Empowering those with ADHD — and overcoming the stigma — at Philly summit

    Families from around the country are gathering in Philadelphia this weekend to work on ways to raise awareness and tweak the image of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

    The summit will include leadership training for kids who face a kind of “reverse stigma,” says Natalie Knochenhauer of Bucks County.

    “Every joke is about ADHD, and everybody has ADHD, and the news stories are all about abuse of stimulant medication,” Knochenhauer said. “Our children, I worry, are not really going to reach their full potential, because there is so much stigma. And they are not going to feel comfortable adopting the accommodations they need to succeed.”

    Knochenhauer and all four of her children are living with the condition.

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    During the conference, experts — including physicians from the University of Pennsylvania — will discuss the latest self-care tools to help families manage ADHD.

    Psychiatrist Anthony Rostain leads the University of Pennsylvania’s Adult ADHD Treatment and Research program, and wants to share self-care tools.

    “What I’ve come to understand is that it is the simple things like sleeping regularly, and eating properly and not spending too much time on the computer, and getting out and exercising — all those basic building blocks are especially important for people with ADHD,” Rostain said.

    ADHD is a developmental disorder that can make people vulnerable to psychiatric problems including anxiety and substance abuse. The neurobehavioral condition can make some people inattentive and impulsive. Others have trouble with planning and time management.

    Knochenhauer said she founded the nonprofit group ADHD Aware to counter some of the ways the condition is discounted.

    “Our families need support and acceptance, to have somebody come by and make a dinner, or invite us out to dinner one night,” she said.

    Knochenhauer wants families attending the Philadelphia conference to return to their hometowns ready to “come out of the closet” about ADHD.

    “Empower other kids who are not as brave, yet,” she said. “Who don’t have the skills yet to talk about it.”

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