Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Moderate ADHD

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 4, 2011

   Larry, eleven, entering sixth grade, is about to enter into the pressured-filled world of applying to seventh grade, secondary school. Like the pressure of eleventh grade, where kids have to seriously consider how hard they work might impact their choices for college, so too, in the private school world, going to sixth grade forces kids to pay attention to their grades, not only for the sake of pride, but for the practical reason that their performance in school, to a large measure, will determine their secondary school. Larry is thrown into this pressure cooker, with the added burden of ADHD, and as such, although he is very bright, he does not perform up to his potential. He does not check his work. He hurries through his tests. He often forgets to turn in assignments. He has tutors, extended time, and he is on medication, but with that support, he is still underperforming, based on the discrepancy between his IQ and his grades. Should the parents try harder to have Larry perform in a way which matches his IQ? I wonder. Or, should they accept that ADHD limits his scholarly performance and that is just who Larry is? Maybe. Or, as Larry’s parents did, should they tell Larry to work harder because it is “really important.” 

  Understanding ADHD, like understanding anxiety, is a deep issue. Larry’s mom, Carol,  has ADHD, yet that does not seem to give her empathy for Larry’s struggles. Carol did fine in school, although now she has trouble organizing her life. I explain to Carol and Joe, Larry’s parents, that helping Larry with medication, educational tutoring, and extended time, is useful, it is also useful to understand that Larry may not perform to his potential, and maybe, just maybe, that is fine for now. Yes, he may go to what they call a “tier two” school, but maybe that is appropriate for him. Larry, like many ADHD kids, tend to be late bloomers. “Maybe he won’t hit his stride until college and maybe that is fine for him,” I say, knowing that Carol and Joe are thinking that he won’t go to a good college unless he goes to a “tier one” secondary school. Although I understand their concerns, the linear nature of their thinking concerns me. Like so many parents, there is a feeling that if things don’t go right when the child is eleven, (or even earlier in some circles), then the child will then be denied all of the privileges of the élite. There seems to be little allowance for deviating from the “path”. There also seems to be fear that such deviation will land that child in a “different” world, a world unfamiliar to the parents. It is not that Carol and Joe do not want the best for Larry. They do. Understanding what “the best for Larry” means is the tricky part. I offer an alternative point of view of the “best for Larry” based on my understanding of the disabilities associated with moderate ADHD. Layered over that, I feel for Larry and his struggles. Larry is a nice, sweet and charming kid. I wish he could just go seamlessly into the seventh grade. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.

2 Responses to “Moderate ADHD”

  1. Shelly said

    Carol and Joe can do all that they can for Larry–medicate his ADHD, tutor him, get him additional times on his tests, etc… and still, Larry may not perform up to his potential. He still may not get into a top tier secondary school, high school, or college. It will be harder on Carol and Joe than it will be on Larry. Larry will live with his parents’ disappointment in him, but he will get along in life. It’s with Carol and Joe that you have to work with. Larry will not be able to fulfill Carol and Joe’s dreams for him. That’s the kicker.

    • It is not so simple. Larry may mature later and fulfill the dreams of Carol and Joe, as well as himself. It is too soon to say how it will all turn out. On the other hand, Carol and Joe’s disappointment with him now, may contribute to Larry’s low self-esteem and as such, that may impair Larry more than his ADHD does. I agree that Carol and Joe need help understanding Larry, but Larry also needs help understanding himself. It is hard to prioritize, as both are critical. Thanks.

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