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Some people aren’t going to like hearing this, but I believe certain individuals look for an ADD diagnosis simply as an excuse for irresponsible behavior.  Some really are ADD and some are not.  This is not true of most adults I have spoken to, but it does happen.  There are certainly people in the world who are looking for someone (or something) to blame for their failings.   

Most adults diagnosed with ADD that I speak to are looking for ways to meet their obligations, not for excuses.  They adopt coping strategies, such as using timers, writing notes, getting coaches, pursuing a more compatible career, or taking medications.  They work very hard at it and make real changes to their lives. On the other hand, I have spoken with people who are just trying to out of their obligations.  “Why won’t my wife understand I can’t be expected to take the garbage out every Monday because I’m ADD?”  or “I have bad credit because I’m ADD and I forget to pay my bills.” 

This reminds me of when I first moved from Minnesota to Connecticut.  In Minnesota, if you got in a car accident because you hit an icy spot, you would say, “I guess I was going too fast.”  But in Connecticut, people say, “The accident wasn’t my fault — I hit an icy patch.”  They are more likely to blame the government for letting an icy patch be there in the first place.  

A family recently filed a lawsuit against a nearby town for failing to cut down a tree branch.  Their son had tied a swing onto the branch, and he broke his arm when the branch fell.  The boy’s parents refuse to let their son accept responsibility for what he did, and instead say the City “should have known” that someone would tie a swing onto the branch!

I know of one or two individuals who do not seem the least bit ADD, but because they have been unable to achieve anything during their lives, got an ADD diagnosis.  In reality they were just losers: chronically self-centered, lazy and irresponsible.  They really didn’t have trouble concentrating or controlling their impulses compared to the average person.  But naturally they don’t want to accept the blame for their lack of achievement.  Now everything is “because I’m ADD.”

In our climate of irresponsibility, comes the knowlege that some people really do have a much harder time being organized and on time than others.   A perfect “excuse”.  Except that ADD should not be used as an excuse, any more than child abuse should be used as an excuse for becoming a criminal.   Sure, there is a cause and effect relationship. However, it is each individual’s responsibility to identify their weaknesses and take steps to overcome.  And when a person fails to meet an obligation, he or she should stand up and take the blame. 

Some well-intentioned parents do the same with their children.  When the child misbehaves or does poorly in school, it’s because “the meds weren’t working.”  If the child hits another kid, they say, “He can’t help it — He’s ADD.”  CHADD seems to endorse this sort of attitude.  The bottom line is that the child learns he is not responsible for his own behavior, and that’s a pretty scary thought to the rest of us.

Of course, that does not mean that everyone needs to become a neat-freak, get perfect grades or sit perfectly still.  But it DOES mean that ADD should not become an excuse for failure.

If you’re late for a meeting, tell yourself, “I’m late because I didn’t leave for the meeting in time. Next time I’ll leave earlier.  Maybe I’ll try setting a timer.”  Don’t say, “It’s hopeless! My ADD made me late again!” 

Learning to accept responsibility for one’s actions is, in my opinion, a critical step in growing up, regardless of whether a person is ADD or not.