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Tell the World About ADD

These days, it seems everyone has something to say about ADD, much of it misguided, inaccurate, or downright cruel. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people make silly comments about the disorder—especially in recent years, as the media have given lots of attention to the "ADD-isn't-real" crowd.

How does one respond to such ignorance? It's not socially acceptable to punch or curse the folks who make these comments—no matter how much we'd like to. Instead, let me encourage you to use such comments as opportunities to educate people about ADD—and to advocate for the rights of people who have the condition.

Sometimes all it takes to change someone's opinion is to provide the facts. Accurate, up-to-date information about ADD is available from ADDitude Magazine. You can also find information through organizations like CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), or ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association).

Another way to change ideas is to challenge them. If you decline to challenge a rude remark, others may assume that you agree with it. So, next time someone says something misguided about ADD, speak up. You might say, "I'm sure that it probably seems that way, but…" or "I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree. The facts about ADD show that…." Look for areas of agreement so that others can connect with your point of view: "While I agree that that is true in some situations, in most situations…."

Because people respond more to stories than to facts, the sharing of personal stories is often the most effective way to change errant beliefs. Nothing changes beliefs more than a personal story shared from the heart.

I've had the opportunity to share stories about my son, Jarryd, and my father, Bill Young, all over the world. By telling about their struggles with ADD—and their triumphs—I've been able to inspire and bring hope to others. Not so good at telling stories? Don't worry. To be persuasive, you don't have to be eloquent. You just have to say something truthful—and heartfelt.

Two approaches are especially effective:

Don't let comments like these go unchallenged:

"AD/HD is a made-up disorder."

"AD/HD is just an excuse.

People who say they have AD/HD are just stupid or lazy."

"AD/HD is a fad—nowadays everyone has it."

Even if you share your story with only one other person, you can have an impact. On average, studies show, each person who hears a personal story about ADD repeats the story to seven other people. Each of these people is likely to share the story with seven more people, and so on. Before long, hundreds of people are rethinking their ideas and assumptions about ADD.

Last year, the U.S. Senate designated the second Wednesday of September as National AD/HD Awareness Day. The designation came after one man with ADD contacted his senator and told him about the difficulties individuals with ADD often face and how widespread myths about the condition make it hard to get help. Although many people helped make National AD/HD Awareness Day a reality, one person and one story started the ball rolling. Here's to changing the world one story at a time!

By Michele Novotni, Ph.D., former president of the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association and a psychologist at the Wayne Counseling Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania. She spearheaded the lobbying effort that led to the creation of National AD/HD Awareness Day.

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

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