Yep, I said it. I have always strongly suspected that ADHD is a vastly over-diagnosed disorder thanks to the demands of harried parents, exasperated teachers, and a medical business culture that incentivizes prescriptions and treatments.
Don’t get me wrong. I am certain that there is a very small minority out there who actually have empirically measurable issues with brain chemistry or brain structure. But 11% of school-age kids? I don’t dang think so. If that large a percentage of our population really needs medication to function in a normal society, that society is in some serious trouble.
Is that harsh? Maybe… and I am certainly politically incorrect, but frankly I am sick of dancing around real issues just to make everyone feel good… especially when it means feeling good about medicating kids instead of teaching them self-discipline. We need to stop thinking of maladaptive behaviors as simply “different” when clearly, they are bad enough for us to justify using some pretty serious chronic medications on our developing children. We need to stop demanding the quick-fix pill when proper parental teaching and instilling mental discipline would be much safer, just as effective, and net far greater benefits in the long run.
And yes, more and more information is emerging to support the view that self-control absolutely can be taught. Check out Daniel Goleman’s article in the New York Times, “Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits.” As it turns out, mental exercises in “mindfulness training” increase cognitive control. As Goleman writes, “cognitive control may be defined as the delay of gratification, impulse management, emotional self-regulation or self-control, the suppression of irrelevant thoughts, and paying attention or learning readiness. This singular mental ability, researchers have found, predicts success both in school and in work life.”
This comes on top of other studies that show that training parents on how to reward and discipline children is more effective than medicating the children.
It comes on top of recent developments in using cognitive-behavioral therapy as an effective treatment for adult ADHD.
It comes on top of evidence that tossing kids outside to play with minimal supervision in natural settings reduces ADHD symptoms.
In short, after a dismal slide into a world of TV, computer screens, smartphones, distracted parents, and rigidly supervised straitjacket-like play dates, we have been gradually re-discovering the importance of attentive parenting, intentional mental discipline, regular physical activity and imaginative free play as essential ingredients for human development.
Who’da thunk it?