About 5% of children suffer from ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder that is talked about a lot, but in reality, very little is known. To understand it better and in a simple way, the psychologist Rafa Guerrero published five years ago ‘ADHD. Between pathology and normality ‘, a book that the author has just revised for its tenth edition. Promoter through social networks and various media, Rafa Guerrero is also a doctor and teacher, director of Darwin Psychologists and writer of other books, such as Emotional education and attachment , How to stimulate the child’s brain , Educate in the bond or The infant brain.
Congratulations on the tenth edition of your book ‘ADHD. Between pathology and normality ‘. What’s new in this edition?
In this edition I have made a review mainly in two areas. I have updated the subject of what the brain of a person with ADHD is like and have included ‘the pedagogical model of the four brains’ so that parents can understand how it develops, how it works, how it connects and what is peculiar about the brain of a child with ADHD, which is a neurodevelopmental disorder that involves slower brain development.
Another part that I have updated is the intervention. In the first edition I explained to parents how to use positive reinforcement and over time I have found that neither punishments nor reinforcements are positive are useful. For this reason, I have eliminated that part and have replaced it with ways of intervening that are much more respectful of the less, with or without ADHD.
Is ADHD more – or better – known now than it was five years ago?
Luckily, ADHD is one of the disorders in which we find the largest collection of scientific studies and that is very positive, and it is a disorder much better known than five years ago by the general public, but that also has a bad part , and it is that many myths, hoaxes and opinions continue to creep in that do a lot of damage to those who suffer from it and their families. That is why there is still a lot to do in terms of awareness and information.
What would you say are the most common myths and the ones that do the most damage?
ADHD is one of the most stigmatized and misunderstood disorders, because it does not occur to anyone to criticize a blind person because they have difficulty seeing or a child with Down syndrome because they do not reach certain milestones in school, and this is something that is It does with people with ADHD, who are branded as lazy, immature, stupid … In addition to these myths being false, for example, in the academic sphere, children with ADHD spend between 3 and 5 times more time than one without ADHD.
“It never occurs to anyone to criticize a blind person because he has difficulty seeing, but a person with ADHD, who is branded as lazy, immature, stupid …”
Another widespread myth is that if you can focus on something, you don’t have ADHD. And it is also false, because they can concentrate on activities that motivate them a lot. ADHD makes it hard to voluntarily focus on things that don’t naturally appeal to you, not things that you like very much and take no effort.
And well, in the myth that ADHD does not exist I stop, because it seems to me a lack of respect towards science and towards people who suffer from it. We can discuss whether the name is adequate, which from my point of view it is not, but to exist, it exists.
Why is it still considered a childhood disorder when it continues into adulthood?
It is considered childish because, like all neurodevelopmental disorders, it appears in childhood, but does not end in adolescence, which is another myth that circulates. What they change is the way ADHD is expressed at this stage.
Whereas, in general, a child with this disorder is restless, moved, impulsive, has difficulty regulating his emotions … symptoms that are seen externally, in adolescence these symptoms are internalizing. For example, it goes from motor hyperactivity to cognitive hyperactivity, which is not seen, that is why its environment has to be attentive and provide it with tools so that it can function, for example, in studies, because it cannot alone, it costs them a lot.
But ADHD does not go away, neither in adolescence nor in adulthood. An adult with this disorder -which is between 2 and 4% of the world population- if it is not treated will be an adult with difficulty concentrating, which can lead to family and work problems … hence they are more prone to divorce, to have more traffic accidents, more risk of addictions …
Many people are afraid to medicate their children with ADHD. What would you say to them?
I am a psychotherapist and it is a resource that I cannot use, but if one of my medical colleagues evaluates a patient and thinks that he has that medication can help him, it seems perfect.
Medication is not the panacea nor is it the devil, it is one more tool that can be useful along with others, such as psychotherapy, academic resources, private teachers if necessary, being part of an association, etc. Medication, by itself, does not teach, because when you take it off, you are the same. What you have to do is give them, in addition, other resources.
“I still meet teachers who say that ADHD does not exist or that they do not know how to explain what it is”
What resources should a person with ADHD have?
Apart from schoolchildren, there are therapies, associations … anything that helps them and provides them with resources, but the family has to get involved and move because academic resources, which is what everyone has access to, depend a lot on how lucky you are with the school, the teacher … Unfortunately, I still come across teachers who say that ADHD does not exist or who directly do not know how to explain what it is.
You are born with ADHD, but are there environmental factors that can cause or enhance it? There is much talk about the relationship of excessive use of screens with hyperactivity …
ADHD is a developmental disorder with a very powerful genetic load, it weighs around 70 or 75%, but in education and in parenting there is nothing that is neutral and all environmental factors influence, for better or for worse. And electronic devices are one of the factors that include, especially an excess of electronic devices can enhance hyperactivity, dysregulation … but they do not cause ADHD.
In closing, what would you say to a family whose child has just been diagnosed with ADHD?
Finding a diagnosis on the one hand is a relief, because you know what happens to your child, but on the other, it causes a lot of fear, uncertainty, because it is a complex disorder, little understood … In that sense, you always have to tell them no They are alone, that they inform themselves, that they become experts in ADHD, that they advise themselves, that they associate …
But the most important thing of all is that they look at their children unconditionally, that they love their children for who they are, not for what make. The key is not in children, but in how adults look at them. If we look at them understanding what happens to them, which is not that they are lazy, they lack limits, but that they have a disorder that causes these symptoms, we can help them to have a full life with ADHD.