This way madness lies

This, from the New York Times website:

By age 17, nearly one in five American boys and one in 10 girls has been told that they have A.D.H.D. That comes to 6.4 million children and adolescents — a 40 percent increase from a decade ago and more than double the rate 25 years ago. Nearly 70 percent of these kids are prescribed stimulant medications.

ADHD?

Aw, c’mon! For slow learners, then:

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a sub-type of ADHD.

Common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • a short attention span
  • restlessness or constant fidgeting
  • being easily distracted

ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability. However, many people with ADHD also have learning difficulties. They may also have additional problems such as sleep disorders.

Or, put it like this: as a teacher, you only need the one in your classroom. He may well arrive at school, just come from the confectionary counter, and already dosed up, with his stash of high-octane, high-sugar, high-additives in his bag, just to keep him high. Then, late morning,  he’ll fall asleep — but, then, who makes the connection?

But 20% of American boys?

Most of them on methylphenidate hydrochloride (i.e. Ritalin)?

It’s an analogue (though I won’t defend that loose term) of amphetamine.

Parents, dealing with “difficult” children (and are there any not?) demand it. It is often covered by family health insurance (and the drug-manufacturers have long experience in making sure it is).

And, by many accounts, it simply doesn’t work.

A change in the weather?

There is good news in this NY Times piece:

Too many kids are identified and treated after an initial pediatric visit of 20 minutes or even less. Accurate diagnosis requires reports of impairment from home and school, and a thorough history of the child and family must be taken, to rule out abuse or unrelated disorders.

Yes, this would be more time consuming and costly in the short term. But just like investing in preschool, spending more today on careful diagnosis and treatment of A.D.H.D. will lead to lifetimes of savings. As the early childhood education movement builds, let’s make sure we proceed with caution. We should fundamentally rethink how we diagnose and treat A.D.H.D., especially for our youngest citizens.

I think that amounts to a message for parents and doctors:

Grow Up!

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Filed under New York Times, schools

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