Before adopting I had no idea what ADHD, ADD, RAD, PTSD, or ODD meant.
Well, for those who don’t know already, these are all mental disorders that can affect adults and children in different degrees.
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) for example, is one of those conditions that has come into attention recently, not because it didn’t exist before, but because it has become more “popular” between parents and doctors and is now more widely diagnosed.
And here comes the controversy.
Many doctors and parents swear by it, saying that it is a real condition that is affecting more and more people, while others say that parents don’t want to take care of their children anymore and rely on drugs to keep them under control with the complicity of a greedy pharmaceutical industry.
That’s the problem with mental disorders, they are hard to diagnose, hard to treat, but also hard to live with. How do you determine that a child has really ADHD? As with everything, common sense is the key. If you already parented a child and know what to expect from a toddler or an adolescent, you can really tell the difference between an energetic kid and one that is behaving way beyond average.
It’s not about children behaving like brats, or parents not doing their job, it’s something completely different and for some people medication is the only chance to have a regular life.
ADHD, like many other disorders, can be really crippling and lead a child to a dangerous path.
But what is the relationship between mental disorders and adoption?
Some studies indicate that people that suffer great trauma in their early years will have more chances to develop ADHD. The brain of a young child is forming and absorbing everything that goes around, so it’s only logical that if a child is neglected, abandoned, abused, malnourished, etc., her brain development would suffer. The same goes for RAD (reactive attachment disorder) a condition that develops when children can’t attach to a caregiver.
Some specialists support the idea that adopted children have more chances to suffer ADHD or any other mental condition, which only makes sense.
If we are willing to accept that internationally adopted children have more chances to suffer from illnesses that range from simple skin conditions to tuberculosis or HIV, why then can’t we accept that ADHD, attachment disorder, anxiety, or other mental problems are also in the list of what we need to consider?
I don’t think that parents of adopted children need to rush immediately to a psychiatrist as soon as they arrive home with their kids, on the contrary, I think we need to give the child and the family some time to adjust, to bond. But if after a couple of years you see that the child is not attaching to you, or is struggling at school, or is showing signs of risky behavior, you need to go to see a doctor.
If you are considering adoption, you also have to deal with the possibility that your future child can suffer from a mental disorder.
Some of them are easily treatable with therapy, others are extremely difficult to deal with. There is no shame in admitting their existence, and no, love is not enough to make them disappear.
It is also true that many children already have some mental problems before being adopted, and the trauma of abandonment only make them worse.
I don’t care about labels, call them as you like, but pay attention to your child. It’s different a 4 year old running around all day, from a child who’s 8 and after being in school for several years still can’t recognize letters or numbers. Or a toddler having a temper tantrum in public, from a 3rd grader running into traffic on purpose.
There is also a difference between a child who’s been born into a loving family and has always been cared for, from one that has been neglected, abused or abandoned.