by: Dr. Dathan Paterno
Sometimes I look at the diagnostic criteria for ADHD and just laugh.
The ADHD diagnosis includes a list of several behaviors that are bothersome to adults, including:
- Often fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
- Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
- Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
- Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
- Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
- Is often forgetful in daily activities
First of all, “often” is not a scientific term. What is often: once an hour? Once a day? However often it takes to drive Mom to drink? Any symptom description that is so subjective should be rejected out of hand. This unscientific nonsense would be funny if it weren’t used to diagnose so many children with the baloney ADHD diagnosis.
Second, the geniuses who created the DSM-IV determined that a child must exhibit 6 or more of these “symptoms” in order to meet that magical threshold of a neurological disorder. Brilliant. So if a child has 4 or 5 of these, he doesn’t have a neurological disorder, but if that child also avoids or dislikes doing homework, THAT makes a neurological disorder? Even the most skilled science fiction writer couldn’t come up with anything this fanciful!
Third, since when is disliking homework a symptom of a mental illness? This is manifestly absurd.
Fourth, are not all of these behaviors trainable? Certainly a child who sometimes pays close attention or sometimes listens to when spoken to directly can (and should be) trained to do so most of the time. That is the job of the parent. The diagnosis of ADHD, however, suggests that the child simply cannot perform these tasks often enough, due to some imagined neurological deficiency. But research has proven that firm, consistent, loving, and reasonable parenting almost always results in significant improvement in all of these symptoms.
Finally, children who exhibit these symptoms almost always are quite able to perform them when involved in tasks that are enjoying to them, such as Legos and video games. So what happens—the neurological disorder just disappears when the child is in the presence of Legos? Baloney! The fact is that attention, concentration, and self-control are inextricably connected to motivation. With proper motivation, children can behave quite well.
This ADHD stuff is simply baloney.