Nearly one in five high school boys diagnosed with ADHD. Is it big problem or Big Pharm?

grabarart0920Mining CDC data, The New York Times is reporting today nearly one in five high school age boys and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Are we over-diagnosing attention deficit hyperactivity, especially in boys, because we have less tolerance of what were once understood and accepted as normal kid behaviors?

Have we become a nation that spots a fidgety 5-year-old and thinks a pill is the answer?

Are these behaviors more troubling in an era where even kindergarten has an academic focus and where children are measured by test scores? Are parents buying the pharmaceutical industry’s promise that it can turn a restless student into a focused scholar?

A child with ADHD is easily distracted, hyperactive and impulsive. More than overactive, these children often can’t sit still long enough to respond to a question or listen to a story. Some can’t slow down between idea and action, leaving them with more than their share of sprained ankles from leaping off a desk or fence. At its worst, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder undermines learning and prevents children from forging friendships.

One mother told me that her son was so easily distracted that he fell out of his desk when reaching into his backpack for his lunch because he forgot what he was doing.

Many parents reluctantly resort to drugs for their children and they contend that it changes everything. Their kids can concentrate in school; they are calmer. They have more friends.

It is not that children didn’t have ADHD  50 years ago. They did. They were the class daydreamers or fidgets who either dropped out in high school or were sent to shop class.

But the number of kids diagnosed with ADHD has soared.

One of the most cogent voices in this debate has been Anthony Rao, co-author of  “The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in a Challenging and Complex World.”

When I interviewed him a few years back, he told me that normal developmental phases were being misread as disorders by classroom teachers. and then too quickly confirmed by pediatricians. The checklist for disorders — impulsivity, delays in socializing and language, resistance to eye contact, problems in transitions, extreme shyness, sudden fits  — can also be a checklist of temporary development phases and setbacks.

In the interview, Rao noted that today’s classroom is better suited for the ways girls learn. “When you promote all this assessment and increasing standardization, you narrow the way you are going to teach kids, eclipsing the ways that boys learn better. You go to much less hands-on and manipulation of objects and to more sit down and lectures,” he said.

According to The New York Times: (This is a short excerpt. Please read the entire piece before commenting.)

Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children.

And even more teenagers are likely to be prescribed medication in the near future because the American Psychiatric Association plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment. A.D.H.D. is described by most experts as resulting from abnormal chemical levels in the brain that impair a person’s impulse control and attention skills.

While some doctors and patient advocates have welcomed rising diagnosis rates as evidence that the disorder is being better recognized and accepted, others said the new rates suggest that millions of children may be taking medication merely to calm behavior or to do better in school. Pills that are shared with or sold to classmates — diversion long tolerated in college settings and gaining traction in high-achieving high schools — are particularly dangerous, doctors say, because of their health risks when abused.

Experts cited several factors in the rising rates. Some doctors are hastily viewing any complaints of inattention as full-blown A.D.H.D., they said, while pharmaceutical advertising emphasizes how medication can substantially improve a child’s life. Moreover, they said, some parents are pressuring doctors to help with their children’s troublesome behavior and slipping grades.

“There’s a tremendous push where if the kid’s behavior is thought to be quote-unquote abnormal — if they’re not sitting quietly at their desk — that’s pathological, instead of just childhood,” said Dr. Jerome Groopman, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the author of “How Doctors Think.”

Fifteen percent of school-age boys have received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis, the data showed; the rate for girls was 7 percent. Diagnoses among those of high-school age — 14 to 17 — were particularly high, 10 percent for girls and 19 percent for boys. About one in 10 high-school boys currently takes A.D.H.D. medication, the data showed.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

85 comments Add your comment

Georgia

April 1st, 2013
3:00 pm

The medication gives a buzz? Does it? Is it a nice high? Doesn’t that explain everything? I don’t know. What is the medication?

AJC isn't me

April 1st, 2013
3:04 pm

When your make deviant behavior financially or otherwise rewarding, you get more of it.

Just as more welfare programs breed more dependency, giving irresponsible parents an easy cop-out means fewer will accept blame for their lazy parenting. As for the teachers’ unions … more kids diagnosed with ADD equals more Special Education teachers equals more dues revenues.

The same union spokesman lamenting abuses in the system secretly throws up roadblocks to any reforms which threaten that abuse.

reality check

April 1st, 2013
3:14 pm

I believe ADHD is overdiagnosed and many other learning disabilities misdiagnosed as ADHD.

Matt321

April 1st, 2013
3:24 pm

Thank you for the mostly balanced portrayal of ADHD. I would ask you to add, though, that not all cases present as hyperactive. There is also the inattentive type of ADHD.

bu2

April 1st, 2013
3:24 pm

1 in 5 sounds high. But when appropriately prescribed the drugs can make a world of difference.

@Georgia-there’s no high. Many of the drugs are related to amphetamines.

Duh...Big Pharm

April 1st, 2013
3:26 pm

Just like all of you on statins out there… Who do you think is advising doctors? I don’t see armies of unbiased CDC experts going from office to office taking people out to lunch.

ld mom

April 1st, 2013
3:27 pm

Here is my experience. My daughter has dylexia and other related processing issues. Some of her symptoms are simliar to ADHD – but, according to her psychologist, does not have ADHD. When I presented her public school with results of testing and requested help for my daughter, I was told that she did not qualify for services for her learning disability. Because of her high IQ – she was managing to get by and was not “far enough behind”. However, if she was diagnosed with ADHD – then she would qualify for all the services that I was requesting. The school told me to go back and get an ADHD diagnosis and then they could help me. We opted for private school, but our pediatitian was more than willing to diagnose her with ADHD if we had wanted it (just to qualify for services).

1950s Boy

April 1st, 2013
3:29 pm

When I was growing up (born in 1951), it was recognized that boys and girls were different. Boys had shorter attention spans and had more energy to “burn off.” There was P.E. every day in school, and we went outside and played. There were very, very few problems with discipline, at least in the schools I attended. Another significant factor was we were expected to behave and to respect not only our teachers, but our elders in general. Also, the world did not revolve around our precious selves. Amazingly, we grew up to be successful and productive citizens.

Atlanta Mom

April 1st, 2013
3:29 pm

Georgia,
No my child does not get a buzz or a nice high. What she gets is a quieter mind, so she can concentrate.

Matt321

April 1st, 2013
3:33 pm

Also, to the commentators – please do not confuse ADHD with “Boys will be boys.” People who suffer from ADHD have different brains than people without ADHD. Asking them to just burn off their energy with PE or compensate in some other way is like asking someone who is near sighted to just try harder to see. Medication is extremely helpful for the children and adults (male AND female) who have this very real disorder.

Lynn43

April 1st, 2013
3:34 pm

After over 30 years as an elementary music teacher who taught every child in each of my schools, I have seen every kind of disability and behavior. I know that medication can make a tremendous difference in some children, but many of the problems are bad parenting. Google “Bad behavior looking for a learning disability excuse”. There is definitely a difference, and, as a teacher, you need to be able to address the problem no matter what it is.

mark

April 1st, 2013
3:36 pm

Maybe something is in the water? Or the air? Or our foods? What about dyes, artifical flavorings?

I think this and cancer are larger than what they appear. Oh well. let me eat some easter candy full of good ole, chemist created stuff. These bunnies are good. Oh, i got to go, I forgot what I am doing, Is that elvis. I’m late for something, but my mine is all over the place. I need to medicate. Where is that beer.

Looking for the truth

April 1st, 2013
3:39 pm

Boys are wired differently – everyone should know that. Today’s educational system, with its emphasis on testing, requires the student to sit for long periods of time. We spend so much time and effort talking about how the educational system needs to be more responsive to student needs and so little time actually doing so. What’s the answer? I don’t know until standardized testing goes away!

reality check

April 1st, 2013
3:39 pm

Id mom, I had the same experience with my son.

We did the same thing as you and sent him to a school specially equipped to deal with dyslexia, which is relatively prevalent but infrequently diagnosed. He had a worse than average case of it, so we had to send him 3 years. He thrived eventually and is now in the honors program in college

The interesting thing about dyslexia is that frequently the child has a very high IQ and an exceptional creative ability. Dyslexics are disproportionately represented in two populations. One is the prison population, and the other is in the multi millionaire ranks. The key is whether they get the help they need to cope and advance.

Special education teachers get little if any instruction on how to teach students with dyslexia. The best bet is the private school route.

STEM Mom

April 1st, 2013
3:44 pm

I can attest to the classroom style favoring girls over boys: I am the parent of fraternal boy/girl twin.
Too little exercise in the morning or between classes, too little hands on learning, too much “watch / listen / don’t touch / be quiet” learning time
And all too easily, the teachers advise parents to take their son to the pediatrician.
When requested, one neighbor took his, and when asked what’s wrong with his son replied “you tell me!”. Heeding his pediatrician’s advice, he moved him to another public school where his high achiever’ son is doing marvelous.
We are not even talking about large classrooms, only 12-15 each!.

Georgia

April 1st, 2013
3:46 pm

A quieter mind. My mind is very quiet. I really don’t have any thoughts at all. I am a couch potato. I sit and watch TCM all day long and drink beer and eat junk food. I’m so happy. Right now TCM is having a silent movie marathon. It’s heavenly. This is what our grandparents watched, man (if’n you’re a baby boomer). The mugging! The overacting! The trance-inducing music. The fake chinese people. I guess back then, China only had a half a billion people, and they just couldn’t find even ONE stinking triple threat among all of them. But I digress. My diagnosis of this ADHD is that the data indicates that we are abusing whatever drugs the ADHD patients are prescribed. There is no way in hell that many high school students match the symptom-criteria for ADHD. The drug MUST be supplying a high. Look, I’m a professional, highly-trained and veteran drug abuser, but I ain’t buying no drug that don’t give me a thrill, okay? Neither will anyone else. Especially not high school boys or college frat dudes.

Sure. 20% of fraternity dudes have ADHD. No way. They are getting high, and inviting sorority chicks (probably the I Felta Thighs) over for toga parties with the ADHD medication. Face it. Believe it. Accept it.

and then just groove, cause we ain’t gonna change it, baby. Just go along, and nobody gets better.

OMG.

Lee

April 1st, 2013
3:47 pm

I think that you cannot downplay the role that diet and activity (or lack thereof) plays in all of this.

Back in my day, a large Coke was 10 ounces. Compare that to a “Medium” drink at Wendy’s (about 32 oz) or some of the “Supersized” drinks at 44 oz and above. Until recently, most soft drinks were typically 20 oz.

At school, we had a morning, after lunch, and afternoon recess and we had swings, slides, see saws, jungle gyms, and other contraptions on which to play. None of this stuff that looks like a McDonalds playland.

When we went home, we were shoo’d outside to play until suppertime. TV had three channels and we were the remote. We walked, ran, or biked everywhere.

Bottom line, kids need fresh air and sunshine. They need to run and jump and play. You just can’t sit them in a desk for 6-7 hours a day and expect them to remain calm and focused. Parents who are contemplating having their children evaluated for ADD/ADHD need to first take a long hard look at their lifestyle, IMHO.

tim

April 1st, 2013
3:48 pm

When i went to high school, no one in the entire school (2000 students) was ever “diagnosed” with anything.

FAKE PHONEY FRAUD BY doctors, parents and educators.

EXCUSES EXCUSES EXCUSES

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 1st, 2013
3:52 pm

@AJC As for the teachers’ unions … more kids diagnosed with ADD equals more Special Education teachers equals more dues revenues.

I have NEVER taught a student diagnosed with ADHD or ADD who received special ed services as a result. Sometimes, they received accommodations for testing (extra time), but that was about it. Being diagnosed with attention issues is NOT enough to receive special ed services…usually. That being said, we have had a couple ADHD students placed in special ed because their parents refused to medicate them, and then threatened lawsuits if they were not placed in a smaller classroom with more personalized attention. These students really did not belong in Special Ed. They had no learning disorders or disabilities, and were generally much higher performing than the other students in the class. In short, they did not fit in, and the special ed teachers were burdened with having to see to their needs which would have been better served in regular ed with appropriate interventions.

Catlady

April 1st, 2013
4:06 pm

In my area it is UNDER diagnosed. Many parents do not want to consider the possibility. I work with about a half dozen kids this year that are medicated for various problems out of about 120 kids. Several,others would be candidates. One child, a 7 year uld boy, does not show signs of the hyperactivity component. He wasn’t poorly behaved. It was as though his mind flitted around. His mother decided to take him in for evaluation. The doctor requested teacher input. He was put on medication and is performing like a different child. I have been amazed!

We have several others on meds–OCD, anxiety, ADHD. We have a child who needs evaluation for autism spectrum. He checks out most of the time and indulges in self stim–rocking and humming almost constantly. Soon his classmates will isolate him even more. Mom isn’t interested in dealing with it now.

Have I seen kids whose diagnosis I question? Yes. Their parents seem to run households that are disorganized and undisciplined. I have also seen parents whose kids “run out of” medicine frequently month after month. I speculate that the parents are using or selling them. Then there are those who seem to profit financially from beefing up the diagnoses.

Simmer Down

April 1st, 2013
4:07 pm

@Tim – I have learned whenever anyone on this blog starts it off by saying the phrase “When I went to school” they have nothing to contribute to today’s issues with education and I move on. You proved my point to a tee.

Catlady

April 1st, 2013
4:10 pm

Agree with I love/hate. ADHD does not get services. We have been told there will be no additional sped teachers hired– pack more in classrooms, stick more in regular classes without support.

Simmer Down

April 1st, 2013
4:11 pm

On another note: when my wife brought up the idea of having my oldest looked at for ADHD and the medication I was against it from the beginning. Now that he has been aided by the medication his ability to concentrate in school has allowed him to move to the top of his class. The phrase other people use above “quieting the mind” while not medical in nature is accurate in description.

Anchorite

April 1st, 2013
4:12 pm

There’s that canard again: “boys learn differently”, “girls will just sit still and learn”, etc. This may be true for some–male and female–but for most of human history educators were male, the students were male, and the learning was seatwork heavy. Even into the 20th century, most educators were male and most secondary students were male. For the most part, they were not running around, bootcamp-style, doing algebra–they were sitting in desks, having to be patient and quiet and “good”.

It isn’t a boy/girl thing. It is an across the board fact that today’s culture of teaching and learning (”test ’til they burn” coupled with unreasonable expectations) doesn’t work for most students–male and female.

Digger

April 1st, 2013
4:12 pm

In the low IQ, all girls club that is Elementary Education, the best way to be a good little boy is to be a good little girl.

Everything Lee says is correct

April 1st, 2013
4:14 pm

Also, fifteen percent is one in six. A bit more than one in six, actually:

100/15 = 6.67

It would be much more accurate to say “almost one in seven” rathan than “almost one in five.”

Sensationalist and misleading.

Real World

April 1st, 2013
4:16 pm

My neighbor, a pediatrician, says that ADHD is over-diagnosed and partly due to pharmaceutical marketing. And the good doctor agrees with the statement that what was considered normal is now a medical problem. He puts the problem squarely on reduced play for kids, parents expecting high achievement at an early age and too much time with computers, video games etc. He prescribes more outdoor play, more family activities, video games only a couple times a week and similar old-fashioned activities. And he is a younger doctor–not one ready to retire. He thinks that too many people believe in better living through medication–rather that making changes to lifestyle. And @Simmer Down–maybe we should look at the “back when I went to school group”—they did not have near the behavioral problems that we do today. Something has changed drastically and we might find that change by looking a bit in the past.

Georgia

April 1st, 2013
4:17 pm

It’s not possible for that many students to have any condition. If the data is correct then we’re finished. Indeed, we are witnessing the total collapse of the human condition, because that condition is allergic to formal instruction. The drug is giving kids a high. Accept it. Move on. AND STFU.

I know all. I see all. I AM RETROROCKET MAN!!!!!

morons

gadzooks.

Georgia

April 1st, 2013
4:22 pm

BTW: How much do you love the fact that none of the racketeers have turned themselves in yet. See? THAT’S the world I wanna live in. Maybe they need the ADHD drug so’s they’s can understands the indictment’s implications about surrendering. Oh Brother.

bu2

April 1st, 2013
4:25 pm

@Real World
Most of those people dropped out around 9th grade “back when I went to school.” If you look back and your memory is good enough, you can pick out some of those people. And maybe your young pediatrician friend just doesn’t have enough experience with real cases.

Maybe it is over-diagnosed, but there are many real cases out there.

dc

April 1st, 2013
4:27 pm

It’s “big teacher”…… when you try to force energetic young boys to sit at a desk like they are girls, you have to medicate them to make the act like girls.

Once again, shows the gaping need for alternative approaches to schooling. There should be a school for boys that is almost all outside.

bu2

April 1st, 2013
4:31 pm

@dc
I think the studies are showing all students could benefit from more active learning. With real ADD/ADHD cases, its a step beyond being fidgety.

Catlady

April 1st, 2013
4:34 pm

I might also add that I work in classes that are composed of kids who are significantly behind, as 2-4 grades, with the exception of one group of 25. For a group made of kids who are behind, 6 percent seems pretty low.

Lynn43

April 1st, 2013
4:49 pm

In an article I once read on Behavior Disorders, it referred the ADHD child as one who had drank 600 cups of coffee.

Georgia

April 1st, 2013
4:50 pm

It is mathematically and statistically impossible for 20% of high school boys to need a medication to counter the effects of ADHD. I write that last sentence with 100% reliability. I also challenge the report from the NYTIMES. It can’t be true. CANT. BE. TRUE. and only a total gullible idiot would believe that report.

So why could I be so confident? Because if it’s true, then imagine what that implies! Is this the undiagnosed condition that we’ve lived with since we bred the Neanderthals out of existence? Is this our Neanderthal side? GIVE ME A F’ING BREAK. It’s nonsense and I won’t entertain another word about it.

Just kidding, laugh out loud. No, we should prescribe MORE adhd drugs to more students cause it seems to be working really well for us especially in the Dekalb School District and don’t forget Beverly Hall.

Mike

April 1st, 2013
4:50 pm

I had ADHD as a kid once. Then my Dad popped me upside my head and said “pay attention”. I was cured in an instant.
Just KIDDING, calm down….Having a Dad around who cared helped a lot though. Come on dads, get involved and teach your boys how to be respectful and focused.
Many of these cases are just an excuse to label our kids who we refused to discipline when younger and who are now out of control.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 1st, 2013
4:54 pm

I have been teaching along time, and am very understanding of “wiggling” children. I use a lot of hands-on lessons. I let students move around frequently, allow them to swing their feet, sit on the knees, even stand up at their desks if that helps them concentrate. We do movement breaks after sitting for a while, and I have them rotate around the room to different learning stations. We still have recess at my school, and P.E. so we are luckier that some places.

However, I can attest to the fact that more and more young children just do NOT have the ability to concentrate that children had in the past. Whether it be too much exposure to television and video games, too much fast paced stimulation at an early age, a lack of outside play time, or the chemicals with which we have saturated the environment, things have changed in the 20+ years I have been teaching. Every year I deal with an increasing number of students who cannot control their impulses to shout out, babble to themselves, sing, jump around, chew on their clothing, pick at their skin, pull threads out of their clothing, tap pencils, rock in their chairs, twitch, etc. Their attention span is extremely short, and they expect instant gratification. They have no patience for anything, and will balk at engaging in activities that require sustained attention, like writing paragraphs, reading long passages, or solving math problems that require multi-steps or deeper thinking.

On the other hand, the ADD students drift off constantly and miss much of what goes on around them. It can take them half an hour to do what their peers accomplish in 10 minutes. They lose their place when writing a sentence or copying a single word off the board. Sometimes, they can’t even verbalize a thought without losing track of what they were saying. For both these groups of children, you have to constantly redirect redirecting their attention though movement, voice, and various other forms of stimulation.

Now, I am very patient, and very good with children with excess energy, but dealing with increasing numbers of children with focusing issues is becoming detrimental to my class instruction. Parents often ask that their children to get additional attention and interventions to deal with these problems. They are reluctant to medicate, which is understandable, but they not realize that their child is one of several with the same focusing issues. Providing a “timer” for a lesson, and a personalized checklist of steps to follow, and a non-verbal redirection “sign”, and additional time, and tapping on a desk with a finger, and checking to make sure homework is properly copied in a notebook, and monitoring sugar intake, and keeping second copies of work papers for those they get lost for ONE child is doable, if problematic. Providing those interventions for six students becomes nearly impossible to manage.

I will do all I can to support such students, but “all I can” isn’t always enough, and it is heartbreaking to watch a child with great potential continue to struggle and fail merely because they cannot concentrate or focus on lessons and class work. I know some of my strongest students will likely NOT pass the CRCT due to inability to focus and finish.

Perhaps these are the children who would do better with computer based lessons, but that, in itself, may only exacerbate the problems by making it even harder for them to concentrate when not subjected to high speed stimuli.

Now medication isn’t always the right answer, but it should be seriously considered and not merely discarded due to misinformation. I have seen some students respond poorly to medication, either because they were misdiagnosed, the dosage was wrong, or the medication was wrong, or because their problem required other solutions, like behavior modification as well as medication. When this happens, parents may just give up and refuse to go any further. Finding the right dosage and the right medication isn’t always easy, and requires close contact between the teacher and the parent. It requires time and effort. I am willing to do my part, but sometimes parents are not. Despite the claims that teachers just want students to be quiet little zombies, drugged out on meds, I would never accept that as appropriate, and am just as likely to recommend a visit to the pediatrician for an overmedicated student, as an under medicated one.

However, I do not understand the total refusal of some parents to even consider medication for their child. If a child had some other medical problem requiring medication, like diabetes or leukemia they would not refuse treatment (aside from some religious sects), so why the total refusal to consider a drug treatment for diagnosed ADHD?

Doctors also need to consider their input. Some doctors are far too quick to prescribe drugs, and I have seen students put on “meds” for problems that, in my opinion, had a lot more to do with behavioral issues that attention issues. On the other hand, I have received lists of “to dos” from doctors requesting, in lieu of medication, that I and the school provide “biofeedback prompts”, individual therapy sessions, and counseling for a child – requests that are unrealistic in a public school with a part time counselor and 25 students to a room.

And I feel for those parents who DO choose to medicate their children, because they are often judged harshly by other parents who see medication as nothing more than an excuse to “drug” a child into submission and refuse to deal with their problems. I wish it were that simple!

In short, there are no easy answers, and the solutions are as varied as the children involved. But doing nothing, and expecting teachers to deal with the increasing numbers of students who require constant redirection is not doing the students any favors. Yes, having parents expect me to just “deal with it” makes my job harder, but that is NOT my main concern. When there are too many of them, I will simply NOT be able to help them all reach their full potential anymore. Ultimately, it is not I who will suffer the most.

bu2

April 1st, 2013
5:00 pm

@Ilove teaching
Thanks for the informed post.

Richard

April 1st, 2013
5:00 pm

My guess is that about 20% of the kids diagnosed with ADHD actually have the disorder. The other 80% are split into two groups:

1. Big pharm pushing their drugs.
2. Parents who think their precious snowflake must have a valid reason for not being at the top of the class.

(I have no evidence of this. It’s a total guess.)

jd

April 1st, 2013
5:05 pm

Bad parenting –

bootney farnsworth

April 1st, 2013
5:17 pm

its neither

its boys being boys, and society wanting them to be girls.

Old Physics Teacher

April 1st, 2013
5:19 pm

Maureen,

I was about to copy with three authors on the ADHD “Hoax.” I’m glad I waited and read your article. One of the three was Rao. I “suggested” to my children A) to either instruct the “little girl” teachers in the elementary school that under no circumstances would my grandchildren be drugged – and learn to teach little boys. Or B) to hold them back a year and let them mature further. I now have two grandsons who are at the top of their class as HS juniors (both diagnosed with ADD in the 1st grade) and two more getting ready to start.

I’ve defended teachers right and left through the years – and will continue to do so to an uninformed population. that being sid, we have too many people getting into education who don’t belong. Teaching is a calling as a profession. This is not a place to get rich; any teacher getting into eduction for the money isn’t worth it!

Bhorsoft

April 1st, 2013
5:32 pm

Back in my day there wasn’t ADHD. Kids were hyperactive. My brother was and was prescribed Ritalin. On the Ritalin, he had boundless energy but could maintain enough focus to be in school. Off the Ritalin he was just plain manic and could not hold focus for more than 2 seconds. My parents tried lots of things before the Ritalin – tutoring, getting him moved to Special Ed, putting him in a Private school. Nothing worked. With the Ritalin he was able to graduate H.S. and join the Army. As an adult he stopped taking the Ritalin and although he did well in life, he was always going a mile a minute. We went to visit Gettysburg one day with him and by 5:00 he declared that we had seen everything there was to see. He was one of the folks that I think the drugs were required and helped.

That said, I was a day-dreamer and a bit of an “independent thinker” in elementary school. I wasn’t the kind to color within the lines. Back then the teachers thought I wasn’t challenged enough and was bored. Now days I suspect I would be diagnosed with ADHD and would be drugged. That would have been the wrong thing to do for me and would have probably ended up hurting me academically instead of helping. I ended up with two Bachelors and two Masters degrees (and wanted a PhD, but couldn’t make financial sense of it).

indigo

April 1st, 2013
5:41 pm

I would not be surprised to learn Doctors are in league with Big Pharm to diagnose as many cases of ADHD as possible in return for generous kickbacks.

Anyone who honestly thinks our Medical Industry can be trusted is living in a fool’s paradise.

old teach

April 1st, 2013
5:48 pm

@Everything Lee says…
The article said that 19% of high school boys were diagnosed with ADHD.

Incredulous

April 1st, 2013
5:50 pm

I find it interesting that ADHD diagnosis are heavily concentrated in the southeastern United States. I’d like to see diagnosis and treatment data of other similarily developed countries. Do we just accept the problem is the kids? Maybe the problem is the numbing classrooms and the outdated model of education we use.

William Casey

April 1st, 2013
6:04 pm

I’m very pro special education. I believe that it’s the most significant improvement in schooling in the last fifty years. I team taught with a special education teacher for five years. I also served as administrator at countless IEP meetings. ADHD is very real. All that being said, I would suggest that about one in five diagnoses of ADHD is in reality more inept or indifferent parenting than a “different brain” in the child. Alas, having a child pop a pill is much easier than consistent parenting.

Maureen Downey

April 1st, 2013
6:10 pm

@Incredulous, I am glad that you read the whole NYT piece. I also wonder about the disparity in state numbers on how many kids get ADHD diagnoses. Why would there be such wide swings state to state? Perhaps, there are good reasons but they are not apparent.
Maureen

Georgia

April 1st, 2013
6:18 pm

Teaching is an art.

Georgia

April 1st, 2013
6:23 pm

The variation is the symptom of the nonsense. No condition could affect 20 percent of any population, except stupidity, and that, my friend, needs a pill we ain’t made yet.