Wednesday, 8 January 2014

I would be interested to know

what other people think about "ADHD" disorder - that's "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder".
There was one of those "pop-psychology" articles on our state newspaper website about claims by an American neurologist, Richard Saul, that the disorder "does not exist". He was not suggesting that problems do not exist - but that it is not a specific disorder that can be treated with drugs like a disease.
I sent the link on to someone I know who teaches a class of eight and nine year old children. She has complained to me in the past that, of the twenty-three children in her class, eight are on drugs for ADHD.  I thought she was exaggerating but she told me that it was "about average" for the entire school. The school is in what I suppose would be described as an "ordinary working class" suburb of a big American city.  The only thing that might make it a little different from anywhere else is that there was, according to her, a "bit of a blitz on ADHD" a few years ago. It seems to have continued.
I have no idea how common the ADHD diagnosis is anywhere else but I hear about it often enough here to believe that it is probably being used as an excuse for a range of behaviours that might, as Saul suggests, have other causes. He found one child needed glasses, another was bored in maths classes, an adult needed to go back to exercising regularly and so on. When these problems were addressed behaviour changed - without the use of drugs like Ritalin.
My goddaughter attended a fee paying school. Before being accepted into the school her parents had to undertake that she would not be allowed to watch television during the school week and that weekend television watching would be strictly limited. Access to the internet and other screen based activities was also limited.
Interestingly the school had almost no behaviour problems. There was no evidence of ADHD among the students. The academic results were (and still are - I just checked) outstanding. Of course the girls get some television, some internet activity and so on but it is clear that they do not get it to excess. It makes me wonder how much of the "ADHD problem" is due to what might be over-stimulation from screen based activities. Apparently, in society overall, our attention spans are decreasing because we are able to constantly switch between one screen-based activity and another. It seems to me there are real dangers in that - especially when our occupations demand extended periods of concentration.
Of course ADHD might exist in just way that food allergies exist. But, like food allergies, is it possible that the problems are not nearly as widespread or serious as we would like to believe? I have friends who claim to be "allergic" to all sorts of things. They have "gone gluten free" and/or "dairy free" not because they have been diagnosed as coeliac or they have been advised to do so on other medical grounds but because they believe they have problems which will be addressed by this.  But, while some people genuinely do need to avoid some foods many others do not. It's a bit like taking drugs for ADHD and might, in the long term, do more harm than good.
Are we just looking for easy answers when what we really need is to make a greater effort or be more disciplined? I would really like to know what people think.


Miriam said...

I agree. And I think that giving people a diagnosis that doesn't really apply makes others less sympathetic towards those who really deserve that diagnosis. (Hope that makes sense!)

Anonymous said...

Lots of people told me our son was ADHD ... he sat still to watch half an hour of tv per day, then ran for the rest of the day. Then he slept all night. Active yes ... ADHD no way!

Helen Devries said...

There is a young man in our family who in his twenties is still being prescribed what I feel are vast quantities of Ritalin since being started on it as a child after a diagnosis of ADHD.

To us he was more like a child who had endless steam to run off...not a child with a problem needing medication.

catdownunder said...

That makes perfect sense Miriam! And, as Judy says, some children are just active. (What on earth were they worried about Judy - he slept all night!)
Helen- that horrifies me because there would be no way he was not addicted to it and the long term effects are frightening. Poor man!