Jewish Journal


September 29, 2009

ADHD Madness



The month of September is winding down.  You know what that means?  You guessed it: the end of National ADHD Awareness month.  (Ok, so maybe you didn’t guess it.  I probably wouldn’t have either.)  It’s the end of being aware.  So, we move into October, no longer aware of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? 

ADHD is overrated anyway, isn’t it?  Or is it just me?  (And this comes from an ex-psychotherapist, yes me…can you believe it?)  Seriously, even children are using the excuse that they have ADHD to get out of responsibility.  Can you blame them?  They couldn’t concentrate on their homework, class assignment or finish their peas because of it.  Here’s what I think: we all have ADHD, especially when we’re children, bored in school or simply bored altogether in a situation that does not stimulate us.  Even a child diagnosed with ADHD is able to sit still when they are, in fact, interested in something. 

In my past life of teaching special education and practicing as a child therapist (ok, not my past life, but many moons ago), I have seen far too many children “drugged” to make their teachers’ jobs easier.  Why is it that the teacher is usually the one to suggest the diagnosis?  (I would request a copy of her license before she attempts at diagnosing.)  Far too many teachers and therapists alike convince parents that there is something wrong with their child.  Are we trying to create cookie cutter children?  Should all children sit still?  Maybe it is the teacher that is not providing enough stimulation for the child. 

In my experience, children with “ADHD” (and I put it in quotes, because I believe it has become an all-encompassing label) are children who are extremely intelligent and creative.  Are those bad things?  What are we teaching our children - if you can’t sit still and pay attention, swallow your Ritalin?  Later in life, Valium?  Prozac?  You get the point.

Why and how have we become a nation where we don’t respect diversity or appreciate creativity?  We say we do.

I have included a short list of “symptoms” of ADHD that I consider childhood characteristics, and frankly, often just human characteristics.  (Disclaimer - this is not intended to diagnose/undiagnosed your child, just making a general statement, that far too often this diagnosis has gotten out of hand and a quick fix to a problem that is non-existent.)  This list was taken from the National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov).

Children with ADHD may:

-Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another.  (So when kids go out to the playground and forget their jackets and run from jungle gym to swings to sandbox…ADHD?  And if they continuously play on the merry go round only, a different diagnosis would be in order; you can’t win.)

-Have difficulty focusing on one thing.  (Because children should always focus on one thing.)

-Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable.  (I’m sorry.  Wouldn’t anyone get bored doing a task they don’t find enjoyable?)

-Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities.  (Because 1st and 2nd graders are so detail-oriented…have you ever seen a six year old lose a homework assignment or pencil?  Only if they had ADHD?)

-Not seem to listen when spoken to.  (I just picture any little kid with hands over their ears…”I can’t hear you!”)

-Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others.  (Others?  Who are these others?  Because every child processes information the same way?  Not so much…)

-Fidget and squirm in their seats.  (Every restaurant I have been to that is kid-friendly must be filled with ADHD children, because they are all fidgety and squirming in their seats.  How long can you “fine dine” with children?  So they colored their placemats with the restaurant-supplied four-color crayon box.  They ate.  They had their special dessert.  They mixed all the condiments in their glass of water.  They played their handheld video games.  Eventually, it is time to go home.  With Ritalin, you may have been able to milk another fifteen to twenty minutes, though.)

-Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time.  (I think this was created by angry and tired schoolteachers.)

These are just a few symptoms.  Why do we always need to define everything?  Does everything have to fit neatly into little boxes?  Does stumping a child’s creativity or self-confidence matter?  Can we stop diagnosing and start appreciating differences?  Maybe then, there would be a lot more people doing what they truly love, instead of what they “should” be doing.

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