Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is a “disorder” that currently affects 5 to 10 percent of all children, and that’s just in America alone. Recent surveys conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control found that: (source)
- Approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011.
- The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase, from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 and to 11.0% in 2011.
- Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 [Read article] and an average of approximately 5% per year from 2003 to 2011.
- Boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.
- The average age of ADHD diagnosis was 7 years of age, but children reported by their parents as having more severe ADHD were diagnosed earlier.
- Prevalence of ADHD diagnosis varied substantially by state, from a low of 5.6% in Nevada to a high of 18.7% in Kentucky.
What Exactly Are We Dealing With Here?
One big problem we are dealing with is the label of ADHD itself. By simply treating characteristics of ADHD as a disability (something we so commonly see in education) we are destroying the potential and self esteem of so many children. Diagnosing a child with a mental disorder based on their lack of ability and/or desire to pay attention in a classroom seems absurd, doesn’t it?
In fact, in my opinion it’s down right crazy. Not wanting to, or not having the ability to pay attention to information that does not nourish the soul, spark the heart or capture the mind is in no way characteristic of a mental disability, but something that seems completely normal. Perhaps we should stop looking at the student and focus more on the environment we surround our children with? If it’s not stimulating enough for some students, that does not mean they have a mental disorder and should be given harmful medications.
Some of these children will be in their own world and downright refuse to pay attention, trying to amuse themselves any way they possibly can, doing what they want to do and not what others tell them to do. These children have become targets for pharmaceutical companies and targets for what might very well be a false labeling campaign based on very little science.
Characteristics associated with ADHD are in no way a “disability.” In fact, there is evidence to suggest that these characteristics might be more associated with “abilities” that should be placing many of these children in gifted school programs instead of special education programs. Unfortunately, new data from the National Center for Learning Disabilities shows that only 1 percent of students who receive services for their apparent “learning disabilities” (some of which are completely and unquestionably valid) are enrolled in gifted or talented programs. The report concluded that “students with learning and attention issues are shut out of gifted and AP programs, held back in grade level and suspended from school at higher rates than other students.” (1)
This is a pretty disturbing characteristic, and what makes it even more disturbing is the fact that recent work in cognitive neuroscience shows that both creative thinkers, and those with an ADHD diagnosis show difficulty in suppressing brain activity that comes from the “Imagination Network.” (2)(3) There are no school assessments that provide evaluation on creativity and imagination, these are hard to draw up and measure and receive very little attention in our education systems.
In fact, something that’s touched upon in the paragraph below, a tremendous amount of research shows that people who show characteristics of ADHD are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement compared to those who don’t show these characteristics.(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9) Research also shows that these characteristics are associated with the broadening of attention, and those who have them tend to have a mental “filter.” In other words, it’s their choice what they chose to give their attention to, and they are very selective and stern when it comes to that.
Scott Barry Kaufman, the Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania says that :
“Of course, whether this is a positive thing or a negative thing depends on the context. The ability to control your attention is most certainly a valuable asset; difficulty inhibiting your inner mind can get in the way of paying attention to a boring classroom lecture or concentrating on a challenging problem. But the ability to keep your inner stream of fantasies, imagination, and daydreams on call can be immensely conducive to creativity. By automatically treating ADHD characteristics as a disability– as we so often do in an educational context– we are unnecessarily letting too many competent and creative kids fall through the cracks.” (source)
Another interesting piece of information to note is that in 2004, an author by the name of Gary Davis reviewed a large portion of literature from 1961 to 2003 and identified 22 recurring personality traits of creative people, most of which were very positive and associated with the same personality traits as people who have been diagnosed with ADHD. Some of these traits included: independence, risk taking, high energy, curiosity, humor, emotional and artistic. Some of the negative ones included: impulsive, argumentative and hyper active. He published his findings in his book “Creativity is Forever.”
It’s not the children, they do not have a disability of any kind. They simply have a different way of learning, and with a lack of differentiated instruction in modern day education systems, having a child spend 8 hours a day in such a non-stimulating environment is wrong.
The solution isn’t feeding our children drugs that have been proven to be extremely harmful in multiple ways so that a child is almost forced to pay attention and listen, but rather changing the environment that surrounds the student to make it more simulating and exciting. This is a tough task in modern day education, and something educational institutions struggle with on a daily basis.
These children do not need to be singled out and labelled with something that might be completely fictitious.
Is ADHD Even Real?
When I was in school I received this diagnosis, alongside a learning disability and more. As a child I always knew I was perfectly fine, that everything I did and what I decided to pay attention to was simply my choice. I always felt that none of the labels and the explanations that accompanied them were valid at all, and I personally refused to take any medication that was being recommended to me. I am very glad I didn’t.
I am also a qualified, certified teacher for grades 7-12. Through volunteer as well as work experience my views on this subject matter did not change at all, but strengthened. I have interacted with these children, as well as those within special education programs (with multiple “disabilities) and the way we label/view them is (in my opinion) completely 100 percent backwards and does nothing but harm. The labels and descriptions alone that education uses to define these kids is even worse.
The fact that children who “have trouble” paying attention to what they are not interested in are diagnosed and placed into the disability category simply based on observation alone is a frightening thought, and I am glad I’m not the only one who has asked this question.
There are many examples, and one of the most recent comes from Neurologist Dr Richard Saul. Richard Saul is a neurologist who has had a long career in examining patients who have been having trouble with short attention spans and an inability to focus. From his first hand experience, he feels that ADHD is nothing more than a fake disorder that is really only an umbrella of symptoms and not actually a disease. He strongly feels that it should not be listed as a separate disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual. You can read more about that here.
“We have a habit of always seeing issues in people who don’t fit in with the system. Whether they don’t want to be in standard education, don’t want to work their whole lives or have trouble focusing on things they don’t like, we tend to label this as a problem, but is it? Maybe we just don’t look within enough to figure out what might really be going on or why we are living the way we do. Perhaps it is time we let go of the idea of having to “fit in” to something that doesn’t resonate rather than labelling it as a disorder.” – Joe Martino, Founder of Collective Evolution.
It’s also important to note that, according to an article written in the The German Weekly, the founding father of ADHD, American psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg in a death bed interview said that “ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease.” The article was written by Der Spiegel and has made its way around the web for years. I cannot however completely verify that this statement was actually true. (10)
It’s also important to note the pharmaceutical drug aspect into this equation. For (one small out of many) example(s), American psychologist Lisa Cosgrove and others investigated Financial Ties between the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM) panel members and the pharmaceutical industry. They found that, of the 170 DSM panel members 95 (56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. One hundred percent of the members of the panels on ‘mood disorders’ and ‘schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders’ had financial ties to drug companies. The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders. In the next edition of the manual, it’s the same thing. (11)(12)
“The DSM appears to be more a political document than a scientific one. Each diagnostic criteria in the DSM is not based on medical science. No blood tests exist for the disorders in the DSM. It relies on judgments from practitioners who rely on the manual.” (11) – Lisa Cosgrove, PhD, Professor of Counseling and School Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
The very vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry,” Dr. Irwin Savodnik, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles (source)
There is lots of evidence to suggest that Pharmaceutical companies have influenced certain psychiatrists to “pathologize” certain behavior as a mental illness so more drugs can be marketed to the masses. In my opinion the evidence is overwhelming, but we’ll save that for another article as it is a big topic.
There are lots of things to consider when it comes to ADHD, and the content of this article is just the beginning. What are your thoughts on ADHD? Feel free to share your opinions in the comment section below.
(10) Blech, Jörg: Schwermut ohne Scham. In: Der Spiegel, Nr. 6/6.2.12, p. 122–131, p. 128.
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