When hackers sought to discredit US Olympians by releasing their medical records, it was revealed that Simone Biles had sought and obtained an exemption for the use of a therapeutic medication. The medication, as it turns out, was to prescribed to treat her ADHD. While some athletes have yet to comment on their released information, Simone was quick to address the topic. Rather than retreating, she responded proudly and in a way that not only acknowledged her diagnosis but also showed the world that she owns her ADHD. The public’s response to her statement has been overwhelmingly positive. (As of this writing her tweet has received 50,000 likes and 12,000 shares, and has been discussed in countless articles and media segments.)
Simone Biles is a shining example of how when you own your ADHD you can not only succeed, but succeed at the highest levels. So, what does it mean to own your ADHD? It means acknowledging and accepting that ADHD is a part of who you are, taking action to treat your symptoms, and advocating for yourself so that you can receive the help that you need. But how can kids learn to own their ADHD, especially in a world that isn’t always supportive? It’s a process and a journey that parents can help guide and champion.
Acknowledge & Accept. Coming to terms with an ADHD diagnosis can be challenging. Feelings of denial, anger and depression are not uncommon. But to be honest, these feeling are far more common among parents of children with ADHD than among the kids themselves. Kids are often relieved to learn that there is a reason why they have been struggling, feeling out of place, or thinking that they are different. As parents you can help your child accept their ADHD diagnosis by teaching them that ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not a personal weakness or failure. Instead, it’s something that people are usually born with. It’s something that they have inherited just like other characteristics, like their height. Having ADHD just means that they have some specific challenges, and these challenges can be managed and overcome with treatment and support. Share Simone Biles’ tweet with your child. Talk about how she didn’t let ADHD get in her way, and how when she publicly acknowledged her ADHD diagnosis she received 50,000 likes from people who support her!
Take Action. Once you and your child acknowledge and accept their ADHD, create an action plan and share it with your child. Let your child know that doctors, scientists, and educators have been studying ADHD for decades, and there are treatments that work. When you make a plan, remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect. At the beginning, it may only include one or two action items, and that’s okay! For your child, simply knowing that you have a plan will help put them at ease. It clearly shows them that taking action is what you need to do if you want to succeed with ADHD. Also talk to your child about the actions that they will need to take to help themselves, like attending appointments and committing to trying out new strategies at school and at home.
Advocate. People with ADHD need a network of support in order to thrive. They need this as kids, and they will continue to need this as adults. So, talk to your child about the people you will be reaching out to for help. Your child’s support team can include doctors who will provide medication and/or behavioral treatments, teachers who will provide extra support in the classroom, yourself as parents who will learn strategies to support your child at home, relatives who you will call on for extra help, coaches and mentors who will teach your child skills through sports or the arts, and tutors who will help your child succeed in school. When you feel your child is ready and when it is appropriate, include your child in meetings at school when you discuss ADHD-related accommodations or the need for additional services. Allow your child to participate by sharing what it is that they need help with, and include them in discussions about possible solutions.
At 19 years old Simone Biles is able to own her ADHD because the adults in her life taught her how to accept her diagnosis, take action and get treatment, and advocate for herself to receive support from teachers, coaches, teammates, and friends. As parents, the steps you take now to help your child own their ADHD will enable them to strive to reach their full potential without letting ADHD get in the way.
To learn more about Simone Biles and her journey, check out her forthcoming book entitled Courage To Soar: A Body In Motion, A Life In Balance.