My Little Sister Has ADHD

ADHD can be confusing and overwhelming. Getting diagnosed in the first place isn’t easy. Anger and/or sadness often accompany processing the ADHD diagnosis, because you have ADHD, and because you wish you knew sooner. Others experience relief, that finally there’s an explanation, a reason that life’s challenges have not been entirely their fault. Then, there’re the family, friends, coworkers and others who will either be told or not, and all of the rigmarole involved in deciding who needs to know what. Lastly, there’re challenges after diagnosis, learning about and choosing treatments and seeking solutions. It can be overwhelming.

Last month was ADHD Awareness Month. This occurs each October and stirs up much awareness about a condition millions of adults and children live with and manage. Myths were debunked and the latest and greatest information was available to everyone with Internet access. More people got over the stigma that surrounds the condition and even more people were able to discover people in their lives living with ADHD.

So, why is there still confusion about ADHD?

Take my word; the confusion isn’t due to lack of knowledge. We know a lot. ADHD isn’t like ALS, a degenerative disease that continues to mystify scientists. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs the executive functions, the functions of the brain associated with activation, focus, effort, emotions, memory and action. Some of the symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Distractibility
  • Poor memory
  • Poor listening skills
  • Restlessness
  • Time blindness
  • Intense emotions
  • Chronic procrastination

I found out about ADHD the day my sister told me she had it. At that time we were in the throes of dealing with our mother who was fighting for her life. A battle she would surrender to two years later. We weren’t the closest of siblings, but when it came to mom we were surprisingly on the same page. So, imagine my surprise when just minutes after a poignant trip down memory lane, I apologized for being such a mean big sister in childhood, she started to repeat the tired old rhetoric of my abusive big-sister status, as if I had not just apologized! I stared at her with the most dumbfounded, you-are-kidding-me look and said, “Did we not JUST go over this?” And that is when she said that it must be her ADHD and yes, she confessed she heard me minutes before, but she hadn’t really processed what I said.

Well, that was an eye-opener. That was also a very strange concept to wrap my head around. But she described what her doctor had explained to her; ADHD could be understood as a processing disorder. That made sense to me. In fact, just months prior, my husband and I had had our daughter tested for a learning disability and the results came back negative on the learning impairment, but she did score very low in processing. Hmmm.

Until then, I admit, I hadn’t ever considered how differently we process information. As humans, I assumed the information itself was what determined whether someone could process it or not. For example, math, I cannot easily process while, with language arts, I excel. Therefore, I believed, math is hard to learn and language is easy. This is just faulty logic as it turns out. The truth is that my brain can process the code of language far faster and easier than the code of numbers. It’s all about how I uniquely process information.

So, ultimately, that’s why there’s always going to be a lot of confusion surrounding ADHD. How it affects someone is unique to them. True, there are broad commonalities among the ADHD population. There’s the unique way they process time. There’s the way they have trouble prioritizing and organizing. And there’s the issue of not staying motivated and engaged with something; everything becomes boring at some point, and that’s when they can easily shut down. But the degrees to which these things affect the person vary and the specific areas in which they struggle are unique to each person, so there’s no rule. That’s why ADHD so confounding.

But now you know the process, you know the drill. There’s no magic bullet to solve any of the challenges of ADHD because they vary from individual to individual. And, on top of that, usually, when a solution to one of the challenges is discovered, it’s only a temporary Band-Aid until a newer, more interesting fix can be found. (There’s also a perpetual stimulation or novelty seeking behavior that’s characteristic of the condition, but I’ll save that for another story.) Hopefully though, what I’ve shared today has lessened the confusion. Please comment below if you still have questions!


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      • Hannah
      • September 3, 2017

      Great article. My husband has ADHD which has only just been diagnosed. I grew up with it as my youngest brother has it. Your article shone a new light for me particularly the processing side. I’m forever having to repeat myself! Thank you.

      • Melody
      • February 1, 2017

      I am 52 years young an I think I am adhd. I have been reading an it’s ‘ll me.I have a son that is adhd, an just found out one of my grandsons has adhd. Did they get that from me. I think I have add . Can you ell me.

      • Vanessa
      • November 14, 2016

      Loved hearing your article from a sibling perspective. I have a son who has been diagnosed with ADD and ADHD and a daughter who doesn’t have it so I’m trying my best as a parent to parent equally and lovingly to both children without the thought of one getting more attention than the other. I appreciate your article!

      • Theresa
      • November 11, 2016

      When my daughter was diagnosed she was so happy. Mom I have ADD so it’s not me. We have to work with people to understand this disorder. She was happy to learn that she could work with ADD and succeed. Still a work in progress. Let’s all keep working. Keep going with research and acceptance. Most are brilliant and all have so much to offer. Always listen and let people talk. We have so much to offer.

        • Jess
        • January 9, 2017

        Hi, i think i have this because i was born 5 hours after my twin brother. I have always had troubles concentrating, listening and processing things. School as i got older has become much harder to learn. I am afraid to learn something new because it takes such energy to concentrate that i find it exhausing and just too much to bother with.
        Can anyone tell me if this true?

      • Crystal Walters
      • November 9, 2016

      THANK YOU Jenni for this article sharing her doctor’s term: a processing disorder. Simple yet encompassing! As a middle aged woman diagnosed 2 years ago (and naturally, 20 years too late), I found this simple term profound and easy to remember! God Bless!

      • Reply

        Thank you, Crystal!
        Yes, it made all the difference in the world for me too!

      • David York
      • November 9, 2016

      Very good article

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