I have always been astonished by the number of kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder -- especially boys. Nearly 10 percent of children 4 to 14 reportedly have ADHD. That's 5.4 million kids!
As some moms tell it, Adderall -- a drug that boosts focus and helps impulse control -- is the best thing that ever happened to their kid (and them by default!). One mommy friend, who gladly gives it to her grade-schooler, used to complain about how he didn't like to sit still, wouldn't focus on any one thing for more than a half-hour, and how impulsive he was. I felt for her -- I really did. But a part of me always wondered if all those complaints were just a part of being a rambunctious kid. Well, that actually may be the case. Some experts are questioning whether ADHD is even real.
One doctor goes as far as to say the entire disorder is "made up" and an "excuse." The reason? He claims most children are given Adderall to actually treat poor academic performance in school, which is conveniently blamed on ADHD. Instead of medicating kids, he suggests addressing the real issue -- a bad academic environment or one that just doesn't jive with the way they learn.
In a way, Adderall has become a popular cure-all for struggling students. It's not surprising to hear teens and even college students still take it. "My kids don’t want to take it, but I told them, 'These are your grades when you’re taking it, this is when you don't,' and they understood," one mom said.
It wasn't until I became a parent that I realized that not every child learns the same way. Some can thrive in a noisy, hectic environment. Others need more order and solitude. Some blossom in an artistic curriculum; others crave math and science. Education isn't a one size fits all kind of thing. So a child who is not doing well in school, who lacks focus, who can't seem to sit still, may not always have ADHD. She might be frustrated by the teaching method, unchallenged, or not getting the type of interaction she may need. Unfortunately, that solution costs money and time most parents, schools, and communities can't or are not willing to spend.
Now, just to be clear, I don't really buy that ADHD does not exist at all. It's a very real affliction for a lot of kids and adults too, I'm sure. I think some children exhibit behavior so unmanageable, so out-of-control, there is clearly something emotionally amiss. However, I think far too many parents are too quick to pop a pill in their child's mouth. We owe it to them to try to find another way first.
Do you think ADHD is over-diagnosed?
Image via Arenamontanus/Flickr