AD/HD: To Tell Them or Not to Tell Them, that is the Question

Written by Rachel Ealy, M.Ed., LPC-Intern


Your child was just diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). One of the first things that pops up may be, “do I tell them or not.” I whole heartedly advocate for telling you child about their diagnosis. Not telling your child about their AD/HD diagnosis may cause them to feel like having AD/HD or being different from others is shameful. The truth is, we are all wonderfully unique. How boring would the world be if we were all the same?!? Each and every one of us are different and will have to learn to overcome life’s challenges. “Having [ADHD] is a bit like being left handed. It is a part of who you are, not who you are” (Hallowell, n.d.). AD/HD is something that your child will have to manage for their whole lives. It is my belief that early intervention is the key to instilling lifelong problem solving skills. Recently, I read about a technique that Edward Hallowell, M.D. (n.d.) uses to tell children about AD/HD. It was too good not to share with you all.

Oftentimes, children with AD/HD find themselves ‘in trouble’ at home and at school. They may hear that they do not know how to listen or follow the rules. Edward Hallowell, M.D. (n.d.) suggests to start out by telling your child about how awesome their brain is. This will initiate a positive conversation and empower your child. The next step is asking your child if they know what a turbocharged engine is. If they say yes, don’t worry about going in to explaining what a turbocharged engine really is. If they say no, tell them that it is something that makes a race-car go really fast! Then talk about how having AD/HD is like having a turbocharged brain—it goes really fast! Make it as relatable as possible by asking them things like, “you know how you sometimes have trouble sitting still at school or how you may get distracted and forget to write down your homework (turn-in homework), or how you sometimes have a difficult time paying attention?” Then explain that this is when your brain is in race-car mode. It is racing around as fast as it can, thinking of really great ideas. Race-car mode can be really fun and exciting, however, even really fast race-cars need to slow down to stay on the track.  Having a turbocharged car is an advantage on the straight-aways but even the fastest cars have to slow down and gain control to make it around the turns. Seeing a counselor will help you learn how to put on the brakes so that you and your race-car brain can “stay on track! 



Hallowell, E. (n.d.). Explaining ADHD to your child. Retrieved from