A small but interesting study from a team of Canadian researchers sheds light on the benefits of demystification -- "the act of putting into plain words what an individual's strengths and weaknesses are, without the use of judgment or labels" -- on teenagers with ADHD.
The researchers built on earlier studies that demonstrated that parents who participated in training programs that provided information about their children's ADHD had improved decision making and knowledge, and their children had improved adherence to both medication and non-medication interventions. Similarly, elementary school children with ADHD who attended demystification workshops gained both knowledge about ADHD and had more favorable opinions of medication and other methods of treating this condition.
The study's focus on teens was prompted by data showing that less than half of teens with diagnosed ADHD who have been prescribed medication stick to their medication regimes, even when their symptoms continue to cause distress. Furthermore, the decision to stop medication is most often made by the teens themselves, whether or not their parents support this decision. The researchers in the present study wanted to see what would result from having teens participate in a two-hour workshop which addressed the following topics: "characteristics of ADHD, evidence-based treatments, strengths and weaknesses associated with ADHD, the connection between ADHD and the brain, how ADHD in adolescence is different from childhood ADHD, what to expect in the future, and important steps to self-advocacy, such as knowing when, who, and how to ask for special accommodations in school."
The study results were strongest when looking at improved self-advocacy information; students who participated in the demystification workshop had a significant and lasting improvement in recognizing which adults could help them with their ADHD and in recognizing ways they could take steps on their own to manage their ADHD. The researchers found an unexpected level of concern among the participants as to the safety of ADHD medications, including questions about combining these medications with alcohol or "recreational" drugs. The researchers note that more investigation is needed to determine how to best transmit information to teens with ADHD, but concluded, "A key strength of the demystification workshop was the notable change in adolescents' individual self-advocacy knowledge." They note that this will "allow adolescents to take more initiative in recognizing when support is required, seeking support from others, and knowing what steps they might take to help manage their ADHD symptoms."