The ADHD Conundrum

There are more than three million Americans diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) per year. That’s almost one percent of the U.S. population added to the “epidemic” per annum by physicians, psychologists, and other mental health professionals. The ADHD apologists—those who actually believe in the ADHD myth—insist that the dreaded neurobehavioral disease/disorder/disability (or whatever you want to call it) is known to be chronic; it could last for years or even devolve into a lifelong quagmire of suffering.

ADHD-in-childrenWhen speaking about an individual with ADHD, it is critical to note that the label does not refer to an actual disease state; that is because ADHD is not a disease, a true disorder, or a true disability. It is merely a syndrome of phenomena, including behavior patterns, that upsets others in some manner. Supposedly, ADHD primarily reflects an individual’s executive functions. Executive functions refer to the higher-level cognitive skills one uses to control and coordinate other cognitive abilities and behaviors. Some refer to executive functioning as the “cockpit” of the brain.

Many children are slapped with the ADHD diagnosis (note how the term diagnosis sounds more scientific, valid and impressive than the term label) because of insufficient time devoted to helping children adjust or to help them discover strategies to support them. Donna Ford, Professor of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University, is the author of Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education. She reports that the rush to saddle children with a disorder, with little prior intervention, contributes to misidentification and societal over-medication.

Interestingly enough, the diagnostic process for ADHD is woefully subjective and arbitrary. There is no biological test for any mental illness; there is even less evidence of any biological marker for ADHD, notwithstanding the assertions of some that the frontal lobes are less active in brain scans. Diagnosis usually involves a brief history, a couple rating scales (showing that parents or teachers don’t like the child’s behavior), and voila, a lifelong neurobiological illness is born!

Treatment for this deadly malady is actually well managed through Cognitive and Behavioral techniques. Since executive functions are skills that must be learned, it only follows that they can be improved through appropriate training. The functional term for this is discipline. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Center for Child Health Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, states that “Our current diagnostic approaches are too black and white for a disorder that exists on a spectrum. We should shift from treating their distraction as a clinical disease, to targeting the best ways to help children maximize their ability to focus.”

Park Ridge Psychological Services was established to help children and families with the most innovative and evidence-based treatments available, not only assess for ADHD-like symptoms and discover what is truly causing these problems (it’s almost never ADHD), but to help manage and treat whatever emotional, social, and behavioral difficulties exist without the harmful, debilitating effects that come from psychotropic drugs and other psychiatric treatments.

Even when drugs are utilized, clients and their families learn strategies to help them pay attention and adjust behavior patterns to increase functioning, minimize risk, and increase joy and peace in life.

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