The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Outgrowing ADD?

Well, if my own life serves as any indication, the answer to the above question for some kids with ADD/ADHD is no. Some kids won’t outgrow ADHD.

New findings that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may stem from a developmental delay that children could outgrow, rather than a cognitive deficit, have raised questions for parents of the 4.4 million children diagnosed with the disorder.

The findings from a National Institute of Mental Health study, published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared brain scans of 446 children with and without the disorder. The brains of children with ADHD appeared to develop normally but more slowly, lagging on average about three years behind other children.

We spoke with several experts about what the findings might mean for parents.

It means that a certain percentage of their kids will grow up with ADD and that the condition (I so hate the word “disorder” applied here) will persist into adulthood.

…”While a lot of people with ADHD do improve with age, as many as two-thirds still have symptoms of the disorder which persist into adulthood,” Shaw said. Among possible explanations: There may be more than one genetic variant of the disorder, or perhaps some kids with ADHD have other conditions that are responsible for their symptoms.

“The primary problem may be a learning disability,” Coleman said. “[Researchers] say that once the cortex thickens, kids get better, but if they have ongoing, undiagnosed problems, their symptoms may persist.”

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my ADD. I wrote about it when I started this blog, because I was just grappling with the diagnosis, finding the right treatment, and coming to terms with the reality that certain aspects of my life might have been different if I’d been diagnosed earlier. I spent a few years being angry that perhaps I wouldn’t have experienced as much failure, or as much pain, and that perhaps I would have been able to go further professionally instead of spending a decade or so just struggling to keep my head above water.

I’ve written about it since relaunching this blog. I don’t spend as much time thinking about what I’ve called “my lost time,” but I still consider it lost because I’ve yet to discover what purpose it served or what possible good came of any of it. It seems like a lot of pointless pain an suffering from my perspective.

There are times when I wish for a “normal brain,” or at least a world more tolerant of the one I’m stuck with. Whatever the “gifts of ADD” might be, and however much they may be admired of valued in some circumstances, I’ve never found a place to be that’s as tolerant of the inevitable down side of ADD that will always be there even if I “try harder” or manage to “be more careful.”

Meditation helps. I was reminded of that by Nacho’s post on mindfulness and ADD. I’ve always thought that ADD was basically the “monkey mind” going full tilt, as is often the case with me.

Describes a mind that jumps from thought to thought like a monkey jumps from tree to tree. The monkey mind is not content with exisiting in the present moment, but rather engages in the thoughts that pass through.

For me, ADD is like being stuck in a room with a blaring television or radio, one with no volume control or “off switch, and that keeps changing channels randomly every few minutes. Medication and meditation are both helpful to me in that both at least help me turn down the volume on the television in my mind, even if I can’t turn it off. Meditation helps me do that, when I remember to do it, but sometimes I wonder if it only helps during the time that I’m meditating, or if it’s more like strengthening a particular muscle through regular exercise and use.

Nacho’s post, though, suggests that it might also help me make some degree of peace with everything that passed during the years I spent undiagnosed, untreated, and suffering for it.

The philosophical point being that yes indeed, through practice and facing our suffering, we can end up far more contented as peace enters. We can even smile in the face of our suffering, and consider that deep reflection a good thing to do even when confronting ill-being. We might even smile every time we “sit” to face ourselves deeply. But the practical side of mindfulness, the practice, is not all about us feeling smiley without the deep encounter with the transformation of suffering.

Maybe “outgrowing ADD,” for me, doesn’t mean not having it anymore, but the “transformation of suffering” that Nacho mentions. What I might transform it into yet, I don’t know.

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