If you ask me, people with ADHD deserve an award.

And one middle-school girl with the disorder got one. At a school assembly, the girl was given the “Most Likely to Not Pay Attention” award.

The girl’s mother isn’t happy about it. She says it was humiliating for her daughter.

TrophyThis is the kind of situation where context is everything. On one hand, as someone who was once the recipient of a “Least Likely to Be On Time” award, I think these kinds of jokes can be all in good fun.

On the other hand, they can also be done in a way that stigmatizes people and makes them feel bad about themselves – which is what the girl’s mother says happened here.

There is one more detail from the story worth mentioning. Apparently the girl was initially nominated for the award “Most Likely to Ask a Question That Has Already Been Answered.” If you have ADHD, you probably can’t help but laugh a little at that, because it sounds pretty familiar, right?

I do think there’s a way to joke about ADHD without being insensitive. Personally, I don’t mind jokes in the spirit of “yeah, you have these shortcomings, but we put up with them because we’re friends/family, and they’re kind of funny in a way.”

Still, it’s always worth treading cautiously when you’re exploring the very delicate intersection between humor and mental health conditions. ADHD can be a sensitive topic for people who have it, all the more so because it’s often intertwined with our self-esteem in complicated ways.

And when ADHD humor crosses over into singling people out because of their symptoms, it moves from friendly teasing into plain, old-fashioned bullying. According to the girl’s mother, that’s what happened in the case of the award for ADHD.

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on when joking about ADHD is appropriate. Surely we can all agree that when joking about ADHD makes people with the condition feel bad about themselves, it’s out of line.

Probably we can also agree that in the right context, an award for ADHD isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, those of us with ADHD need all the accolades we can get!

Image: Flickr/Anthony Doudt