Hyperactivity can be useful – especially if you’re a mother

Today’s ADHD Awareness Day aims to highlight the positive aspectsof the condition

Artist, designer and creative director Helen Steele at home in Emyvale, Co Monaghan. ‘Exercise helps me to focus on my work and it helps me with my memory.’ Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Artist, designer and creative director Helen Steele at home in Emyvale, Co Monaghan. ‘Exercise helps me to focus on my work and it helps me with my memory.’ Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 01:00

‘A weight off my shoulders” is how Monaghan-based artist and fashion designer Helen Steele describes the day six years ago when she was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Today is ADHD Awareness Day, which aims to highlight the positive aspects of the condition and its link with creativity and sport.

ADHD is a genetic condition that is caused by a balance of chemicals in the brain that is different to that of the average person. It affects an estimated 60,000 children in Ireland, with the majority diagnosed between the ages of five and seven.

This misunderstood psychiatric condition leads people to assume that a child’s hyperactive and erratic behaviour is down to bad parenting.

Research by HADD, the Irish support group for people living with ADHD, found that more than six in 10 parents of children with the condition feel it isn’t properly recognised by society. Some eight in 10 parents of children with ADHD feel judged by other parents.

But Steele is “quite proud to wear the ADHD label”.

“It’s who I am. I’m a positive person and I’m artistic. I’m quite driven. I think being hyperactive is useful, especially if you’re a mother.”

But growing up, Steele says she was misunderstood. “I was thought of as a messer. I would go into my own world at school, not concentrating and just scribbling and doodling in class. But it was a way of keeping me out of trouble.

“As a mother of toddlers and kids under 11, I was great fun. Right now I think I’m a really embarrassing mum to my 16 and 11-year -old girls.

“But I have an eight-year-old boy who really likes the fact that we can jump off bales of hay and chase after cows. I also play army with him, running wild in the fields. People just think I’m a bit mad.”

It was while having one of her daughters assessed for dyspraxia that Steele decided to look into what she suspected about herself.“I was given a questionnaire and answered Yes to every single question such as not being able to concentrate and having difficulty with communication.”

Compared to her youth, Steele says she has calmed down “a lot”.

“I still have the constant toe-tapping and twitching. I have the desire to run and I have appalling levels of attention unless it’s something I’m really interested in. Even at that, I have to go out regularly and take a walk around.”

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