ADHD Father Reads Daughter's Report Card

I have ADHD, and my 6-year-old daughter displays familiar behavioural patterns.

While reading my daughter's grade 1 report card, I realised how strikingly similar this was to my performance 30 years ago.

ADHD is a real *thing*. It shows up early and is highly heritable. Take it seriously.

report card-ADHD.jpg


As an intelligent and driven individual, my problems were always ignored. I was eager to learn but often struggled to meet the expectations of the system. Teachers and parents never saw any issue to be addressed, mostly because I was polite and never disruptive in class. To them, there simply was no problem. The system chugs along smoothly.

Meanwhile, my 16-year-old younger brother was less interested in school. Perhaps he was a class clown at times. It was the 1990's, so a Ritalin prescription was carelessly thrown his way.

But when I asked for help? DENIED! I didn't display the outward (i.e. disruptive) signs of ADHD. And besides, the DSM 2 on the doctor's shelf said ADHD did not exist after age 18. I was only a couple of months from my 18th birthday. So they told me to wait 8 weeks and all these issues would magically disappear. After all, the DSM 2 said so.

Unfortunately real world biology doesn't care about APA publications. And I had a real problem, even if the system chose not to ignore it.


It is an indictment that our superficial system forced meds onto the practical kid who wanted to be a tradie, while denying help to the smart kid who wanted to be an academic. Madness!

Ultimately my brother and I struggled with the same problem. Not really the ADHD, but rather, we struggled with the systems expectations of "normal". Neither of us quite met their highest standard.

This is a system that was built by neuro-typical folks with a factory mindset of delivering education at scale. The defective can always be held back and reprocessed.

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While I caution against over diagnosing every human behaviour or quirk as a medical condition that conforms to the DSM5 guidelines, I also believe we should be try to understand what is happening underneath the surface.

Being vigilant and mindful of our children is not the same as parental hypochondria.

Sadly, ADHD specialist also struggle with the disingenuous. Many pushy tiger parents and opportunistic uni students who see these as "performance enhancing drugs". Perhaps we can dope our kids straight to Harvard! After all, if you don't, other parents might out compete you. We all want out kids to have an edge, so better to get them a diagnosis and gain access to doctor approved "study drugs". Safe, cheep, legal amphetamine sounds great, right? What could go possibly wrong?

Unfortunately, these drugs don't seem to have any affect on non-ADHD suffers beyond a placebo (Loo & Hale et al 2009).

No. A wiser middle way is needed.

Let the kids be kids. Let them be individuals. But also, let's be conscious of the things they are struggling with. Young children might not have the self-awareness or of the scientific vocabulary to explicitly tell you they have a problem. It's up to us to use our judgement. But good judgement demands that we first truly listen.


It's no surprise ADHDers struggle with school.

Education ought be about trying to make humans into their best possible versions of themselves. Currently we are manufacturing compliant students who are good for the standardised test, often to the detriment of all else.


What do they really prove? They do not demonstrate genuine learning; they simply measure your ability to take a test.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything they learned in school [2]

A getting a grade and getting and education isn't the same thing. Qualifications alone are hollow, but true education may lead to wisdom.


So my dear daughter. I am proud of you.

You be YOU. You're great!

Yes, you will need to learn to fit in; you have no choice. No, it wont be fun. Yes, dad is trying hard to make a dent in the system but this wont help you in the short term.

But don't stop being you - even if you must struggle with your own muddled ideas. Don't try to be a drone.

Happy studies.

- Love Dad (Phillip Wong)


[1] Loo, S. K., Hale, T. S., Macion, J., Hanada, G., McGough, J. J., McCracken, J. T., & Smalley, S. L. (2009). Cortical activity patterns in ADHD during arousal, activation and sustained attention. Neuropsychologia, 47(10), 2114-2119.

[2] No, this isn't Einstein's original work. Einstein quoted this citing unidentified “wit”.