“The name of the disorder, ADHD, is trivial,” explained Barkley who spoke at an event sponsored by WEG and Alvord, Baker and Associates. “ADHD is a serious disorder of the executive part of the brain,” espoused Barkley, a leader in the field of ADHD, who further clarified that in his opinion the proper name is EFDD: Executive Functioning Development Disorder.
According to Barkley, ADHD is not a psychopathology. More important, if parents can understand what’s going on “inside” the brain of someone with ADHD, if they can understand what’s driving this disorder, then they will have a much better understanding of how to raise a child with ADHD.
The only way, to diagnose ADHD is to measure and compare because it is a developmental lag that defines the disorder. And here is the crucial point, according to Barkley: ADHD is a chronic delay in development, a lag that doesn’t catch up. “Only one-third of the ADHD population will recover,” said Barkley. “There is nothing in the social environment that predicts who recovers and who doesn’t.” In fact, he says, when the brain reaches maturity at the age of 25 or 30 those who haven’t caught up never will.
YOUNG AT HEART/YOUNG AT BRAIN
The idea is not to hope for something that can’t happen, but to attain what can. “The goal is not normalization,” said Barkley. “Functionally effective, happy, competent is the goal. I can’t get you to normal, but I can get you to functional.”
And here’s why. The brain is at the heart of this disorder. The frontal lobe, the right hemisphere of the brain, is anatomically different, actually smaller than it should be. During breakthrough discoveries of the past decade, researchers have determined that for those suffering from ADHD key part of the brain’s executive networks are not developing at a normal rate. They are:
- The part of the brain that functions to inhibit actions until they are ready to be released.
- The part of the brain in charge of coordination of action
- The communication highway between the left and right brain
- The valley between the two sides of the brains, a.k.a the gateway to the executive brain, crucial for handling conflicts, assigning priorities and managing emotions
Because of the delayed development of these executive factions, children/people with ADHD have trouble in the following areas:
- Self discipline
- Self management across time (time management)
- Organization of their environment (which helps with facilitation of goals)
- Self-motivation (difficulty functioning when there are no consequences)
- Self regulation of emotions
NATURE VS NURTURE
For two-thirds of children with ADHD, the disorder is genetic. For one-third, especially boys, ADHD traits are acquired in-utero. “You cannot take a normal child and raise him to become a child with ADHD. ADHD isn’t from diet or watching television. Keeping them from watching Sponge Bob is a joke,” exclaimed the outspoken Barkley.
In our next blog, which you will be able to find on the WEG Facebook page, two things Barkley says parents can do to help their children: 1) “Shut up” and break it down and 2) Learn to forgive.
By Cari Shane