Food for thought...
Is the increase in ADHD really an epidemic? And if so, an epidemic of what? Attention-deficit? Hyperactivity? (Together, "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder" or ADHD.) Or are we looking at an epidemic of something else?
When a disorder or condition is suddenly diagnosed with a dramatic increase in frequency, as has been the case with ADHD in recent years, something is clearly wrong; something has changed. The question is: what? Have our children suddenly become highly susceptible to this condition? Or are there other reasons why the number of ADHD diagnosis have increased by 43 percent since 2003?
The New York Times states in a brilliant 2013 article questioning the "ADHD Epidemmic" that "Most children are given the diagnosis on the basis of a short visit with their pediatrician. In fact, the diagnosis can be as simple as prescribing Ritalin to a child and telling the parents to see if it helps improve their school performance." The article goes on to cite alarming research findings, notably: "Nationwide, the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years after No Child Left Behind was implemented" ...wow. The other article I link to below (the impetus behind this post), and the NYT article both examine the effects of sociological factors, specifically the expectations of parents and educators, and of overarching educational policy upon the increased rate of ADHD diagnosis. Both are worth reading, it is my hope you will do so.
I do not mean to suggest ADD and ADHD are not very real disorders. They are, and biological factors have indeed been identified, including differences in brain structure and genetic traits (I am not citing research here, but feel free to look it up--it is out there). These throught-provoking articles suggest other factors may be responsible for the the dramatic increase in ADHD diagnosis in the past two decades: the education system our children are subjected to, the expectations of parents, the massive influence of the pharmaceutical industry, and fundamental flaws in the education system itself. Both articles provide much food for thought, suggesting things are not perhaps functioning the way they should be, or, importantly, even the way we perceive them to be.
Before we accept a diagnosis of ADHD for a child, these articles suggest we take a good long look at the environment they are struggling in and ask if the deficit lies not with the child, but with the education and health care systems, as well as society itself ...and our own expectations of both our children and the education system. One of my favorite quotes from the CE article is "The issue here really seems to be the environment the children are surrounded by, not the children themselves".
It is up to us: the consumers, parents, medical professionals, and educators to be the agents of change. Is there a chance that your child genuinely has ADHD? Absolutely. That said, I urge you to get them properly evaluated and tested before accepting that diagnosis. There may be other significant factors involved in their struggle--factors medication cannot address.
Got five minutes? Here's the link:
And here is another link the New York Times piece:
Thanks for reading! -Matt