Looking on the Internet today, there are many great articles to help children — and their parents — with ADHD. But it was not always like that.
When my son began kindergarten in 1985, almost ten years before the Internet opened for commercial use, there was very little information about ADHD. And much of what was available was punitive and harmful – with parent blaming, medication as a “crutch” perspective, and the use of severe classroom punishments for ADHD symptoms the general practice.
As a result, our family – like thousands of other families – found very little support from school staff, extended family members, and even doctors and psychologists. Finding qualified professionals to diagnose and manage ADHD meant traveling to the University of Minnesota Child Psychiatry Department in Minneapolis – an expensive medical process not covered by many insurances. The Mental Health Parity Act was not signed into law until 1996.
By the time my son entered 6th grade, he had tried three different medications and had participated in weekly counseling sessions for several years. Yet, he continued to experience great difficulty in the classroom. It was emotionally and mentally exhausting and I found the only real understanding in a support group, visiting with other parents living the same experience.
Within a year, I became the support group leader — and a parent representative to the Stearns Local Coordinating Council for Children’s Mental Health where I received the 1995 Gloria Segal Award, Advocate for Children’s Mental Health.
Through these experiences, I realized that we needed to move past what our kids couldn’t do – and focus on their unique gifts and talents. If we, as parents, couldn’t see the positive attributes that came with ADHD, no one else would either – especially our children.
In this work, I met Lee Gehrls – a mother, a nurse, an advocate – who shared this passion for building greater understanding of and appreciation for children and families with ADHD and co-existing conditions.