The story of Audrey Robinson Jones and her husband, Dr. Larry Jones, might at first catch some off guard.
Successful, smart and engaged in their community, many might not realize that both cope regularly with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
Married for more than 45 years, the couple has written the book, “Falling Through the Ceiling: Our ADHD Family Memoir,” in which the publishers said the pair and their three sons demystify ADHD in childhood and beyond.
The book has earned acclaimed as a blend of love, humor and real-life irony that makes sense of the nonsensical, shedding light on the challenges of living with the disorder.
“We want our readers to recognize defiant, daring behavior leading to failures, including sexual acting out, running away from home and inviting danger,” Audrey Jones told Black Pearls magazine. “We want them to find the resources necessary to support your children in growing through ADHD to unlock their exceptional personal gifts. Get out of the way of progress to do everything to make your family whole and healthy, even admitting when you’re wrong.
“Nurture their children to become independent adults with clear and realistic goals, along with the solid approaches to achieving them,” she said.
Her husband agreed.
“We want parents to understand that they are not alone and that there is help available, and how to find that appropriate help,” he said.
In 2017, the National Institutes of Health examined racial and ethnic disparities in ADHD diagnoses and medication use, attempting to determine whether such disparities were more likely due to underdiagnosis and undertreatment of African-American and Latino children, or overdiagnosis and overtreatment and White children.
“Across all waves, African-American and Latino children, compared with White children, had lower odds of having an ADHD diagnosis and of taking ADHD medication, controlling for socio-demographics, ADHD symptoms and other potential comorbid mental health symptoms,” the report findings read.
Among children with an ADHD diagnosis or symptoms, African-American children had lower odds of medication use at fifth, seventh, and 10th grades, and Latino children had lower odds at fifth and 10th grades.
Among children who had neither ADHD symptoms nor ADHD diagnosis by fifth grade (and thus would not likely meet ADHD diagnostic criteria at any age), medication use did not vary by race/ethnicity in adjusted analysis.
“Racial/ethnic disparities in parent-reported medication use for ADHD are robust, persisting from fifth grade to 10th grade,” the report said. “These findings suggest that disparities may be more likely related to underdiagnosis and undertreatment of African-American and Latino children as opposed to overdiagnosis or overtreatment of White children.”
ADHD diagnoses have been increasing in the United States. Parent-reported rates of ever receiving a diagnosis for children ages 4 to 17 increased from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 11.0 percent in 2011, and rates of ADHD medication use increased from 4.8 percent in 2007 to 6.1 percent in 2011.
Studies also describe racial and ethnic disparities in diagnoses and medical treatment of ADHD, indicating that African-American and Latino children may have lower rates of receiving a diagnosis and medication compared to White children.
For the Joneses, who are African American, coping with ADHD has been a family affair.
Audrey Robinson Jones left Kansas to attend Wellesley College, graduating in 1972 with her degree in anthropology/sociology, planning to be a social worker.
Instead, she worked in health care administration for almost 30 years with her husband, including running his multi-office pediatric practice for 24 years.
She also earned master’s degrees in health care administration and business, according to her biography.
Audrey became managing partner of an airport concessions company and purchased two business franchises with her sons. At the same time, she and her husband built a loving home with three sons.
As life unfolded, her sons and husband were diagnosed with ADHD.
Managing businesses and four ADHD males took its toll on her health. In 2008, she was stricken with a nearly fatal autoimmune disease. Recovering and retired, Audrey remains a vital force, including participating with her husband in several international health missions trips.
Dr. Jones grew up in the 1950s with an overprotective mother and grandmother in a poor section of Memphis, Tenn., and his childhood was greatly affected by the village of educators and church folks who recognized his intellect. That village propelled him to Wesleyan University, Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Unfortunately, he lost his mother to cancer before his 20th birthday, but his path was set.
Jones said he began to notice how much time he required to maintain his college GPA as he prepared for medical school. Keeping his eye on the prize, he persevered, never considering that he would later be diagnosed with ADHD.
For at least 20 years of his career as a pediatrician and parent, he did not link his children’s symptoms and signs of ADHD to himself.
While being an effective and popular clinician, he lived in denial about his own diagnosis, he said. As current departmental medical director for the SSM Health system, Jones continues to pursue community projects, including facilitating a STEM program with elementary school students in Ferguson, Missouri.
He said he’s doing it all as he continues to receive treatment.
“The journey has been so fulfilling because the exchanges with other parents made this story’s value clear,” Audrey Jones said. “We have an opportunity to encourage, strengthen and support families through the process of getting to the diagnosis of ADHD. We understand the emotional turmoil that families endure and their ongoing struggles to steer their gifted offspring to resilience.”
“Falling Through the Ceiling” is available at amazon.com.