Driven to Distraction

I have been reading a wonderful book, DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John Ratey. M.D. Attention Deficit Disorder is a concern for
anyone teaching, studying to become an educator or professional in the human service, or working in religious education in a parish.

This book brings to a general trade audience wisdom gained from peer-reviewed studies and research. Unlike some books on this topic, there is no ax to grind or ideology to defend. The authors have expertise in both the medical, cognitive, and
behavioral treatment of this problem. Much of the attention has looked at boys with ADD; their antics can test the patience of teacher, parent, or saint. Many think boys are overdiagnosed with this disorder. However, girls and adults may be
underdiagnosed. The authors offer screening tests and DSM IV criteria for ADD. These can be used as a first step and are obviously not valid for diagnosis.

There are helpful chapters on how ADD enters a family or a marriage and whose presence reverberates around all relationships. This knowledge forms a basis for connecting the person with ADD back into meaningful relationships with those who
can offer great support--if the problem is acknowledged, diagnosed, and talked about.

I discovered great wisdom in the chapter that teaches us how to discern the presence of ADD with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, borderline states, and family problems. Are these different manifestations of ADD + another condition or are there many different and unique disorders? Perhaps brain imaging studies and further research and understanding will lead to new categorizations in DSM V and VI.

There are 50 tips on how to manage ADD--each helpful and practical. I especially like this one: "Recharge your batteries. Related to number 30, most adults with ADD need, on a daily basis some time to waste without feeling guilty about it. One guilt-free way to conceptualize it is to call it time to recharge your batteries. Take a nap, watch TV, meditate. Something calm, restful, at ease." (p. 250). Those without ADD may find many of the approaches helpful!

For parents and teachers, there is a section on 50 classroom management tips. This chapter would be especially helpful to therapists who consult in schools. Is there a genetic link to ADD? Is it present at birth? Is is strictly a neurological disease? How do small environments or even the environment of our culture itself magnify or even cause the problem? All of these topics are examined in a classic book that will find a place in homes, schools, clinical centers, and parishes.

William Van Ornum

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Brandy Gang
6 years 5 months ago
          Being as I have never read the book, from your description, it sounds like a very helpful book for those who have ADD or even the people around those who have ADD. ADD can be a very stressful disorder not only for people who have it, but also for their teachers and parents. We as teachers-to-be have to be patient and careful by how we react to the students who do have ADD. We cannot get easily frustrated with those students, because sometimes they cannot help how they act. We simply have to learn the best practices in working with these students so that they are still learning despite their condition. 
         One point that I found very interesting in your article was the idea that boys may be over diagnosed with ADD, while girls are under diagnosed. I have heard this said before in one of my classes where we were talking about ADD. Some people think that just because young boys are usually more outgoing and outspoken compared to girls who are reserved and quiet, that they must have ADD, because they cannot sit in their seat for long. This is a very scary situation, and it clearly shows that we need to run more studies and research on ADD. Children should not be given medication for ADD if they might not have it.
maria martin
6 years 5 months ago
This book sounds very interesting and I too believe it is important for all those who plan to be involved with education to know a significant amount about ADD.  Websites like http://www.as.wvu.edu/~scidis/add.html help provide examples and strategies for teaching student with ADD. I think it is also important to discuss the topic of ADD and ADHD medications that are being abused. In the article “Adderall Abuse Growing Among College Students” author Khoi Nguyen describes the rise of this drug use on college campuses. http://www.drugrehabranch.com/staff-articles-and-drug-treatment-news/adderall-abuse-growing-among-college-students
Amanda Peluso
6 years 5 months ago
Let me start by thanking everyone who posted for their expressed interest in this topic.  It has always been a topic of concern for me, as one of my closest friends has been struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for years. 

Ever since she was little, everything seemed to be more difficult for her.  She could never concentrate.  She would have random temper tantrums in class when frustrated.  She was seemingly unable to control her emotions.  Because of these issues, it was more difficult for her to both excel academically and fit in socially.

Her uncontrollable behavior made her the subject of different forms of bullying by peers.  Despite attending fairly accepting elementary and high schools, she was secretly ridiculed by people who did not understand her.  I was always there to help and protect her, but I could not change her or how the world viewed her.

She was on medication to help her regulate her ADHD throughout childhood, but stopped by the end of high school.  Her parents had opposing viewpoints towards the use of prescription drugs, a conflict which still lingers between them today. 

I know there is a never-ending debate about whether medication should be used to treat ADHD and related disorders. Whatever your viewpoint, I ask that you remain considerate of people with these disorders. Many of you mentioned that you plan on becoming future teachers.  As educators, please strive to educate others on this prevalent issue and be personally accepting of those individuals who struggle this way.  It will be easy to become frustrated and place blame on those who make classroom management difficult. Try to look past that, as your students with these disorders could be the brightest and most beautiful people in your class.

As a side note, thank you very much for the book recommendation.  I am happy to hear that so many people are interested in reading it and learning more about these disorders.

-  Amanda P.

 
Stephanie Waring
6 years 5 months ago
This article made me think a lot about friends of mine who have ADD, and who are prescribed medications for it, and friends who believe they have ADD, and seem to abuse the medication they are prescribed.  It is definitely true that boys are overdiagnosed with the disorder, and that girls seem to be underdiagnosed. But now a days it seems that anyone who wants to “pill to make them focus”, can easily fool a doctor or psychiatrist into believing that they have ADD or ADHD just so that they can use the medication to focus easier.  I definitely know people who have done this, and I am not saying it is a good idea at all.  People who want to abuse drugs to make life or certain tasks easier for them is a sad thing to hear about. 
It is apparent in a few friends that I have, that their ADD sometimes gets the best of them, and is hard to control for them without medication.  I can tell if a friend forgot to take their medication because during conversation, they would abruptly change topic or lose train or thought, or steer into a different subject.  The quote I love from the article, "Recharge your batteries. Related to number 30, most adults with ADD need, on a daily basis some time to waste without feeling guilty about it. One guilt-free way to conceptualize it is to call it time to recharge your batteries. Take a nap, watch TV, meditate. Something calm, restful, at ease." (p. 250), is a good tip for anyone who suffers from ADD or ADHD.  That tip even works for me sometimes. If ever I feel that I can’t focus or concentrate, it isn’t because I think I have ADD or ADHD, but it is because I am overwhelmed and need to relax and take a break in order to let my mind breathe instead of go crazy due to endless amounts of school or work I have sometimes.  I believe that if a child is diagnosed early with ADHD or ADD, prescribing medication at such an early age can lead to an abuse of drugs or a dependency later on in life. I think doctors and psychiatrists should try their best to detect such a disorder early in life, but instead of turning to prescription drugs to “fix” it, focus on techniques to help a child direct their attention more, or listen more carefully, encourage and show them how to eliminate distractions when trying to concentrate on school work, or solving a puzzle, etc.
Cheryl Benjamin
6 years 5 months ago
First off, this book sounds very interesting and I am going to look more into it, especially the guidelines you mentioned that may be helpful to those who do not or have not been diagnosed with ADD.

Secondly, I have a friend who has been diagnosed with ADD so when I read this article, i thought it would be interesting to talk with her about it so i get it from a first hand source. She is a side of a twin. She told me a story that occurred before she was diagnosed. While growing up, she always did better than her brother academically. Her mother said she thought her son may have had a learning disability which she later found out to be ADD. He had a hard time focusing and concentrationg so working under time constraints (timed tests) was always one of his weaknesses. After he was diagnosed, the psychologist asked of her progression but her mother brushed it off. Her mother said she never had a problem with her daughter even after the doctor explained the strong genetic relationship. Her mother continued to brush it off.

In her freshman year of college, my friend realized that she wasnt doing well as her friends even though they were taking the same classes. She started struggling with tests and realized that she was possibly experiencing the same thing that her brother was experiencing. She spoke to her mother about it and a counselor from special services and was diagnosed in the beginning of her sophomore year in college. She might now have to take an extra year to make up for the classes that she failed in her freshmane year.

Her stroy taught me alot in relation to this blog. One thing it confirmed was the strong genetic trait of ADD. As kayna mentioned, ADD is almost as genetic as height! Secondly, it draws me to the conclusion that boys could be diagnosed more due to a social issue. In this case, it seemed as if my friends mother didnt want her daughter to be diagnosed but was fine with her son being diagnosed. Another thing i learned from her story was that ADD can take a long period of time to be diagnosed, not because it is not a active trait but becuase people tend to brush it off anfd place their lack of concentration or focus on external factors
Juan Lino
6 years 5 months ago
The book sounds really interesting Bill.  I have a friend with ADD and it's a real cross for her - and for me when I try to have a conversation with her because she plays verbal hopscotch and I feel like I am having a surrealist conversation. 

Thanks for bringing up the topic.
we vnornm
6 years 5 months ago
Juan,

Thanks for your response. ADD and many other conditions are truly a cross and hopefully we can raise awareness here about this. I've worked with many people with ADD and this book captures what it really is like. (ADD/ADHD can often be confused with other conditions and some doubt its existence, and this sometimes creates even more problems for someone who suffers from it or for parents or a family. Your phrase "verbal hopscoth" to me captures what can happen in ADD. By the way, I have been reading your posts on the other blogs and am glad that your are among the contributors in some of the difficult discussions going on. amdg, bill
Kailee Mcevoy
6 years 5 months ago
This book sounds interesting and helpful to anyone diagnosed with ADD or anyone close to someone diagnosed with ADD, be it a family member, teacher, or friend.  You brought up a good point when you stated that girls may be underdiagnosed. Though many people believe it's less common in girls, there is evidence that it is just less commonly diagnosed and treated.  Patricia Quinn, director of the National Center for Gender Issues and ADHD explained that the reason many girls are overlooked is that they present hyperactivity differently than boys. "'In a classroom setting, a boy might continually blurt out answers or repeatedly tap his foot, whereas a girl might demonstrate hyperactivity by talking incessantly,' she says. A girl who talks all the time is often viewed by the teacher as chatty, not hyper or problematic — and thus is less likely to be recommended for an evaluation (http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1626.html)."
From what you have written on the book, I am inspired to read it and possibly purchase it for my classroom someday. There are so many misconceptions and misunderstandings about ADHD, hopefully this book can help to combat those.
Joseph Komorowski
6 years 5 months ago
I think this book would be very useful for future teachers to read.  One idea that you brought up that I found interesting was how boys are overdiagnosed with ADHD, while girls are underdiagnosed. 
I did a project on ADHD when I was taking the Exceptional Child, and I found many articles on the misdiagnosis of ADHD.  I was just reading another article about how there are many children who are misdiagnosed with ADHD.  The title of the article even states that there is the potential for about one million children in the United States alone to be misdiagnosed with ADHD.  That is very scary because children with ADHD take medication to control it, but what if a child is misdiagnosed?  The article says it does not know the long term effects of the drugs being used to treat ADHD, so what would happen if a child was just taking this medication even if he or she didn't need it and it harmed them?  Like the psychiatrist who met with his patient for 15 minutes to change the patient's prescription, I think more time needs to be taken when working with children who potentially have ADHD in order to make sure that they will not be misdiagnosed.


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100817103342.htm
we vnornm
6 years 5 months ago
Kailee,

it's especially sad when a young woman is not diagnosed until college or even afterwards. One of the interesting and frustrating things I have learned about ADHD is that is it both OVERDIAGNOSED and UNDERDIAGNOSED at the same time. And sadly there ate persons who misrepresent themselves as having ADHD (read: fake) in order to get access to psychostimulant drugs. Thanks for the good points youd made. bvo
Joseph Komorowski
6 years 5 months ago
Just to add what I just previously commented, I think that ADHD needs to be studied more.  It is just too dangerous to be giving children medication to treat something that they might not even have.  I also think it is important that future teachers better understand disorders such as ADHD in order to make better themselves, the children in their class who have a learning disability or another type of disability, and the other students in the class.  Reading books such as the one being discussed in this article can help better a classroom environment.
Alyssa Moirano
6 years 5 months ago
 Attention Deficit Disorder has always been a fascinating topic for me. One of my close friends has a brother with ADD, and the impact it has had on both his family and his life is eye-opening.  I have watched him grow up with this disorder, and for many years now, I have thought to myself: “What if I had this child in my classroom?”  He can never sit still at home and does not listen to any rules or consequences.  I have always wondered what life as his teacher would be like.
As my fieldwork experiences began in elementary schools, I came across more and more students with this disorder.  Although at times, it was obvious that these particular students functioned differently, at others it was impossible to notice a difference between their behavior and that of other’s.  I have caught on to several tips that, according to teachers, make all the difference.
For example, I have learned that the physical setup of the classroom is an important aspect when dealing with a child with ADD.  The student should be seated away from doors, windows, and even other loud peers.  He/she should be seated towards the front of the classroom where the teacher can easily prompt the child to say on task.  Students with ADD should also be given breaks throughout the day.  Any child that is forced to sit at a desk with no intermission would become antsy; and this is even truer when it comes to children with this disorder. Increased movement and physical activity will help the student stay on task throughout the day.  This activity can be as simple as having the child run an errand for the teacher, or even putting away materials.  It will help portray to the child appropriate ways and appropriate times to move around.
In addition, I have observed the importance of a strict behavior plan when dealing with students with ADD.  According to an article from HelpGuide.org, children with Attention Deficit Disorder need “structure and clear expectations in order to keep their symptoms in check,” and behavior plans do just that.  These plans will help students work on specific goals by providing them with positive reinforcement and direct feedback.
However, like the article shows, effects of ADD do not stop at the classroom door.  It is a disease that strongly impacts all aspects of life: from family to relationships to jobs.  However, where does this disease come from?  In the past, some have felt that ADD is a result of poor parenting.  However, scientists have done studies and brain imaging which have helped show that ADD does have a genetic factor.  For example, Anita Thapar, a professor of psychiatry at Cardiff University, scanned the gene maps of more than 1,400 children.  She and her team found that those with ADD were more likely than others to have small chunks of their DNA duplicated or missing (Kelland, 2010).
 
Article link: http://helpguide.org/mental/adhd_add_teaching_strategies.htm
Kristen Kannengeiser
6 years 5 months ago
I think that ADD and ADHD are disorders associated with many misconceptions and misunderstandings. As mentioned in the article it is often under diagnosed and over diagnosed. Some of the confusion about diagnosis may stem from the fact that there are still many unanswered questions about the disorder. The questions brought up in the article are many common questions and this book seems very helpful to anyone affected by or dealing with ADD. I think this book would provide interesting perspective because the authors have so much experience dealing with the disorder in many different forms, cognitively, medically, and behaviorally. It seems that this book gives advice and insight into helping an individual with ADD. Even though diagnosis may not be perfect the most important thing is that each child is given the assistance they need to reach their full potential academically, and socially. I think this is the most important goal to have as an educator for every student.  
While researching the topic a little further I found an interesting research study that was conducted. These authors had found that much of the research in the past 40 years suspected “that ADHD is largely an American disorder and is much less prevalent elsewhere. This impression was reinforced by the perception that ADHD may stem from social and cultural factors that are most common in American society.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525089/) There research found that this was untrue children in numerous different countries were affected by ADHD. The authors believe that the recognition of this idea could greatly increase the psychiatric care of children. I feel that ADHD may not be a product of the individual’s social and cultural environment but that may account for some of the under diagnosis and over diagnosis which occurs today. By finding out it is not solely an American disorder may give a little more understanding to society.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525089/
Jaclyn Greiner
6 years 5 months ago
            This book sounds really interesting and informative, I have always found ADD very intriguing and yet complicated. What I wonder is does the book only focus on attention deficit disorder or does it talk about the hyperactive and impulsivity aspects of the disorder as well. I was under the impression that ADD is no longer the correct medical name rather ADHD which encompasses both types of the disorder. Either way I strongly agree with the statement made in this article about girl students being underdiagnosed. In my opinion girls do not get referred for ADHD as much as boys because while boys have the hyperactive and attention deficit aspects of the disorder I think many girls have the attention deficit as well but since they are not as hyper it goes under the radar. I have two friends in college who did not get diagnosed with ADHD until high school. They both said that they were never hyper in school but always struggled on focusing, organization, and finishing assignments on time.
            Their experiences further my belief that girls get under diagnosed for ADHD even more. If my two friends got all the way to high school without being diagnosed there is an obvious flaw in the system when it comes to referring girls who don’t show the hyperactive or impulsive sides of ADHD for an evaluation. This may just be because it is hard to recognize in girls. According to an article I read,  the usual signs include things like “inattentiveness, poor school performance, and depressive affect” these things “elicit less attention from teachers and parents than characteristic ADHD symptoms seen in boys, such as disruptive behavior and acting out.”(Slovak, 2008, p.12) The symptoms that girls display are a lot less noticeable and don’t cause as much trouble to the teacher and parents alike. For example “teacher based reports indicated that boys with ADHD display more classroom symptoms of inattention than girls with ADHD.” (Slovak, 2008, p.12) Overall I believe that parents and teachers should be more aware and attune to girls who may be struggling in school and who seem inattentive at times. Although it may not be ADHD, the earlier a student gets diagnosed the earlier they can get help to succeed.
            Slovak, J.A. (2008). Identification and classroom strategies for girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: development of a handbook for teachers (Dissertation ), Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=32rUzaGOmHAC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
Sabrina Scanga
6 years 5 months ago
Dr. Van Ornum,

I am happy to see that you have posted this article! It was extrmemly interesting to read and I am drawn to this book, DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John Ratey. M.D. It seems very fascinating to me and I am curious to continue reading the 50 tips on how to manage ADD you mentioned briefly. As a future teacher, I feel the need to read that section to earn methods to work and deal better with students who may have ADD in my classroom one day. Over the last couple of years the term ADD has truely sprung everywhere! It is a disorder that interests me and I am looking for answers as to why it is so common. It is an interesting, yet scary point that you and other make that children could be OVERDIAGNOSED. Overdiagnoses makes me think that there are children in the world who are taking medicine for something they do not have, which is awful.
I enjoyed reading about recharging your batteries. I think that as a future teacher it is important to keep this in mind as well as think outside the box to other methods like can work for students in our classrooms. I know that providing a student with a bouncy ball as a chair works fabulously because I have seen in a classroom observation.

This article inspired me to do some more research on the topic of ADD and I came across this website: http://www.add.org/site/PageServer
Anyone interested in gaining more knowledge on the topic should visit. Article are provided to address many different aspects of the disorder. One that I found interesting was titled A Tale of Two Children: From School-age Struggles to Adult Success written by Emmy Fearn, M.A.
http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/support/874-from-struggles-to-success.gs?page=1

It tells the story of a brother and sister who struggled with ADD in elementary school and throughout their education but today they are striving high! One is applying to law school, while the other is a freshman studying computer science. The article states that hard work, dedication, and structured education did the trick. As a future teacher, this makes me smile because I know I can provide that for a child one day!
Juan Lino
6 years 5 months ago
Thanks for your kind and supportive words Bill.  AMDG!
Daniela Pereira
6 years 5 months ago
The article above brought various things to mind when reading about individuals with ADD. The first item is my perception of a child with ADD in the classroom. I have been a volunteer in elementary schools and have been placed with a child who has ADD and warned “keep an eye on him.” Of course our perceptions of children with ADD is they are unable to pay attention, may not be able to focus for a long period of time or even stay relaxed in their seats But at the same time we need to understand that they are children as well. All children are jittery and don’t have an attention span longer than 30 minutes. The article explains the idea of “recharging you battery’s” as an adult with ADD. What about a child in a classroom? If there are teachers who have a child in their classroom who does have ADD, the teacher should think of an activity that the whole class can engage in to let each child let loose (mainly so the one child with ADD doesn’t feel like an outsider), but also to help the classroom environment. When one child starts to get squirmy and not pay attention, other children are more likely to engage in the same behavior. Teachers should pick up on the classroom environment and attempt to benefit the whole class in a healthy manner.
There was another issue mentioned, on how there are males who are over diagnosed for having ADD and females who are underdiagnosed. I feel being diagnosed with having ADD or ADHD is “simple” this day in age. I even believe some people convince themselves they have ADD/ADHD or convince their doctors they have it, due to pressures in society. My generation and even future generations have been programmed to believe school and grades are essential for success in the future. With these pressures, people feel compelled to do whatever it takes to succeed and be the best when competing with classmates. If being the best means taking prescription drugs, which will allow a person to pull an all-nighter and study for a test resulting in a better grade, people will do it. The following article discusses the use of Adderall on a college campus in order to strive for academic success. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/adderall-psychosis-suicide-college-students-abuse-study-drug/story?id=12066619
Alyssa Cariani
6 years 5 months ago
Daniela, I'm so happy you brought up the usage of Adderall on college campuses.
Almost every week, I encounter a fellow Marist student using these types of medications recreationally. What I have noticed is that because these students would rather do just about anything else beside study, they wait to prepare for exams or papers until the night before the due dates. That night, they pop an Adderall they purchased from a friend with an actual diagnosis of ADHD and spend the whole night completing the assignments. To them, this is ideal because they are able to complete the assignments on-time without wasting any time at the bar the nights before the due date. Clearly, this is no way to learn. 
A study completed at Louisiana State University sought to determine the relationship between ADHD meds, study habits, and academic achievement of ADHD-diagnosed undergraduate students. Although the drugs reportedly helped the students who took them, they admitted to being far worse than other students at managing their time and completing assignments. Preliminary data from the student suggested that learning good study habits alone could help the students with ADHD make up for the differences in academic success.
Perhaps instead of diagnosing and prescribing, we should do more to teach students, beginning at a young age, how to study and manage their time effectively.
If you're interested in this article, here's the link: http://jad.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/07/16/1087054710371168.full.pdf+html
 
Lynde Kayser
6 years 5 months ago
I was quite surprised by your suggestion that ADD could be an under diagnosed disorder.  It seems to me that more kids than not are being diagnosed with ADD in today’s generation, and those diagnosed are overwhelmingly male.  However, isn’t it possible that this is because elementary aged boys simply have too much energy to be confined to a desk for the majority of their day?  Or perhaps classroom activities are just not engaging enough to keep a seven year old interested for a 45 minute period.  There is also the problem of high school or college level students faking the disorder to gain access to medication in a high stress environment.  Having recently watched the film “Generation Rx” in my biopsychology class, I am skeptical of the overwhelming numbers of children being diagnosed with ADD.
 
This article (http://www.srmhp.org/0201/adhd.html)discusses the 700% increase in the use of psychostimulant drugs since 1990.  As in “Generation Rx”, the article also discusses that there is no known biological cause of the disorder, and no universally accepted method of diagnosis.  In fact, symptoms of ADHD are similar to those of children who are intellectually gifted and simply bored in the classroom because they are not being challenged.  Should we really be prescribing medication to our kids based on a haphazard diagnosis?
 
Though I agree that ADHD is an important diagnosis that can greatly change a child’s schooling experience, I also think that a more definitive diagnosis needs to be developed.  The drastic increase in the amount children being medicated is cause for concern.  Even when a child is properly diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, I believe that medication should not be the go-to response.  Changing the learning environment and working one on one with the child should be the first response.  Medication should only be used when all alternatives have failed.  I think that ADHD is a disorder that must be revaluated in terms of both diagnosis and treatment. 
6 years 5 months ago
The book sounds wonderful.  I will be ordering it and reading it with great interest.  My little family illustrates the changes in how ADD, ADHD and other disorders are diagnosed and treated.  My son is 44 and my daughter is 39, so their history encompasses over 4 decades.  At age 4, Frank was seen by a neurologist, psychologist and was diagnosed with minimal brain dysfunction.  Do you remember this diagnosis, Bill?  He was extremely hyperactive and was on Ritalin for a trial.  Instead of meds he was given behavioral therapy (or bribery as he called it).  By then, his sister was born and by the age of 3 we recognized that she too had some sort of disability.  She was also extremely hyperactive.  I had two children bouncing off the walls.  She was DX with expressive aphasia; she was enuretic and encopretic and had many temper tantrums as she could not express her needs and wants.  I learned that is I held her tight to my body for long periods of time, she would be calm and able to sleep.  We had moved to CA and registered both children with the state agency for the developmentally disabled. Years of various therapies, changing diagnoses followed.  My daughter was in a class for children with severe language disorders throughout her schooling, with some mainstreaming in high school.  The consensus then was that she was autistic.  Schooling and Girl Scouts meant all the difference in her life.  She is still highly distractible and forgetful  and she is very vulnerable in the "outside world".  She works in supported employment and recently was awarded as the employee of the year at the La Jolla AMC theater where she ushers.

My son is another story.  His diagnosis changed over the years. At one time he was considered retarded and was in the educable retarded classrooms.  The school and psychologist determined he was ADHD and should be in that type of classroom.  His schooling was a nightmare, no matter how much advocacy I did on his behalf.  He was in 9 different schools as his program kept moving around.  He was eventually dx as autistic and when he was 28 he had his first psychotic break .  So he is dually diagnosed as autistic and schizophrenic.  He had worked in supported employment for many years, but hasn't worked now for 2 years and is home all day.  Pacing and saying:  "Hi mom, how are you?" at least 100 times a day.

Having a child or children with disabilities of any kind is profoundly difficult and places great stress on marriages, especially if the marriage is wobbly to begin with.  The stress manifests itself in parents who have stress related diseases and die at young ages.  Divorce is common.  My best friends in the network have died.  My social life is restricted and I depend on my friends" understanding and patience.  I never entertain company, other than my family, at home.  My childrens" very peculiar behaviors are off-putting and some friends are afraid of someone with schizophrenia.  While I am so accustomed to the unusual behaviors, they dont phase me, they make some people uncomfortable.  I think some of this discomfort may be changing in people of my generation as they have grandchildren with disabilities.  Another hard thing to deal with is the criticism of family and friends of one's parenting skills.  Then there were some in the field who called mothers of autistic childfren, "ice-box mothers".  I am more of an  "earth mother" myself :-)
Leo Zanchettin
6 years 5 months ago
Thanks, Bill, for this post. I especially appreciated the point about over- and under-diagnosing ADHD. Another element here is the question of misdiagnosis. ADHD seems to have become a catch-all for any and all behavioral issues in children.

Case in point: A pediatrician diagnosed our daughter with ADHD four years ago and prescribed medication for her. But it didn't work all that well, and we had to deal with side effects like sleeplessness, anxiety, and irritability-not to mention social awkwardness. The doctor insisted that it was because my wife and I were not doing a good enough job raising her, which only added to our stress and concern. And still our little girl was falling behind in school and finding it harder and harder to make friends.

It wasn't until her younger brother was diagnosed with autism two years later that we began to suspect that something else may be going on. Sure enough, a couple of visits to a clinical psychologist resulted in a diagnosis of asperger syndrome. It seems that the pediatrician, because she was so accustomed to writing prescriptions for ADHD medication, completely missed the other signs. 

Our girl is doing much better now that we have a more comprehensive plan in place that is helping her cope with the challenges of life on the autism spectrum. As for those two years of misdiagnosis-well, let's just say that we learned a lot!

So yes, ADHD is overdiagnosed, even in girls. It's tempting to go with the easy answer. But it's not always the right answer. 
Kerri Smith
6 years 5 months ago
I find this blog positing particularly interesting as it affects me directly in terms of my ideal future career; I am looking to go into school psychology. I had never really considered ADD a serious disorder before. I have known a few acquaintances with ADD, but to me that only meant they needed medication to be able to focus. It had never occurred to me that there was so much more to the disorder than that. Reading this blog, I realize that it is incredibly important to understand the needs of those with ADD in order to work to effectively help them. I will certainly look into reading this book to help me with this, as it will be inevitable that I face many children with ADD throughout my career.

I especially found it interesting that people are often misdiagnosed with ADD. Goldman, Genel, Bezman, and Slanetz (1998) found that  the disorder is often ''diagnosed inappropriately at times because of failure to do a thorough enough evaluation or to use established diagnostic criteria.'' While their research may be a little outdated now, this is still a very current problem. This only further stresses the importance of psychiatrists getting to know patients as discussed in your previous blog on the mental health care system today. It is imperative that we take our time in assessing individuals in order to fully help them, even if this means getting by on less pay.

Article: http://www.hkcss.org.hk/rh/rpp/HKPaediatricSociety20050630DxRx_ADHD_Council%20Report_JAMA_1998.pdf
 
Leo Zanchettin
6 years 5 months ago
Janice-Our posts must have crossed in cyber space! So many similarities in our stories, even if my kids are much younger than yours. Blessings upon you for all your years of caring for your children!
Erin Graetzer
6 years 5 months ago
   This book sounds fascinating. I definitely believe that the disease is one that is both underdiagnosed and overdiagnosed. Boys usually seem to get the diagnosis because they tend to act more hyper in nature as young boys. I've never doubted the existence of the disease but I do believe it is too often used as a "excuse", if you will. Especially in the classroom, I think some teachers may have problems with behavior management and so they turn to the disorder to explain why their class might be out of control. (That is just a hypothetical example). What I am getting at is my fear that this nation is becoming too dependent on drugs as the answers to problems. If a kid is a little rowdy and has trouble focusing, instead of trying some techniques to help control the problem, many times people assume, "oh he/she must have ADHD" and therefore place them on medications (which they become dependent on) when it actually is not needed. 
   Also I think an interesting fact about ADHD is that these children (or adults) have trouble focusing. Many times it is assumed that they cannot focus on anything but in reality they are focusing on everything and that is why it is difficult for them to concentrate on one thing at a time.  
6 years 5 months ago
Continued from #16

Some years ago, before my son's first breakdown, my children were studied by a dysmorphologist, Dr. Marilyn Jones.  Dr. Jones determined that their condition was genetic.  Their father and I were unable to pinpoint who in our families may have had these disabilities as two branches of the families were largely unknown.

Bill, thank you for your post and bringing this important subject up for discussion.  I find the comments and perspective of the students to be very interesting and helpful.

Leo,  Thank you for the kind wishes.  I send you blessings too as your family meets the challenges ahead .  Our Faith is a great support in carrying our crosses.  Janice
Christine Castellana
6 years 5 months ago
I have to agree with Janice (#15). After watching the movie Generation Rx, I will never feel the same about ADD and ADHD EVER AGAIN!

I understand that many people may experience the symptoms of ADD, but maybe there is another cause for such behaviors.  According to Generation Rx, diagnosing ADD in children is a very profitable thing for drug companies.  Think about it. It starts a child on a drug that they will be hooked on for life, ultimately determining who they will be as a person, before they really even have a chance to grow up to find out. Also keep in mind that some people in the APA are also members of the FDA (I believe there is some clause or something somewhere that forgives this conflict of interest).

Face it, some kids are just hyper.  My one neighbor is a great example of this. We were both the same age and my sister babysat for him occassionally. Let me tell you, he was off-the-wall, 100% certifiably hyperactive and what I considered to be insane at the age of 7! He pretty much bounced off the walls all day long and was a complete troublemaker. Then....he grew up. Now, he is a handsome, charming, CALM, young man. My neighbor also was able to release much of his energy through swimming and other sports. I think some people are just more energetic than others and maybe we can turn this around some how and use it to their advantage.

 Maybe parents need to think of alternative ideas when it comes to engaging a "hyperactive" child, such as more interesting and hands on ways of learning.  Sitting in a classroom for a long time for ANY ONE is boring and if you take a look around the room, everyone is shaking their legs.  Generation Rx even acknowledges how parents can be worse than the children! If a psychiatrist does not think the child should be on Adderrall or Ritalin, some parents say, "Well, fine, I'll just find another doctor who will prescribe."  I am not implying that all parents are like this, but some want to take the easy way out and will choose medication over behavioral methods.  I also suspect that some of the parents want it and have their children pretend that they have ADD so that they can get prescriptions.  I know that this occurs at my pharmacy. There is a woman who has the calmest children ever, yet her son is supposedly just starting on Ritalin? Yeah right. She is a huge drug addict and we suspect that she is just using his name to get the drugs.

I think that the book that you speak of sounds like it is a very informative book, but I really think that before people start talking about this, they should watch Generation Rx.  It has interviews with many doctors, reporters, and even has footage of conferences where the researchers are so full of s***, they do not even know how to keep their story straight. For the Marist students reading this, talk to Dr. Dingman or Dr. Otte and I am sure they would talk to you about it.
 
Allyse Bamonte
6 years 5 months ago
     I am in no way trying to disrespect the opinions of others, I am just simply stating my own. I obviously am no expert in ADD/ADHD or any areas of psychology for that matter, but i have gathered my beliefs through my own research and experiences.

     I also agree with Lynde (#15). I was always fairly skeptical of ADD/ADHD and was hesitant to believe that people who are inattentive or hyperactive have a disorder specifically causing this. I am not saying that nothing is wrong, however, I do not believe that the problem lies simply in the fact that he or she has a brain abnormality specifically creating inattentive or hyperactive behaviors. What makes a person this way? What contributing factor/s is behind this matter?
     After watching Generation Rx (which is clearly biased), my previous beliefs were solidified. I was amazed to hear how drug companies planned to target the only untouched population (children) right before ADD/ADHD sprang up and became such a popular diagnoses in the 80s. In Dr. Fred Baughman's book, The ADHD Fraud: How Psychiatry Makes "Patients" of Normal Children, he discusses how most parents are never shown blood or brain scans of their child's supposed chemical imbalance simply because there is no imbalance. There is no data supporting a chemical imbalance causing ADD/ADHD (Baughman, 2006). Through my research, I have found many different studies claiming various things about the brains of children with ADHD. One found that the hippocampus is enlarged and the prefrontal cortex is smaller than normal (unknown,2009), another claims that the
prefrontal cortex, caudate nucleus and globus pallidus are all smaller in boys with ADHD than those without ADHD (NIMH, 2009). I'm not necessarily convinced. To me, these studies are not entirely reliable considering that they all seem to find issues with different areas of the brain. This leads me to my point. Because there are so many POSSIBLE areas of the brain associated with ADD/ADHD, perhaps these children have other issues that are being hidden through symptoms such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness, impulsivity, etc.
      Accordingly, I think today's society is too quick to jump the gun and say that a child showing any of these symptoms should be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. There are so many possible explanations for these behaviors. Perhaps the child has anxieties, so he or she becomes fidgety when worried, which can be all the time if the child has an anxiety disorder. What if the child has a processing disorder in which they have trouble learning, so instead of trying to listen and gaining nothing, they tune the teacher out and daydream instead?  I don't believe the girls are underdiagnosed, but the other way around. Because boys are in general more active and restless (especially young boys), they are often evaluated as being too disruptive, noisy, jumpy. Maybe the child has no backyard at home and is too often inside, so he becomes hyperactive from the buildup of energy. Maybe the student has a sensory impairment in which he/she receives too much stimulation and cannot block out distractions and focus. What if the child has a metabolic issue causing an excess of energy that the child feels the urge to release? Maybe the child has despression or is going through a difficult stage in their life that is causing them to be inattentive to matters within the classroom because they are constantly thinking or worrying? Possibly school is the only place in which the child receives attention, so any attention whether good or bad, is better than none. What if the child's brain is perfectly fine, but is developmentally delayed, so that the child needs a few extra years to mature to the level of most children his/her age? I think you get my point. I'm just throwing out examples of what CAN be the cause of a child who is very hyperactive or inattentive.
     On the other hand, I also think there is another large contributor to ADHD symptoms that is not due to a physical abnormality of the brain. I believe that some people displaying these symptoms of ADHD have many insecurities. I'm sure we all know someone who is constantly seeking attention, and goes about it in the wrong types of ways. Many times someone who is very insecure, intends to cover it up by acting in opposition, seeking approval from peers. A young girl or boy may struggle with insecurities, be it from academic failure, physical appearance, or something other, and in an attempt to escape from these insecurities, they act up as the class clown being disruptive in order to make his/her peers laugh and approve of them. Attention seeking behaviors, in my opinion, most often come from people who struggle with insecurities and want to feel the approval of others.
        Consequently, I don't believe that teachers, psychologists, or anyone else should assume that children have ADD/ADHD. Perhaps they should take a deeper look into what can be causing these behaviors to show up. With so many what ifs and no definite answers regarding ADD/ADHD and the brain, I feel strongly that psychologists and psychiatrists should evaluate their patients critically and try to work out underlying problems. Dr. Robert Mendelsohn MD states that, "No one has ever been able to demonstrate that drugs such as Cylert and Ritalin improve the academic performance of the children who take them" (Shirley's Wellness Cafe). If this is the case, there should not be so many students on medicine for ADD/ADHD. Yes, perhaps the child is calmer, but if they are making no learning gains, clearly there is still something blocking this knowledge acquisition other than the displayed symptoms.  Hyperactivity has been addressed succesfully in many cases using behavioral and cognitive behavioral therapy(Kendall & Braswell, 1993), and I feel strongly that these remedies should be increased and stronger programs for them should be implemented since ADD/ADHD diagnoses are on the rise.


Baughman, F.A. Jr. (2006). The ADHD Fraud: How Psychiatry Makes "Patients" of Normal Children. Retrieved from http://books.google.com

Kendall, P.C. & Braswell, L. (1993). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy For Impulsive Children Second Edition. Retrieved from http://books.google.com


http://nyp.org/enews/ADHD.html

http://www.healthyplace.com/adhd/nimh/subtle-brain-circuit-abnormalities-confirmed-in-adhd/menu-id-888/

http://www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com/ritalin.htm#fred
we vnornm
6 years 5 months ago
Thanks to everyone for the many intelligent and informative comments. This is one topic with many facets and different researchers, books, articles, movies, etc. bring out different points and come to different conclusions. Hope to hear more on this. Has anyone read the book or at least skimmed it? bvo
Lia DeGregorio
6 years 5 months ago
This book seems very interesting, helpful and informative. I have always been fascinated by ADHD and would love to learn more about it. It seems that today it has become a very broad area, sometimes overdiagnosed, yet still underdiagnosed.

After tutoring for 6 years, I worked with 2 students who have ADHD; one boy and one girl. This allowed me to experience the disorder first hand and see how it affects children of different genders in different ways.

One thing I was extremely interested in was the relationship these children had with their siblings and their parents. They seemed to be treated as inferiors and many would roll their eyes at them in frustration. I often received notes from their teachers, decribing the progress of the students and what they still needed to accomplish. What surprised me was the attitudes of the people in the students' lives. The teachers treated the students almost like they were incapable of completing the necessary work, using ADHD as an excuse.

By working with these students one-on-one I was able to understand their strengths and weaknesses and use them in my favor. Every once and a while, one of the students would get up and get a tissue, sharpen her pencil, use the bathroom, or perform some other activity that required her to get up from her seat. Her teachers acknowledged this behavior as negative, claiming the student was unable to learn if this was being done. What I actually found was that this behavior was helpful. It allowed the student to regroup her thoughts and "recharge her batteries" in a way. The same goes for the other student I worked with.

I think much more research must be done in this area and many more training programs for family members, teachers, and anyone else who has a relationship with someone who has ADHD must be created. More people need to understand that people with ADHD can still learn and that high expectations should still be set for them. Even the slightest change or accommodation can make a huge difference.
Christine Castellana
6 years 5 months ago
I would like to share the trailer for Generation Rx

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xehHwkPpevk

By no means, am I implying that people do not suffer with problems associated with ADD/ADHD, but since I and others here have mentioned this movie, I figured it is worth sharing the link! Please take a look at it and explore both sides of the story. Also, the movie discusses not just ADD medication, but anti-depressants in adolescents as well.

I apologize for straying from the original topic, which was the book DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood. It must be helping people, because on Amazon, 129 people gave it 5 stars.  Dr. Hallowell also has a website that is worth looking at. (Check out: http://www.drhallowell.com/books/driven-to-distraction-recognizing-and-coping-with-attention-deficit-disorder-from-childhood-through-adulthood/) .

 I have personally never read the book, but what makes it more valuable is the fact that these men have ADD (or if you don't believe in that, as some of you have said, they at least have suffered with the symptoms), so they know a great deal of what it is like to live life with hyperactivity, inattention, etc. 

I like the advice mentioned here about making time to relax and enjoy TV, books, etc, but that shouldn't get too excessive. In fact, that is a problem. Of course, we all need time to decompress, but our society "decompresses" WAY too much. Too many children are inside playing video games instead of riding bikes or playing catch outside. Too many kids are listening to their iPods as they lay in bed doing nothing instead of running outside and playing kickball with the neighborhood children.  Our energy needs to eventually come out of us some way! I suspect those are some of the kids that act up in school.

Do not get me wrong, we all need to recharge.  For example, I am constantly in motion during the week with driving to school, attending classes, working, etc.  I have even displayed symptoms of ADD sometimes (which I think a lot of people display in varying degrees). I noticed that if I do not exercise regularly throughout the week, I am completely scatterbrained.  I misplace things, I forget to do homework assignments, I plan to walk upstairs to grab a cup of tea and end up walking downstairs with something completely different and unrelated, then I have to walk all the way back upstairs to get what I originally wanted, and the process repeats over and over.

When I exercise, though, I am on top of my game. My grades are always better and I have much more focus and drive to complete all of my assignments successfully and with high-quality.  It's as if physically exercising stimulates my mind and makes things much more clear. It also teaches me time management because I have to schedule my day around when I can exercise.  I have been doing this throughout most of college and it has helped me manage my life tremendously.  I give this example because, as I referred to in my previous post, people who have these symptoms need to get their energy out in a physical, positive, and appropriate way.

Then, because I have accomplished everything I've needed to accomplish in a timely manner, I can "recharge my batteries" guilt free as well and sit back and watch episodes of Seinfeld and The Office.  Now that is happiness, my friends:)

Thanks Dr. V for a thought-provoking, controversial, and interesting topic!
Erica Rascati
6 years 5 months ago
ADD is a topic that is discussed frequently in my education and psychology courses. From listening to different professors speak of the issue I have been able to hear many different points of view. One of my professors posed a question for thought to my class the other day, ‘is ADD  actually becoming more prevalent or is it just that our societies norms are beginning to stifle physical activity and movement on a day to day basis and therefore kids can’t release their energy in a healthy way?’ I found this question very interesting. It got me to think about how kids are stuck in their desks all day and then later strapped into a car. When they go home they are doing homework, watching television, and playing video games. When do they get the opportunity to run around outside and release their energy? Are safety concerns and modern technology stifling students to the point where they get to school and are hyper because they haven’t gotten to burn off any energy? This idea was an interesting one for me to ponder. I do think that the over diagnosis of ADD could have something to do with the fact that many children aren’t running around outside anymore because of safety concerns, technology, and just not having enough time in the day. Then these students get into a classroom and they are active and hyper… and it may appear like ADD. But students really need to be diagnosed properly so that they aren’t being unnecessarily medicated. I came across an article discussing the over diagnosis of ADD and I thought it was an interesting read. One statistic from the article stated that “One to two percent of adult men and women in the United States have been said to have attention deficit disorder, and three to ten percent of children are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in the United States, with three quarters of them boys.” I am unsure of why boys are over diagnosed and girls under diagnosed? It may just have to do with the inattentive forms of ADD which are harder to catch and are more prevalent in girls. Here is the article I looked at, it has some interesting information on ADD as well as discussion of the over diagnosis of the disorder: http://www.doreka.com/add/000018.htm .
6 years 5 months ago
Sometimes I wonder if there is a correlation between the rise of this syndrome and the cutting of the arts (music, art, phys.ed, and in some schools, no recess) in the schools!? 
Kayna Pfeiffer
6 years 5 months ago
What I find interesting about ADD is that research has shown that a large percentage of adults (75%) who have this disorder are unaware of it. Many adults who do not display compulsive or hyperactive symptoms do not know that they have this disorder. Instead, they may attribute their behaviors to forgetfulness.  I feel that if they were aware of their disorder earlier in life then they may have had an easier time coping with their symptoms and received effective treatment to manage their symptoms. Also, if they were diagnosed as a child instead of during adulthood, they would be more educated on the disorder and may be able to pick up on ADD symptoms if present in their children. This is especially important given that ADD runs in families.

According to Dr. Theresa Cerulli ''The genetics are strong. ADD is almost as inheritable as height.'' Thus, if a child has the disorder it is more than likely that one of their parents has it as well.  By being proactive in diagnosing this disorder, children may be able to socialize better with their peers and do better in school. It is important for early intervention to occur so that children do not have to struggle. This is a very important topic to discuss and we should continue to educate others on this disorder.

(2007, April 12). Genetic link has more parents being diagnosed with ADD: Experts say disorder runs in families. Retrieved from:http://www.thebostonchannel.com/r/11731794/detail.html
Casey McGowan
6 years 5 months ago
While I was reading this, I couldn't help but wonder if ADHD is an "American disorder." It seems that we give the issue a lot of attention here, but most of what I hear refers only to the American population. If it were something that was more common in the United States, that could indicate that it is largely due to environment and culture. However, according to one study on the worldwide prevalence of ADHD, non-US children are just as likely to be diagnosed. This study looked primarily at other developed countries (i.e. UK, Australia, Italy, Japan) whose medical systems are on par with ours, so knowledge and ability to diagnose the disorder should not have played a significant role.
Although it appears that diagnosis is fairly steady around the world, I still wonder- as others have brought up- if we are mistaking kids being kids for hyperactivity. Medication is certainly necessary for some individuals to maintain focus, but I think that we should be putting more effort into changing their behavior without prescriptions before resorting to medication. It would be interesting to see if any research shows the effectiveness of medication versus behavior therapy.


Faraone, S.V., Sergeant, J., Gillberg, C., & Biederman, J. (2003). The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: is it an American condition? World Psychiatry, 2(2), 104-113. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525089/
Diana Sablich
6 years 5 months ago
The general population often has an incorrect belief of what Attention Deficit Disorder is.  Some common misconceptions are that these people are not able to pay attention to anything, are extremely talkative, and are always active.  Although these misconceptions are common, they are extremely false.  To begin, people with ADD can pay attention, it’s just that everything grasps their focus and attention it takes some time to focus in and concentrate on a task.  Also, people who have ADD are not necessarily talkative or hyperactive; the student in your class with ADD might be the student who doesn’t talk or volunteer, and is well behaved. 
This book sounds extremely interesting! I think it is very important for people, especially future teachers to read the book you mentioned.  It is important for people to read about how people with ADD cope from childhood through adulthood.  This book could be a real eye-opener to people who are unaware about ADD.  Broadening people’s knowledge about this disorder will lead to fewer incorrect judgments about people with ADD.  The 50 tips mentioned on how to manage ADD would be so helpful for teachers and future teachers to read.  Maybe they can find some tips that they could use in the classroom to make their students with ADD feel more comfortable.  The 50 classroom manageable tips would allow you to give the child with ADD the best school experience to your ability.   The student's disorder is often used as an excuse to give an explanation for a student doing poorly in school.  This is not okay!  It is extremely possible for a student with ADD to do well in school.  We, as teachers, need to try our hardest to meet the needs of all students, and stop making excuses to cover up failures.  
Kate Conard
6 years 5 months ago
I think we tend to diagnose young boys with ADD more than girls or adults because we typically see boys acting out in school more than girls.  We think that because they are bouncing off the walls and not focusing and interupting the class, they have ADD.  This may be true, but often times, like Dianna said in her post, people with ADD are likely to be very quiet and not hyperactive at all.  This misconception would make is more difficult to diagnose say a young girl who just seems shy; teachers might not notice that her grades were slipping because she isn't acting out or interupting the class, yet she still is not paying attention like the boy who has been diagnosed with ADD. 

As a future teacher, I would definitely want to get my hands on this book.  As a teacher, you have to be aware of the problems your students might have.  In order for them to perform at their fullest potential, it is important to be able to recognize any symptoms they might have for any behavioral problem.  Learning how to deal with these problems, and hopefully fix them, would be extremely beneficial for a teacher to know before it is too late.  The example that Dr. VanOrnum portrayed to us, I found very interesting.  Not only does this book have insightful knowledge on how to cope with ADD for children, but for adults too.  Im not saying it's good to worry when reading the symptoms of ADD and assume you have all of these sypmtoms.  I am saying as a parent and teacher, if you notice a quiet child/student struggling in school, it might be wise to do a little research to see if there is anything that can be done.    
Courtney Lynch
6 years 5 months ago
With the fact that the article states, just like many other articles circulating the web, that ADD is over diagnosed, I thought about the people in my life that have ADD. I only have one person in my life that has ADD. Interestingly enough, this person is not medicated. Though fieldwork in the local schools, substitute teaching in my home district, and having a mother that works as a speech and language pathologist in the school system, I am constantly hearing about the prevalence of children being diagnosed with ADD (especially the prevalence of boys being diagnosed with ADD).  Boys are very active in general. They constantly want to be up and moving and participating in activities where they can exert their physical energy. Therefore, they are focusing on other things and may not be focusing on school. This behavior might concern parents and teachers. Children that have the behaviors as described above could either have “childhood” or “ADD”. I believe there is a fine line between a child who does not focus sometimes and a child who cannot focus at all. Children who cannot focus at all can be all over the place (scatterbrained) and may not retain any information, even when it is presented in a multitude of ways. Sometimes, the teacher is not engaging the student (it is not always the student’s fault). The teacher needs to know her students and find out how his or her students learn best. The teacher needs to present the material and create activities that will make the material fun and interesting.
However, I do believe that many parents put their children on drugs to “solve” the problem. The stories that I hear from my fieldwork of children that go on medication are numerous. Children that go on medication generally improve their grades, but their entire personality changes as they become lethargic or may seem depressed. Most parents do not want their children to seem different or odd, so some parents would rather medicate their children immediately then wait or see if the symptoms persist or get worse. Also, some parents would rather give their children a pill everyday then look for alternative solutions (like counseling, a different school setting, different exercises etc) that do not change the child’s personality or brain activity. Interestingly enough, according to an article written by Wolraich, M., Lindgren, S., Stromquist, A., Milich R., Davis C., Watson, D., (1990) it is difficult to diagnose ADD because of the varying symptoms. Also, physicians, teachers, psychologists, and parents in most cases have differing opinions on ADD and whether children should be medicated. In fact, half of all cases in their study had parents, teachers, physicians and psychologists alike taking different viewpoints on the symptoms of a particular child and whether stimulant medication would help the child. Personally, I would look for alternative methods as a future teacher to accommodate my students needs. The student would not stand out because each student would be doing work and participating in activities that suited his or her intellectual level and needs. Overall, I think that in recent times people are too quick to diagnose ADD and want an easy fix, such as medication to solve the problem, when in fact the medication in long term can possibly make the “problem” even worse or create other symptoms.
Wolraich, M., Lindgren, S., Stromquist, A., Milich R., Davis C., Watson, D., (1990) Stimulant medication used by primary care physicians in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 86(1), 95-101.
Samantha Young
6 years 5 months ago
This book sounds extremely interesting and informative! It is no secret that ADD and ADHD are becoming more and more prodominant in our society and I think this article is a great way to draw attention to the growing issue. After reading this article, I really want to now go ahead and read DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood. Prior to reading this article, I had heard that many young boys are being overdiagnosed with ADD. This is mainly because many people are quick to put active children on medication for ADD instead of aknowledging the fact that young boys are very active. However, it was interesting to hear that many girls are underdiagnosed. I understand that young girls aren't as hyper as young boys, but I wonder why they aren't tested. Is this a stigma or bias that girls aren't supposed to have ADD? Are we not helping young girls to reach their full potential because of this bias?
It is interesting how you note that ADD affects all of the relationships surrounding the individual. I have encountered many people throughout my lifetime with ADD and ADHD and it truely does affect all aspects of their lives. Whether this be socially unable to sit through a movie or conversation or at school/work when trying to complete an assignment. It is important to recognise this fact in order to help the individual and those surrounding the individual so that they can live up to their full potential. I love that there are useful tips on how to manage ADD and how those without ADD can use these tips too. Being able to do these activities together (people with and without ADD) will allow people to strengthen relationships. Being that I am currently studying education, I am interested to read more about the section in the book that explains 50 classroom management tips.
Erin Betsch
6 years 5 months ago
I competely agree with your point that many boys are over diagnosed with ADD. Boys will always be boys, messy, hyperactive, and fidgety. That doesn’t mean that they have ADD, it means they have energy. I have seen first hand in student teaching how over-medicated children have become. If you just make lessons interesting and teach to their strengths, students don't fidget. Some students legitimately have ADD, but some others are just too frustrating for parents and teachers to deal with, so they raise the big red ADD flag. Too many parents and teachers are quick to resort to medicating children, when in reality there are much better and safer solutions. From your description of this book, it definitely sounds like this book could offer some helpful suggestions on how to deal with a student or adult with ADD.
Samantha Young
6 years 5 months ago
Joey (#4) poses some great questions. One that really struck me was, "so what would happen if a child was just taking this medication even if he or she didn't need it and it harmed them?" Since there is a great deal of misdiagnosis going on, people who do not have ADD are taking medications when they shouldn't be. This brings forth legal issues and potential lawsuits. One cannot jump the gun and start medicating these children until they are absolutely positive that the individual has ADD. This is a serious matter that should not be overlooked, and I agree that the doctor should spend a lot of time with the individual before making a decision.
Katrina Ferrer
6 years 5 months ago
ADD, and related ADHD, have become household terms in the education, child development, and parenting in recent years. The recent rise is not without controversy. Doctors have been accused of over-medicating, easing their burden of time and insurance cost; parents accused of instilling ineffective values, and teachers and religious educators accused of using faulty methods in their classrooms. All of which, or none of which, may be true due to the ambiguity of the condition.

The best way to view, treat, and live with ADD or ADHD is to become educated. However, information on the subject can be as jaded as the controversy surrounding it. One effective article that does cover the many facets of the condition is http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/lifestyle/health/x617855106/Over-the-Counter-Nutrition-key-for-kids-with-ADD-ADHD . The major point of view is that of a nutritionist but does provide  refreshingly unbiased, conspiracy free, and straightforward information that is readily usable.
Vanessa Adamo
6 years 5 months ago
Dr. Van Ornum, I was extremely happy to see that you had written on the topic of ADD as it has been a topic of conversation very often recently in my life. Attention Deficit Disorder has become a topic of controversy and concern by many individuals and has caused many a conversation. Through the choice of my major, Psych/Special Ed., this is a topic that has been brought up semester after semester, year after year, and sill it does not seem to be resolved. There are so many questions that are asked and so little responses or answers provided. As Americans who are frequently diagnosed, we are looking for answers, for a solution, however, do we have these answers and are they enough to satisfy our curiosity?
Many people wonder, as I do, where does this disorder stem from? Is it genetic or environmental? Do we over diagnose individuals with ADD? Should we medicate those who we believe have this disorder? Is there something that can be done to prevent Attention Deficit Disorder? So many questions but so little answers exist.
The issue of ADD has always been of interest to me. I have known many people who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and more recently Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Some of these people I believe are accurately diagnosed, while others I tend to question the diagnosis, which causes fear within me because these individuals are being medicated. What if they are misdiagnosed and taking a medication that is not needed? In the past three years of my college career I have done many hours of fieldwork in elementary school classrooms. One year I was placed in a special education classroom and my concern about ADD heightened after this experience. There were only seven students in this classroom, several diagnosed with ADD, only at the average age of seven. I observed the students closely and found that one little boy, who I was told had ADD would finish his work several minutes early and would sit at his desk after completing the task. During the time he waited for the other students to complete their work, this little boy would sit there, not moving much and very somber. It made me question his diagnosis. Could this little boy at the age of seven really have ADD? He did not show many symptoms. I began to believe that this boy was misdiagnosed and was being deprived of an education, where instead of sitting around waiting he could be challenged to advance his knowledge. It saddened me to think that this boy was being misdiagnosed and I could only hope that he was not being medicated for this diagnosis. It also made me think about the sever effects that a misdiagnosis could have on a child, such as the case with this little boy who was being deprived of a more rigorous education that could further his knowledge. Although this frustrated me, what saddened me more was the teacher’s lack of patients for these students. As an educator of special education it is important to remember that these students have a disorder in which they cannot control and demonstrate behaviors that other students normally would not. In such situations it is important for the educator to have patients for these children to avoid frustration and instead try to scaffold the student in expanding his or her knowledge. Although I felt much frustration towards what was going on in that classroom, I learned much about how the environment affects students with ADD. The teacher explained to me that it is important to eliminate as many distractions as possible, therefore a child that is diagnosed with ADD should be placed in a small class size of no more than ten students, should never be placed near a window or a door, should be placed towards the front of the classroom, and the seating area should be designated away from centers and isolated to one section of the room, all of which made perfect sense and seemed to be a reasonable solution.
As I observed this classroom and many more, it became evident to me that environment has a huge role on ADD, however, that does not mean that I am ruling out the effects of genetics. As E.H. Cook and his colleagues had written through the article, Assoiation of Attention-Deficit Disorder and the dopamine transporter gene, “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has been shown to be familial and heritable.” The response of ADHD patients to medications that inhibit the dopamine transporter led Cook and his colleagues to consider the dopamine transporter as a primary candidate gene for ADHD. Research has proven that indeed ADD and ADHD can be linked to genetics as well as environmental, however, there has not been enough proof to solve the issue and research is still being conducted.
I strongly believe that ADD is at times over-diagnosed and at too young of an age. In addition, as a college student it has become more evident that students are being diagnosed for a disorder in which they do not possess. First, when a child, especially a young boy, is diagnosed at a very young age with ADD it leads me to question the diagnosis. When we were young children at the age of seven was it not normal to have extreme energy, to want to run around and never take a break? Of course, this was normal. The diagnosis of high energy and constant movement used to be called, being a child; however, that diagnosis is now being classified as ADD. We are no longer allowing children to be children and are instead diagnosing them and medicating them to provide a lower energy level, which at a young age is perfectly normal. Also, as a college student, I am aware of many fellow students who are “diagnosed with ADD.” Is it possible that so many college students developed this disorder and need to be medicated, or are students able to receive medication through manipulation?
As mentioned in the article there is a section in the book on 50 classroom management tips that is expressed would be especially helpful to therapists who consult schools. As I am very interested in school psychology I became even more interested in reading this book, especially this section. I plan on purchasing this book and reading about ADD in order to educate myself further on recognizing and coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from childhood through adulthood.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1801209/  
Danielle Lettieri
6 years 5 months ago
That book sounds really interesting. I know many times people have misconceptions about ADD. I feel like, in a way, this could be why there are problems with overdiagnosing and underdiagnosing ADD. You mentioned that many people think boys are overdiagnosed with ADD, and I can understand why. It seems like boys are usually the ones who are loud and acting out in class rather than girls. Many times, people might think that the boys acting this way have ADD or ADHD. However, they might not. I remember when I was in middle school, there was this boy that would always get in trouble and other kids would say that he had ADD, but I do not know if that was actually true. I feel like people just assume that someone who does not pay attention in class automatically has ADD or ADHD. I don’t think that these people always have ADD or ADHD. Sometimes kids just have other issues on their mind or are just bored. Also, sometimes the boys that interrupt the class may be trying to act “funny” or “cool.” It might not mean that they actually have ADD or ADHD.
I found an article that said that children could be misdiagnosed with ADHD for another reason. They say that “children who are young for their grade may get an inappropriate diagnosis because teachers mistake their immaturity for ADHD” (CNN Health). The studies say that “being young in a grade more than doubles the likelihood of receiving an ADHD diagnosis or treatment” (CNN Health). This made me think that maybe maturity level could have to do with boys being overdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD because boys are supposed to mature slower than girls.
You also mentioned that people think that girls are underdiagnosed. I can understand way this is, too. Many times girls are not the ones who are loud and act out in class. For this reason, girls with ADD/ADHD may not be diagnosed with it if they do not act this way. I found out that there are gender differences in ADHD. Girls have different symptoms than boys, so their ADHD can go unnoticed. For example, “Girls with ADHD aren’t usually hyperactive…they tend to have the attention-deficit part of the disorder” (apa.org). Since hyperactivity is pretty obvious, boys can be diagnosed more often.
I think overdiagnosing ADD/ADHD is a serious problem. Children should not be given medication unless they really need it. I have never been a fan of medications being used to treat mental issues unless it is absolutely necessary. This is because I have heard that certain mediations can cause different problems. I have heard that some medications can stunt growth. Also, in one article, it said that some ADHD medications could lead to “possible cardiovascular problems” (CNN Health).
http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2010/08/18/nearly-1-million-adhd-misdiagnoses-study-says/
http://www.apa.org/topics/adhd/gender.aspx
Elizabeth Batchelor
6 years 5 months ago
I am looking forward to reading this book dealing with ADD issues since I know may of my friends have this condition.  Being able to give some suggestions to them if they ask will be something I could use on a personal level.  I like the tip you noted about recharging your batteries.  That is something I will use as well for myself. 
 
I wonder if the book also has a chapter on how to treat ADD. I know that it has been suggested that stimulant drugs such as Ritalin can be helpful on the medication front. Also combining medication with training in cognitive and social skills issues is also helpful.  I was also glad to see that they are focusing on diagnosing more girls with the condition since it usually has been an over diagnosis with boys. 
Desiree Desaulniers
6 years 5 months ago
The topic of ADD is obviously a controversial subject for many. After watching ‘Generation Rx’ many of the issues that come with this topic was brought to light for me. Before, I was accepting of the fact that ADD or ADHD is diagnosed in young children because young children legitimately have ADD or ADHD. After viewing the movie, I found that although the movie was slightly biased, there was some relevancy to the idea that many school teachers are forcing young children into see a psychologist to diagnose a problem that may be related simply to their age.
I am not saying at all that the problem of ADD or ADHD does not exist; however, I do think that the diagnosing children so early on, is not the answer either. The book looks to be an interesting set of suggestions that may help mold classroom management for teachers dealing with children that display hyperactivity. I think that instead of sending a child to a consultation, teachers should maybe use different management techniques at least until the child becomes of an age in which their maturity cannot be matched with their symptoms. 
Erin Betsch
6 years 5 months ago
Vanessa (#39), I completley agree with you. After doing fieldwork and student teaching, some diagnoses of ADD and ADHD are very questionable. I have seen students that are very clearly ADD/ADHD and cannot focus or control themselves. However, as you have, I have also seen students, boys especially, who are just distracted or hyper. It is sad becasue they are unnecessarily being medicated and being deprived of an education. You may in fact be inhibiting them from being in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) by medicating them when instead they just need to learn to focus. I completely agree with the fact that it is an issue and needs to be resolved.
Alyssa Moirano
6 years 5 months ago
I believe that Norma (#29) brings up a good point.  Schools are constantly concerned about losing instructional time, and as a result, they take away from all of the wrong places- physical education, recess, etc.  Is this decrease of recreational time directly related to the rise in ADD diagnoses?
Samantha Sciacovelli
6 years 5 months ago
Since I started my Psychology Special Education program the topic of ADD and ADHD has been of great interest to me. There are so many issues and unknowns about ADD and it is particularly important to know about it in teaching.


Every time I have watched a documentary, had a discussion in class, or did research of my own it was always mentioned that boys are over diagnosed or more diagnosed than girls. Although a lot is unknown about the biological and cognitive causes of ADD one reason it has gained controversy is the natural differences between boys and girls. Biologically there are differences in the brain of males and females. Due to these differences each gender acts differently in different situations. Our society has a certain standard as to how students should act in a classroom and this standard is more conformed to the natural behavior of girls. So, when boys have a hard time acting the way they are expected to, such as being too fidgety or active or having a hard time concentrating while sitting in a desk during a lecture, it is assumed they suffer from ADD of ADHD. The book The Wonder of Boys but Michael Gurian goes into great detail about the differences between males and females and much more interesting concepts about gender differences.
Another controversial issue is that not only are boys over diagnosed they are also over medicated. I don’t know that much about the issue to say these things for certain but, from the information I have been provided from a variety of sources it seems as if medication is the most used strategy to manage ADD. This book appears to have many helpful strategies to work with students with ADD without having to medicate them. For this reason I would like to read this book because I am sure I will have students in my future class who may be considered to have ADD. In certain situation medication is necessary however I do believe that it is over used which is also where the issue of students who do not have ADD using the medication in recreational ways comes into play. As a teacher I hope to help students who may be thought to have ADD to deal with his or her disability in a way in which they don’t need medication.
Rachel Bremer
6 years 5 months ago
This article really stuck with me was about ADHD.  I have done several projects on ADHD as well as have friends who have ADHD.  I know there is a huge problem with people being wrongly diagnosed.  I found this published article from 2002 (some readers might not be able to open it) but the article examined preschoolers to determine if that had ADHD and to do early interventions.  While the study might have found positive results I have to question if as a society we are getting too carried away.  I worked with a preschool camp over the summer and most of the children had short attention spans and were hyper (some children more than others), however I do not think we should consider diagnosing them or beginning an intervention at this age. 
While I do think many people are wrongly diagnosed or diagnosed to quickly, as future teacher I need to be familiar with techniques to help keep the kids under control and help children concentrate.  I like the idea of taking time to recharge your batteries.  Children with ADHD need to take breaks and not sit for a long time on one subject. A child that is asked to sit and complete one subject for an extended period of time will get bored and might begin to become restless.  The little break will help a student regain focus for the remainder of the lesson. 
Lauren Esposito
6 years 5 months ago
          ADD is a concern for many teachers as well as future teachers.  Diagnosing ADD has been more prominent than ever.  “According to the National Institute of Mental Health two to three percent of children have ADHD.  This means that in a typical classroom at least one child is ADHD.  The NIMH estimates that about 2 million children in the United States have ADHD.”  I personally believe ADD and ADHD are over diagnosed.  A child of the age of six is supposed to be hyper and want to run around outside and play.  A child of the age of six will have difficulty sitting in their seat for long periods of time; an adult of the age twenty has the same problem.  It truly bothers me how people so easily want to label children as ADD and ADHD.
          I have a friend who has ADD.  She was diagnosed at a young again and without hesitation prescribed medication.  As I observe her and listen to her relentlessly talk about how she has ADD and praise the fact that she has medication; it utterly irks me.  Labeling a child ADD or ADHD plus prescribing medication becomes a crutch for children.  As I see with my friend, she is quick to rely on her medication as well as blame it for her inabilities.  After learning about the book DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D and John Ratey. M.D, I am overly excited to inform my friend about it!  From the sound of things, I believe the book is filled with an abundance of useful information that is beneficial for all people. 

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A woman holds up a sign during a rally against assisted suicide in 2016 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. (CNS photo/Art Babych)
The American College of Physicians called for better promotion of palliative and hospice care, which opponents of physician-assisted suicide say are underutilized areas of medicine that could address concerns of patients facing difficult illnesses.
Michael J. O’LoughlinSeptember 21, 2017
(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
"We have a priest who makes everyone feel welcome, says Mass with great reverence and gives meaningful homilies"
Our readersSeptember 21, 2017
Photo by Victor Lozano on Unsplash
Any willingness to cooperate across party lines is praiseworthy. Unfortunately, brinkmanship remains the preferred legislative strategy.
The EditorsSeptember 21, 2017
Pope Francis, seen here at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican on June 28, has announced two significant reforms in recent weeks by releasing statements motu proprio. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
When a pope issues a document “motu proprio,” it means he does so by his own motivation, and it can mean a significant change to church law.
Michael J. O’LoughlinSeptember 21, 2017