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Doctor Challenges ADHD Stigma

Attention Difference Disorder

Dr. Kenny Handelman thinks there is a big misnomer in medical circles. An Oakville-based psychiatrist, Handelman is hoping to change the current lexicon of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) thereby putting a positive spin on what is one of the most common psychiatric childhood conditions.

In a book called Attention Difference Disorder, he strives to debunk some of the myths surrounding ADHD -- namely, that it's caused by too much sugar or gaming, lazy parenting, or kids who "aren't trying hard enough." Handelman stresses the many virtues of children with ADHD, including tremendous creativity, which simply needs to be harnessed. Unfortunately the current medical thinking about ADHD is demoralizing.

"Kids rise to the expectations that we hold for them. At the same time, I believe kids also drop to the low expectations we have for them," says Handelman in an interview with the Toronto Star.

Parents often come to Handelman complaining about the diagnosis. It's not that their kids can't concentrate. Quite the opposite; they can play games for hours. When it comes to paying attention, it's a question of consistency. Exercise, he claims, can lead to vast improvements in controlling hyperactivity and inattention.

"Some parents note that when their ADHD child finishes vigorous exercise, they are calmer and focus better."

Celebrities like comedian Howie Mandel and Olympic gold-medallist Michael Phelps coming out of the ADHD closet also helps destigmatize the condition.

According to Handelman, it's crucial for parents and doctors alike to discuss the condition matter-of-factly, as if talking about a respiratory condition such as asthma.