Back in 2000, I took my first teaching job in a small town in central Texas. The principal there did not believe that learning challenges like ADHD, dyslexia and specific learning disabilities existed. She thought it was all nonsense. (She was also about 80 years old, it may be worth pointing out!)
Thank goodness times have changed—and most educators like her are now retired!
There is a lot of science behind ADHD now. The American Medical Association recognizes ADHD as a neurobiological disorder. There is a lot of research that shows that the brains of people with ADHD are truly different in their function and chemistry. For example:
Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), when performing a task that requires concentration, people with ADHD often show less activation in critical areas of their brains. Especially noteworthy: the differences are often seen in the area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex. This area is influential in controlling impulses, planning, organizing and problem-solving.
There is data to support the idea that people with ADHD have chemistry-based differences in their brains as well, particularly when it comes to the release and reloading of neurotranmitters. These are chemicals that help the brain function. Specifically, the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine are thought to be linked to ADHD.
Granted, I’m a science nerd, but I think this information is really important in helping parents, educators and the public understand that ADHD is a real medical condition, and not a set of willful, negative behaviors. Spreading the word about the science behind ADHD could go a long way in helping us all be more understanding of, and helpful toward, children with ADHD.