I was hanging out downtown, posing for my friend’s new camera. Someone had left a magazine on the stone steps where I sat Attempting to appear casual and unposed for the shot I started flipping through it. It was a Vietnamese publication but I skimmed through anyway, pausing on images that caught my eye including a few fashion and decor shots and, astonishingly, an article on ADHD! I then noticed that half the publication was written in English and half in Vietnamese, the goal being to bring together the two cultures.
I was so surprised to find an article on ADHD in a magazine like this. A quick internet search revealed several reliable-looking sources that confirmed my suspicion of ADHD not really being prevalent in East Asian cultures– not because it does not exist, but because there is generally less tolerance for ADD-like behaviour in those places.
The article, “Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children: How to Check For Symptoms” was introductory in nature, and the title speaks volumes. I would venture that most anyone who was a child or who had a child in the school system in North America last 20 years or so has encountered the diagnosis in some way Either they learned from a distance, having read about it in an article or hearing (or taking part in) debates about whether it’s over-diagnosed or whether kids should be medicated, or they saw it up close, in a child of a friend or in one’s own family or oneself. They probably even went so far as to compare the ADHD symptoms to their own quirks and personalities — which is how so many people form opinions on the matter.
Yet, the target population of Culture Magazin (sic) appears to require some hand-holding on the topic. The existence of this article points to the fact that the Vietnamese community isn’t really in touch with this beast called ADD or the conversation that has sprung up around it. The article, at the end, promises to ‘discuss more ways to help a child with ADD’ in the next issue. How many readers eagerly awaited the followup?
Even though I believe that it’s best to recognise an issue– no matter what is– and come to terms with it so that you can surmount it, I also see value in a culture that does not create the space for people to turn their faults into excuses. How many times have you heard yourself say ‘well, I didn’t get the assignment done, but it’s only because I am SO ADD.’ In this specific disorder, it’s ultimately discipline, structure, and rigidity that is going to get you to be your best, most functional self– regardless of what dreams you are pursuing. I wonder how the influence of East Asian culture would affect people with other diagnoses, such as depression or oppositional defiance disorder.
Perhaps immigrant parents or those who were brought up in a home that is less welcoming to Western attitudes towards personal freedom and expression did not have the same exposure to ADD/ADHD over the years. Perhaps they need this kind of article in a cross-cultural magazine to open their eyes to ro show to their own parents. ‘See? This is why it was so hard for me to sit still in class! I knew i was different!’
I would be super impressed if they pushed the topic even further– to introduce the concept of adult ADD. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that such an article would require an even bigger leap of faith than this one did. But I’m willing to be told that I’m altogether wrong.
I’d love to hear about how different cultures are ‘exposed’ to ADD/ADHD and your personal stories about the way it, or the idea of it, was experienced in your home. Please leave your comments below!