Meet Lee Gehrls | R&D Coordinator (Volunteer)
In the summer of 1986 Lee and her husband returned home from Minneapolis where they took their seven year old son to the University of Minnesota Child Psychiatry Department to be evaluated by an expert in child behavior. After taking an extensive history and lots of testing the psychiatrist told them their son had ADD with hyperactivity, explained what it was and recommended a course of treatment and management. Neither one of them had ever heard of the disorder but they both had medical backgrounds so they knew they could find the help their son needed.
As soon as Lee got home she took the first step the psychiatrist told them to do – find a therapist in your town who knows ADD and can work with your son and his pediatrician. So she turned to the counseling section in the yellow pages of the phone book and read all the descriptions of the counseling centers looking for ADD. Not one name jumped out at her. That’s when she asked, “Now what do we do?” Her help came in a phone call from the PTA President at her son’s school who was calling about a school event. When Lee told her about their trip to the Cities she heard over the phone, “Boy have I got a friend you have to meet.” It turned out she had a good friend who had a child with ADHD and had been dealing with the disorder for a few years. Introductions followed and her new friend became her mentor. But every time Lee went to a workshop on ADHD in St. Cloud or in Minneapolis she would hear parents talk about the huge problems at home and school, doctors appointments and testing, never ending fighting with insurance companies and she would ask herself, “Now what are they going to do?” That question set her on a 31 year path of ongoing learning, sharing and educating anyone and everyone on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the many issues that co-exist with this disorder.
Soon Lee and her husband discovered that their medical backgrounds didn’t help all that much in navigating the health care and mental health care systems to find the help their son needed. She thought if we are having this much trouble how do families with no medical understanding cope? So in 1987 Lee and her husband co-founded the Attention Deficit Disorder Support Group in St. Cloud which met monthly from September through May, summers off and brought in speakers too. But the time came when she needed a break. During this time she had been filling requests for information on ADHD, taking phone calls at home from other parents and a few professionals and giving a few talks to local groups on ADHD from a parent’s perspective. Try as hard as she could no one was willing to take over the support group so in 1992 she sadly had to disband it. Luckily there was a second ADHD Support Group in town but it was still tough to walk away. She continued to volunteer in her sons’ elementary schools, School District 742 committees and attended classes at SCSU (St. Cloud State University) from 1988-1990 to receive a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Community Health to go along with her Associate Degree in Nursing. Then in 1994 while having coffee with the only ADHD support group leader left in town, she decided to join her good friend to embark on a new ADHD challenge – read About Us.