In many Asian American families, a good education and success in school is prioritized above all else. According to Eurekalert, a science news website, this high academic pressure stems from Asian cultures believing that academic success is the only way to climb up the economic ladder.
This strict viewpoint is imposed upon Asian American high school students with immigrant parents, and many of these students struggle with this pressure.
Meeting such academic standards is even more challenging for learning disabled Asian American children. And I am one of them.
As a Chinese student diagnosed with ADHD and ADD, it is extremely hard to cope with the fact you have a learning disorder. Some people in my Asian community did not acknowledge my learning disabilities, as traditional Chinese people look down upon learning disabilities.
ADHD, ADD, and other learning disabilities are considered shameful in the Chinese community. People who dismissed my ADHD and ADD just assumed I was “not smart,” and that was a “fault” of my parents. For many, there is no such thing as ADHD and ADD — they believe this is just a cover-up for laziness.
In an article from Understood, a website devoted to educating the public about learning disabilities, Professor Manju Banerjee states that Asian American parents believe that their child’s learning disability is a result of bad parenting. Therefore, these parents do not feel comfortable revealing data or information on their child’s learning struggles.
Thus, there is a scarcity of literature investigating ADHD among Asian Americans, but it’s not because ADHD affects fewer Asian students. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, the lack of data on Asian learning disabled children could be due to the fact that fewer Asian families report their children as learning disabled, due to the stigma.
Because of the stigma of ADHD, my ADHD was not even recognized until I was in middle school. I began falling behind in my classes because I was unable to complete my work or focus for at least 30 minutes. However, none of my teachers or counselors believed I had ADHD because I still managed to keep up good grades. And I think it was also rare for them to see an Asian student with ADHD, so I believe this is why my learning disabilities were so often ignored.
Teachers were unaware of all my sleepless nights and hours of frustration trying to keep up with my peers, who did not have ADHD and ADD. I felt like I was running a race with a weight tied to my ankle. On top of that, no one made me feel like my ADHD was valid, and I constantly blamed myself for not being able to perform like everyone else.
However, over the years, I have learned to accept my ADHD. I accepted the fact that although it does not define me, it is a part of me, and I have developed ways to cope with it. I am able to achieve success, despite my ADHD. Finally, I no longer feel ashamed of having it.
I want to use this opportunity to break the stereotype of Asians not having learning disabilities. It is so uncommon to hear about an Asian with a learning disability because it is stigmatized so heavily in the Asian community. Many Asian parents feel that their child’s inability to learn is their fault, and do not talk about it or try to hide it because it is so shameful.
Recognizing the fact that Asians have ADHD and giving more consideration to this issue will reduce this stigma. This will lead to more families acknowledging ADHD and ADD as valid mental disorders, and getting the help and support they need. There is no shame in having a learning disorder. What’s important is addressing it and treating it properly.