Why Attention Deficit Disorder Doesn’t Have To Be A Prison

Advocate and ADD patient reveals secrets to overcoming diagnosis.


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Robert Bernardo knows the stigma of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and he wouldn’t wish it on his worst enemy.


What’s worse is that the numbers of children being diagnosed are rising at an unprecedented rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a million more kids had a parent-reported ADD diagnosis in 2007 compared to 2003 in the U.S., a 22 percent increase in 4 years. More than 4.1 million had a current diagnosis in 2007 and 2.7 million were taking medication for the disorder.


Bernardo, who went from growing up with ADD to authoring his first book, Johnny Paradise, believes that the stigma of ADD does not have to be an impediment in the lives of those who are diagnosed. While living with ADD can be challenging, Bernardo believes it only makes overcoming those challenges more rewarding.


“I’ve lived with ADD for 55 years,” he said. “I have it and I passed it to my children, so I am intimate with both sides of the ADD equation. I know what it is to live with it as a patient, and I know what it is to raise children who have it. The odd thing is that I have no problem with either. Some elements of life are made more difficult by ADD, but it does not make achievement and success impossible. My issue is how others can sometimes treat it as an excuse or a reason why they and their kids do not achieve. I think that’s the wrong approach, and it only fuels the stigma surrounding ADD. I believe that a healthy attitude, forbearance, and perseverance can overcome any of the obstacles that ADD presents. People just have to show a little faith.”


Bernardo is living proof, having just published his first novel, with several more on the way. For him, the novels are as much about telling good stories as they are about making a statement. “It took me five years to write my first book,” he added. “But I finished it. Without ADD, maybe it would have taken five months, but that doesn’t matter. There are people without ADD who struggle for years to write their books, but never finish. I made it to the finish line, even though no one would have faulted me for giving up the dream. My point is that anything is possible. ADD can be a hindrance, but it doesn’t have to be a showstopper. The secret is to discard the stigma, forget the people who say you’ll never be able to fulfill your dreams, and embrace only the words and wishes of those who support you. Stop looking to others for inspiration. Find the inspiration inside yourself, and pilot your own ship. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen.”



What is ADHD and how does it differ from ADD? Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) is the term previously used to describe children who find it hard to pay attention, but are not highly impulsive or hyperactive, while ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is the umbrella disorder in which ADD belongs to.



According to Dr. Steven Kurtz of the Child Mind Institute, one can think of ADHD as having three scales—inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Children who are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD are often rated using these scales. Because the symptoms of this disorder may well persist into adulthood and there is no cure for it to this day, it is important for parents to be aware on how to deal with children with these disorders as they grow. Here are some tips on how to help your child, and your family, cope with this disorder:

Be open and communicate properly. 

Kids who have ADHD or ADD may not completely understand what they’re going through, and may not be aware that they are acting differently from their peers. This might cause problems at school, so make sure to explain to your child that while what he has makes him different, it does not make him less of a person than his peers.


Be supportive. 

Some children who have ADHD and/or ADD may have learning disabilities, problems with understanding and communicating, anxiety disorders, depression, conduct disorder, Tourette syndrome, and a string of other disorders that is linked to ADHD/ADD. Make sure that you and your family are able to address his needs accordingly, by going to the doctor and seeking advice about medication, tests, and behavioral therapy, among other options. Make sure you’re ready with information on patient and family history as well.


Break it down to basics, and be organized. 

When dealing with a child with ADHD, it’s best to simplify things for him or her. If you’re offering him a snack, ask him if he wants fruit or yogurt, and avoid too many options so that he isn’t overwhelmed. Make his playroom and study area as organized as possible. Turn off the TV and keep away toys and video games during homework time to help him focus on his tasks. Keep his things in the same place every day—for example, a schoolbag may be placed on a chair by his door or desk, so he will always remember that area for his bag.


Connect with your school teacher, administrators, and counselors. 

If they are already aware of your child’s condition, they can better help him deal with his tasks in school, or address concerns in the classroom. Get in touch with the local government’s department of education for special programs to find out the best options for your child. 


About Robert Bernardo


Born in 1955, Robert Bernardo grew up in New Jersey and attended various schools. His Attention Deficit Disorder made it difficult for him to achieve, but he never gave up on his education. He continues to pursue a college degree, and has faith that he will graduate. He has a wife, Lisa, and three teenage kids, Adam, Emily and David. He was an investment broker during his years in Southern California, and also started and sold several highway construction businesses since moving to Texas 20 years ago. It has always been his passion to write on a full-time basis.


Words by Robert Bernardo

Story from BC Magazine U.S. Spring 2014


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