Zandra Maffett dreams of the day when there is no longer a stigma attached to ADHD. When the average person hears the word ADD they know “itʼs real, itʼs diagnosable, and itʼs treatable.”
“I want everyone that comes in contact with children: especially parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, to understand where that child is coming from and what their needs are,” Zandra says.
“Especially when it comes to children of color. I want to dispel concerns that their children are being diagnosed as ADHD just to force them into special education classes.” Zandra, an African American single mother of three boys, two of whom have ADD, admits that historically there has been some information that shows that African American males are disproportionately slotted into special education classes, but this just makes her more determined to educate the public. “And secondly, there are not enough professionals of color who can establish a relationship based on trust and who differentiate cultural norms when establishing a diagnosis,” she says.
Zandra said that when her oldest son, now 28, was attending a private high school, “for all his brilliance, he wasnʼt doing very well.” She said that she couldnʼt figure out why until her younger son was diagnosed with ADHD. Then she recognized the same symptoms in John.
After speaking to her son about the likelihood, that he too, had ADHD, Zandra said, he sought professional advice and was properly diagnosed. He was prescribed the proper medication, began therapy and it changed his life. “He came to me then and said “Mom, all the voices in my head have sorted themselves out.”
Today, John is working as a field organizer for a man running for a council seat in Philadelphia. He will be completing his bachelors degree in communications in December.
Zandraʼs youngest son, Max, is working on certification as a personal trainer and taking classes at a junior college towards an eventual bachelors degree in Exercise and Fitness. He works as a Barista at a popular local coffee shop that features live music and has a national recording studio where Max has produced benefit shows for Haiti and other relief efforts. In addition, Max works at a Fitness Center, coaches youngsters in soccer, and in the spring creates organic vegetable gardens for clients.
But Zandra realizes that until there is greater awareness out in the world, and until so many of the widespread misconceptions are publicly challenged, those who first suspect ADHD in their child, spouse, or even themselves will not want to acknowledge it or not know where to turn for help and reliable information. Zandra spoke about todayʼs college students that grew up during an era where kids just want to fit in and be like everyone else which can preclude them from seeking the help and support they need. Kids are often ridiculed for acting “so ADD.”
Adults in the work place are often hesitant to let others know they have ADHD for fear of being let go or denied a promotion, rather than being treated with respect and empathy. With proper accommodations, employees with ADHD are often the kind of out of the box thinkers that become a real asset to their company.
It is for this very reason, that Zandra has spent the last few years working tirelessly on the ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association) board as chair of the Awareness Campaign Committee in order to generate hope, awareness, empowerment and connections world wide in the area of ADHD.
ADDA is the worldʼs leading adult ADHD organization and itʼs mission is to provide information, resources and networking opportunities to help adults with ADD lead better lives. An international non-profit organization, ADDA was founded 20 years ago by adult ADHD support group leaders to share information, resources and provide support for one another.
Last year, Zandra suggested that the four national organizations -- ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO), ADDA, ADDitude magazine, and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) join hands for ADHD Awareness Week in order to gain a greater voice and bring more awareness to ADHD and “we are continuing as a coalition in 2011.”
Zandra points to the potential these four groups have working together and the success that can be realized by “going even beyond the membership of these organizations in order to reach the bigger world out there.” Zandra, who worked for many years for companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Merck in public relations, communications and patient advocacy, has a tremendous amount of experience that she brings to her efforts. “We have to think in terms of reaching the major media outlets, to encourage each organization to bring in other organizations. And even though we have declared observance of a week of ADHD awareness, we are hoping for a month filled with activities sponsored by local groups to really get the word out,” she explains.
“We want to present the facts, the truth about medication, and how ADHD is treatable.” We want to reach the broader public. We want to encourage celebrities, who can have such a powerful impact, begin to talk openly about their ADHD.”
Zandra would like to see the same recognition given to ADHD as is given to breast cancer or other physical illnesses. And along with that would come the respect that those with ADHD deserve.