ADHD is NOT a Problem of Motivation or Parenting.

Back when Dylan was in third grade, I found on the internet results from a tiny little study of 447 children. Those results included a comparison of their brain scans – the normal brain versus the ADHD brain. The 2007 article declared:

“When some parts of the brain stick to their normal timetable for development, while others lag behind, ADHD is the result.”

The scans – and the tiny study – confirmed for me something that made sense about Dylan. It was the first study I’d ever found that made sense. It said that ADHD was, essentially, a disorder caused by late brain development. Certain areas in the ADHD brain didn’t develop at a normal rate.

Dylan was a late bloomer. His whole life, he was a little behind his peers. He had to undergo speech therapy at age two, for example. The most noticeable slow development, though, was his teeth. His baby teeth didn’t start to come in until he was ten months old, and then they didn’t fall out until nearly two years after the teeth of most kids in his age group.

So when I saw the ADHD brain comparisons, I printed out several copies. I took them to every school meeting we had until – well, actually I still have the scan print-outs.

But today, I no longer need them. The Washington Post has finally verified everything I’ve ever believed about what was going on in Dylan’s brain. The results of a much more substantial study (3,242 people) have finally been published, with the title: “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is linked to delayed brain development.”

I knew this, but few others did.

The gist is this: Dylan’s brain isn’t developing at the same rate as that of his peers. Five of seven of the subcortical regions that were studied were shown to be significantly smaller in volume than those same regions in their non-ADHD peers. These five regions are responsible for such things as processing rewards, responding to stimuli, goal-directed action and forming memories.

In other words, they’ve confirmed what I’ve suspected for all these years: there is a biological reason that Dylan doesn’t function in the same way as his peers.

God knows he tries. In fact, he’s been working so much harder, and at such a slower rate, for so long, Dylan has nearly given up. Even though his brain is more developed in those crucial areas now, he’s giving up on himself. And it’s terribly sad, because there is a decent chance that eventually, he’ll be able to keep up with everyone.

In fact, knowing Dylan, he will probably excel beyond his own wildest dreams.

Meanwhile, other people with ADHD are just starting out. They’ve never seen that tiny little study I saw, and they’re wondering why their child is lagging behind in so many areas. And now they can know – not just suspect – that there’s a biological reason for their issues, just like there’s a biological reason for Dylan’s issues.

For now, here is my favorite line from the article:

“(ADHD) should be considered a problem of delayed brain maturation and not, as it is often portrayed, a problem of motivation or parenting.”

ADHD is NOT a problem of motivation or parenting.

So here I am, breathing a deep sigh of relief.


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