Today’s post again comes from a NYT crossword puzzle. Clue 25A: reason to grant extra testing time, for short. Answer: ADHD.

As a parent and educator the answer piqued my interest. I had some vague idea of a controversy regarding ADHD over-diagnosis , especially in the United States, but I didn’t really know much about the condition or its treatment. I felt this was reason enough to do some quick research.

First, drawing primarily on the NHS (UK) and Mayo Clinic (USA) websites I learned that typical symptoms that can lead to a positive ADHD diagnosis include:

  • losing things.
  • an unwillingness to perform tedious tasks.
  • constantly fidgeting.
  • excessive physical movement.
  • impulsiveness.

These symptoms seem nebulous. Applying them to myself, for example, could quickly result in a Ritalin prescription:

  • losing things >> “Where the #$@&%! are my keys!? I left them right #$@&%! here!”
  • not wanting to perform tedious tasks >> Isn’t that why we have tax advisors?
  • constantly fidgeting >> My leg is jiggling as I write this.
  • excessive physical movement >> I run marathon.
  • impulsiveness >> “Did somebody say donuts?”

I then turned to the CDC and learned that ADHD diagnoses have increased significantly since 1997. I found the following chart and, in my opinion, troubling explanation.

Percent of children with a parent-reported ADHD diagnosis

The first national survey that asked parents about ADHD was completed in 1997. Since that time, there has been an upward trend in national estimates of parent-reported ADHD diagnoses across different surveys, using different age ranges. It is not possible to tell whether this increase represents a change in the number of children who have ADHD, or a change in the number of children who were diagnosed.

I have four children, and I love them all dearly. I am also happy that they are all now healthy adults. When children are young, they can literally run circles around you. I recall numerous occasions when all I wanted them to do was settle down and quit being so damn rambunctious. But healthy kids are bouncy, active, demanding, and sometimes they plain overwhelm you. This isn’t a cause, however, for medicating them.

I am not the only person who has raised question regarding overmedication. Most notably Alan Schawrz in his book ADHD Nation stated that “more than 1 in 7 American children get diagnosed with ADHD – three times what experts have said is appropriate.”

What do other people have to say? Leave a comment.

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