Raissa Tetanish
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Stop labeling kids with mental disorders: mom of ADHD child


AMHERST - The labeling has to stop. The mother of a local 12-year-old living with a mental disorder says society is failing her son and others with disabilities not recognizable to the eye.

"People label kids who have mental disorders as bad kids, delinquents and troublemakers," says the woman, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of her son.
But, she adds, a lot of these kids have disorders such as severe attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) or other mental illnesses.
"These are chemical imbalances and they can't help what they do."
Her son has been diagnosed with ADHD but she says the family has an appointment with experts at the local Mental Health agency because she believes he also has conduct disorder.
"He's been on several medications for a number of years. He's got impulsive behaviour, and he doesn't have any remorse or emotions for what he's done. At school he has a poor attitude, he doesn't listen well and he has a short attention span."
The mother says punishing her son for his actions has little effect because he simply forgets about the punishment, and his actions, the next day.
"It's hard because he can be as sweet as pie. He has a good heart. He loves video games and family activities. He likes to cuddle up with me on the couch, but I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle."
As a Grade 6 student, the mother says her son's teachers and school administrators have been supportive of her plight but no one knows what to do about her son.
"We've been talking back and forth, and the teacher even called the other day to tell me my son had a good day. The teacher said we always hear about the negative and he wanted something to be positive."
The boy's mom says there are more kids out there other than her own in the same position, and she wants people to know that it isn't fair to label.
She admits her son has been in trouble with the police, but adds the justice system lacks the skill and ability to deal with kids in her son's situation.
If it was her daughter who has special needs, she argues, the police wouldn't treat her like a criminal because they can visibly see the disorder.
Because of her struggles she says she's lost faith in the system.
"I've tried to get help, but it backfired. The system is crap," she said.
Cumberland Mental Health's clinical manager Veronica Richards said nobody should be labeled.
"Those are pejorative things to say to someone, whether or not they have a mental disorder," she said, adding that when someone has something in mind, it's hard to change it.
While Richards might not think society as a whole has failed the boy and his mother, she does think there is room for some failure.
"I think there is a failure to understand if we label these people," she said.
Richards said some people might see another person as unmotivated if they don't complete tasks such as chores or school work, not knowing that could be a part of a mental disorder. But it also could be because of a lack of education.
The organization, said Richards, can't come out and say who it is treating and for what disorder, but it can equip family members and those diagnosed on how to deal with those situations.
There are frequent educational sessions on mental disorders open to the public which allows them to learn the signs, symptoms and treatment.
"And we can provide information on mental disorders to anyone with questions," Richards said.
When it comes to diagnosing a school-aged child, Richards said the school is usually engaged in the assessments and recommendations that might come out of the assessment.
The boy's mother might have lost some faith, but she hasn't given up hope.
"I'm hoping to make people more aware that these kids are not like normal kids. Their brains don't work on the same level as another kid without the disorder. There needs to be a better understanding of mental disorders and the labeling has to stop."

Organizations: Mental Health agency

Geographic location: AMHERST

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Recent comments

    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    I totally disagree with qwerty123.A child's behavior has nothing to do with how the child was raised,there can be a number of things going on in a child's life,things in which he/she do and will not share with others because of shame/disgrace etc...I am sure that this mother is a good parent,or she would not of told her story.when we do one wrong thing the law haunts you for the rest of your life the sytem alone puts a lot of stress on a kid thoughout adulthood. I know this through experience!I have had a couple of run-ins and today they(the law) still intimidiate me!AND I have no mental disorder!IF only society would look at why kids act out instead of just slapping a charge on them,then the kid would turn into a better person. to say a parent is to blame,gee?????why can't the man up the street be the blame?WHY does it have to be the parent's fault?We know this is not the case!This kid needs respect,trust from society and most of all to let him know that he is cared about!THIS is bias what you said qwerty!SOME kids are not as fortunate as our were growing up!NONE of us are perfect,not as kids or adults!SO stop pointing fingers at this parent and show some respect for this kid!MY moral is if you give respect you get respect back!Comments such as yours makes the kids emotionally upset where he acts out,and he has your attention,so if you want to give these kids any attention let it be positive!

  • Really?
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Really, Another2 cents?? Really? You think that this child who has ADHD doesn't know what he is talking about? Considering he is the one living with the illness and in the school system, I would take his word any day before yours!! Telling all the kids with ADHD to go outside and play?!! You obviously know nothing about ADHD and other mental illnesses! The next time you have comments spare us and reserve them for a topic you know something about! I hate to attack people personally (hint, hint) but it drives me crazy when these forums become an opportunity to breed ignorance.

    I hope this article creates more awareness about the legitimacy of mental illnesses like ADHD. I can only hope that this family gets the support they need from doctors, school administrators, and the community. Best of luck.

  • Gary
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Hats off to you Mother of 2 ADHD, yours is the only real productive comment here.

    I do admit my knowledge and experience with ADHD is very limited but I do totally agree that exercise and healthy diet are very important to fighting this disorder - not just when diagnosed but prior to that - from before birth I believe.

  • CDS
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    In response to querty123.. YOu obviously have to be educated on the disorder to understand that its not the way child is parented.It actually appaulds me that someone could even judge soeone they don't even know. I think that it is amazing that she has stepped out for help from the community. I recently attended a Tools for LIfe conference in the Valley, and I was amazed at the amount of resources and support programs they have in the area for parents and caregivers for children with ADHD/AUtism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities. and the difference in the education system.. people care down there and do their job because they love what they do.. not because of the pay cheque. querty123.. should attend a conference or meeting and realise that the remark he/she made was totally unappropriate!!!!

  • Another 2 Cents
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I am empathetic with your plight, it would be frustrating.

    ADHD from NS, not only do you have ADHD but you also have ITIKE syndrome. That is the I Think I Know Everything syndrome.

    You are not the only student in the class of 30 who have a disorder of some sort, along with the students who are disrespectful to the teachers or classmates. The teachers in the system that we have to work with do what they can to reach as many students as possible.

    If you could't see that and try and work with the teachers, then you may be right, the may not care.

    Teachers do care for their students, and they do what they can in the time thay have to help as many students as possible.

    Maybe they should have just ignored all the others and spent the time on you.

    I don't think playing video games is an effective or efficient way of dealing with ADHD. Get them out and doing something, every day, burn off the energy, so they can concentrate. I am not that old, but I used to spend all my time outside, running and playing games. Surely there is a link between playing video games and ADHD.

  • ADHD
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I know how you feel. I have been dealing with ADHD since i was in grade 4. Alot of the teachers at juinor high school just dont care unless someone is in the special needs class. Never being in the class i noticed that they got treated alot better then a student that has ADHD and short attention spans. I am now sitting in a different high school in Halifax and i get help everyday. If i need help with anything i get that help. But the teachers at EB Chandler, ARHS. Dont really care. They are there to get a pay cheque and thats it. There are only a few teachers who are there because they want to make a difference with Students. I hope that you find a way to make them see that the Teachers and Principals need to step up. They arent doing anything at all to help the students.. if i was you personally i would take this to the school board.

  • Elaine
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I find it interesting that the point was made so clearly as I read the comment made about this article. People need to be educated to understand what a mental disorder is - It is not the fault of the individual or the family!! Only those parents and people in the circle of those living with such mental disorders understands the differences in how their brains work and the learning styles. Ignorance in our communities are hurting these individuals and not helping. Services adn help are certainly lacking. When you are living in this world you know - I wouldn't wish it on anyone, it is heartbreaking. Do you allow people to pick on a child who is deaf or blind? Absolutely not but the child who is too having a hard time sitting and needs to be reminded the rules is tripped, called names etc. I care, and you all should too!!

  • juanita
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Why do people always blame parents? My son has ADHD and is only 5. My parenting had not played a role in his ADHD because it is an ILLNESS! We have to be different parents because he has an illness. We have raised three other children and it is not because of our parenting that he has an illness, our other children were normal children The system needs more knowledge and help these parents cope. I have been lucky so far because my son has been diagnosed early and he has wonderful teachers and mental health workers that do care. Not every child is this lucky! The schools are improving and understanding these children and working with the parents. This has been a long time coming! Good luck and do not give up. keep pushing for help and never take no for an answer!!!! There is help when you fight for it and meet the right people .

  • qwerty123
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I find it amazing that parents that can`t control their kids are always saying that it was a system that failed them or they got this wrong with them so they don`t know right from wrong. Why do they never look at themselves as a parent & ask what they did wrong? It`s not the systems job to raise our kids. I believe that children are a product of their enviroment. They learn from who they associate with. Weather it be within the family or friends. It`s the parents job to ensure that our kids are raised properly.

  • Amy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I want to thank this mother for standing up for these children who are usually only put down. I have to say growing up with not having ADHD or anyone close to me having it, I really didn't understand it. I have 2 children one of which has ADHD, and I'm still not sure if I completely understand it. For years I tried to put my daughter...that's right, there are even girls out there with it...into the mold of life. I struggled to get her to do many things, and nothing seemed to work. Finally through a teacher's help, we found out that my daughter has ADHD. People that say it is the parents fault are just plain ignorant. I am far from the perfect parent, but I try my best with both of my children, and if it was the parent's fault why don't both of my children have it? I think it will take many years and a lot of education to change the world's views of mental illness. If a person can see a disability, like a person in a wheelchair, I feel they are much more tolerant of it. And when someone hears mental they associate it with crazy. The world has a lot of changing to do, and hopefully our children will live to see it.

  • Steve
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    As a parent of a child with ADHD I understand all about this and in no way are we as parents able 2 make our children have this mental illness as no parent is able 2 make their child blind or in a wheelchair. I am working closely with every resourse available to provide help and support 4 my child but it seems no matter what you do it is never enough. We are always doing things as a family and he is very loved but still impulsive and gets into trouble. I feel for this family and I understand what they are going through. Best of wishes.

  • Gary
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Just to point out this valuable piece of information from the jumble of earllier comments:

    IWK offers a program called Bringing Health Home

    You can find all the contact information if you google it.

  • Kim
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I understand where you are coming from BUT at the same time, I have a son who is also 12 with ADHD and he has NEVER been in trouble with the law OR at school. It has been a struggle with him as well as his older Autistic brother BUT home life does play a role in the whole picture as well......A HUGE ROLE!!!

  • Mother of 2 ADHD
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    First of all,,hats off to the mom who wrote this article,,yes our chidren are very misunderstood,,and it is heartbreaking everyday to watch our children struggle with things that to those not effected find easy ..Is children behavior effected by there parents and surroundings,,absolutely,,but that is not the only factor.My Husband and I have worked very hard since our 10 year old was diagnosed to help him overcome some of the struggles he faces daily.I would like to take this opportunity to inform anyone who may not be aware that there is a wonderful program the IWK offers. It is called Bringing Health home and you can find all the contact imformation if you google it.Weekly councilling sessions,,on the phone,that makes it so much easier than travelling to the city,,a cd to watch and a 12 week booklet provided that you run through with a coach whom by the way is always very willing to speak with you when needed..EXCELLENT program,,take advantage of it,,,it makes parent like myself feel less alone,,.These children can be very loving and kind but their behaviors can cut a mother and fathers heart when they surprise you with things you would not exspect such as stealing,lying,bullying in school,,sneakiness.Those who do not have children with these issues could never know the challanges faced,,and should not judge those of us who do ..

  • Educator
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I do sympathise with parents and children who have a mental illness. I myself have ADHD, and have learned ot live and cope with it.
    I want to remind these parents and children that bad behaviour is not excused because they have an illness. I understand that the behaviours are harder to control with ADHD, but in the long run we still have the ability to make a choice. If we do someting bad it is because we CHOSE to do so.
    You could technically say that all teens have a mental illness because there is new studies to prove that the frontal lobe of a teenabge brain is not fully formed sometime suntil the age of 25. The frontal lobe controls impulse thinking,and problem solving. This is why we have a youth justice act. But they are proseuted for thier crimes. Because they had a choice to make and chose the wrong one. There still needs to be consequences for peoples actions. If i didn't have consequences for my actions growing up with ADHD I would still be battling my ilness and wishing people would have pity on poor me.