Dealing with Distractions and Overreactions

    21 October, 2014

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    Five million American children and teenagers have Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD.

    ADHD makes it difficult - if not impossible - to stay with a duty until it is complete.

    Katherine Ellison knows the problem well. She is a mother who was always yelling at her son to be quiet, to sit still, to stay on task. She did not know that he had ADHD. She also did not know that she had it too.

    Dealing with Distractions and Overreactions
    In this infographic from Brain Resource, Inc. released on Nov. 8, 2012, nearly 1 in 10 children in the U.S. have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

    Ms. Ellison wrote a book about the issue with her son, Buzz. VOA's Faiza Elmasry talked to her about, "Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention."

    Buzz Ellison is a child who had many problems in elementary school. He could not sit still. He was constantly jumping up and down in class. He did not pay attention to his teachers and could not focus on the task at hand.

    As a result, his mother says, he was always in trouble. He also got bullied. And his teachers gave him a lot of negative feedback.

    "His attitude towards school really changed. I think he got bullied both by his peers and his teachers who insisted that he could do things that he really wasn't capable of doing at that age and remembering things and they gave him a lot of negative feedback."

    His mother, Katherine Ellison, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. She did not understand why he behaved the way he did. And she admits that her behavior was only making the situation worse.

    "I was making things worse often by being anxious or being impatient or not understanding him. And I realized at some point that I really hadn't hugged him in a while. And I wasn't smiling when he came into the room because we were just having such a hard time."

    When Buzz was nine doctors identified his problem. They said he had ADHD. And, like many parents of children with ADHD, Ellison learned she had the disorder as well. She was in her late 40s.

    She says that like many people with ADD or ADHD life can be a rollercoaster ride – a life with many ups and downs, high points and low points.

    When life has many ups and downs we call it a roller coaster, just like the amusement park ride.

    "I, like many people with ADD, had a roller coaster of a life. For instance, I got sued for 11-million dollars for a reporting error that I made in one of my first years as a newspaper reporter. And two years later, I won a Pulitzer Prize. So these are the kinds of things that often happen when you got this disorder; you're capable of really amazing things and very humiliating, terrible things."

    So, the mother and son teamed to write a book about their experience. Ms. Ellison says she was happy that ADHD became a project for them instead of a fight between them.

    "My son and I started out by writing a contract together, which was terrific because it changed the perspective from being a shameful problem that we had to a joint business project. And I also knew that he would cooperate with me. He wanted a percentage of the profits from the book. I was willing to do that because all of a sudden we're partners rather than antagonists."

    They explored the world of ADHD for a year. They researched treatments and doctors.

    More Cases of ADHD Identified in Children

    ADHD is identified more and more. But much about the disorder remains unknown, including its cause or causes. American and Swedish researchers have released a study that links older fathers and ADHD. It found babies fathered by men over 44 years old are 13 times more likely to develop the disorder. JAMA Psychiatry, a journal of the American Medical Association, published the study.

    Peter Levine is a doctor of children's medicine in California. The pediatrician specializes in treating children with ADHD. He says there are many misunderstandings about the disorder.

    "One of the biggest misconceptions is parents think that this is their fault."

    And, he says others find fault with these parents, too.

    "Other parents will blame them for it because they see the way these kids acting and they'll (will) say, ‘What's wrong with you? Why can't you control your child?' So parents will blame themselves. Another misconception is that the child is really not trying, because oftentimes these kids are trying harder than other kids to control their behaviors. That leads to a lot of difficulties and frustrations."

    Mr. Levine says the first step in dealing with ADHD is getting the facts straight.

    "In America, the diagnosis rate in children generally is quoted in the range of about 3 to 7 percent of children. It's more common in boys, by about three to one. This is a highly inheritable disorder. They can't get over ADHD. I mean it's not something that you can make go away. As many as two-third of the children who have problems with ADHD will have difficulties as adults. You can't cure it. You have to find ways of coping with it."

    Changing Parenting Styles for ADHD Kids

    He says that one of the most effective ways to deal with ADHD is to change the way you parent.

    And that's what Katherine Ellison did.

    She says she is now paying more attention to her son, spending more time with him, being less judgmental and giving him more positive feedback.

    And Buzz is reacting well to these changes. He has fewer outbursts at home and at school. He is more centered on school work. And he has a new interest – playing tennis.

    And that's the Health Report. I'm Anna Matteo.

    VOA's Faiza Elmasry wrote the report. Anna Matteo wrote it for Learning English. Caty Weaver edited it.


    Words in this Story

    task – n a piece of work that has been given to someone : a job for someone to do

    task at hand idiom. a piece of work that someone is currently working on

    negative – adj. expressing dislike or disapproval

    feedback – n. helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.

    bully v. to use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

    roller coaster - n. a situation or experience that involves sudden and extreme changes

    prescription - n. a medicine or drug that a doctor officially tells someone to use

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