with adults. He was argumentative. He seemed to have no manners, no self-discipline. "I tended to blame my ex-wife for his lack of manners," Hubbard says, "and she felt like a failure." Joel's grades were never a problem, but his comportment was. He would interrupt classes, act impulsively and speak out of turn.

After Joel was diagnosed by a child psychiatrist as having ADHD, Ritalin was prescribed. His son, Hubbard says, "changed instantly, within a week." He has been very accepting of the therapy, Hubbard reports, and the two no longer have arguments.

Once he saw the changes in his son, Hubbard began looking at his own life. A self-help book by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo titled You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? helped him see into his own problems, says Hubbard. The son of a fundamentalist minister, he was a daydreamer as a child, someone who spent lots of time reading as an escape. Such dreamy children are not disruptive like hyperactive children, and Hubbard says he learned good study skills in high school. If Hubbard were in school today, he says, he doesn't think he would be identified as having an attention deficit disorder.

Nevertheless, he says, adults with ADD "are good starters and poor finishers. We have an elastic sense of time. We get distracted by something easily. And we're chronically late."

According to some researchers, adults with ADD tend to medicate themselves with coffee, alcohol, drugs or just excitement. Hubbard, who was an automotive writer for the Houston Post for ten years before he was fired, attributes some of his conflict at work to his ADD-linked impulsiveness. People with ADD tend to be procrastinators, and he says he thrived on the adrenaline rush of deadlines, meeting them at the last moment. Hubbard now sells luxury cars, and feels like a career in sales is made to order for people with ADD.

He now takes an anti-depressant and says, "I feel like a 500-pound gorilla has been lifted off my back. Being diagnosed allowed me to shed some guilt, such as [over] being fired. I know now that my impulsive actions were beyond my control. They were neurochemically based."

This doesn't mean that he wants pity, or expects to live a life filled with excuses, says Hubbard. "I don't want special treatment," he says. "I just want awareness. I think if we could catch ADD in school, it would avoid a lot of pain and grief." -- Michael Berryhill


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