Even though it's the kind of cold, stormy night that discourages people from going out, a dozen women from the Washington, DC, suburbs have braved the weather to gather in a meeting room at a local library and share their tears, fears, anger, and hopes.
"My son went on a Boy Scout camping trip this weekend. The leader didn't give him his medicine. I'm ready to shoot the scoutmaster -- he's messing with my life!" explodes Cheryl*, a mother of a son with ADHD -- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. "This is a man whose son is diabetic. If anybody should have known how important medicine is, he should've."
Cheryl and the others gathered together this evening are parents of children so affected by distractibility, impulsivity, hyperactivity, or a combination of the three that they cannot function normally in school or other settings and are at risk for academic failure, family conflict, and social problems. ADD (also called ADHD when hyperactivity is a factor) is the most common childhood mental disorder.
Because an increasing number of children are, like Cheryl's son, treated with the stimulant Ritalin (methylphenidate) and other powerful psychotropic drugs, ADD has become a hotbed of controversy, generating lawsuits, congressional hearings, and an avalanche of media coverage. Thrust unwillingly into the spotlight, parents of children with ADD often find themselves forced to deal with both their child's difficulties and a lack of understanding from family, friends, and school officials. CHADD -- Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder, a national organization that informs and empowers families affected by ADD -- sponsors more than 200 chapters with support groups like this one to give them a place to air their feelings without fear of judgment.