Understanding the Problem

ADD/ADHD is one of the most controversial social issues of our time. It raises strong and passionate feelings among those who believe in it and those who don’t. Many people simply do not know what to believe.

There is widespread belief that the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD is a medically proven fact. However, within medicine itself pediatricians, child psychiatrists, family doctors, and medical researchers hold varied opinions. There are many who do not even believe that ADD/ADHD is a valid diagnostic category. Some say this diagnosis depends entirely upon the beliefs of the treating medical or psychological practitioner.

Professional Myths about ADD/ADHD:

  • ADD/ADHD a diagnostic category and therefore it is a medical problem.
  • Behavior rating scales can scientifically measure ADD/ADHD.
  • Research has proven that ADD/ADHD has a biological cause.
  • Real Facts about ADD/ADHD
    Public and professional consensus created ADD/ADHD, not science!
  • Behavior rating scales are composed of behaviors that have been selected through consensus rather than science.
  • When a teacher, parent, or doctor rate a particular child’s behavior, there is usually a range of varying scores.
  • There is no medical researcher or geneticist has ever claimed to prove that ADD/ADHD has a biological cause or is a genetic condition.

This is not to say that problems don’t exist. For some children these problems can involve aggression and non-cooperation, lack of control in the classroom, and experiences of isolation or exclusion at school or from peers and siblings. These problems may include increased violence and temper:, breaking things, spitting, biting, kicking, hitting, swearing and name-calling. Teachers, siblings, parents, caregivers and young persons themselves can feel powerless in trying to control these problems.

However, to use the terms ADD/ADHD is to use to label these behaviours as a psychiatric label. Labeling may limit the range of available options people might otherwise have available.

The following information is often given to families whose child receives the ADD/ADHD diagnosis.

The problem is medical and the child needs medication.

The problem is psychological and the parent(s) will have to treat the child differently.
However, there are many people for whom medication has had a short-term effect or no effect at all. In these instances, the diagnosis and medication bring an additional sense of failure as well as blame and inadequacy to an already difficult situation. Unfortunately this second option presents an even heavier burden on the family. It is often a message that the mother or the child is “bad.” The mother is seen as irresponsible, as either not providing the child with the medical attention the child requires or is parenting “inadequately.” The child is not only seen as pathological, but willfully bad, otherwise the medication would have worked. These methods limit, rather than expand, families’ and professionals’ effectiveness.

Despite the above, many people experience a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD as a very positive influence or even a turning point in their lives, and they find taking medication enormously beneficial. This is a wonderful outcome for these individuals.

It is important to consider these multiple views of ADD/ADHD and to deal with the very real difficulties this problem creates.

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