Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tell ADHD "not to bother you"

Highly recommended watch: PBS, The Medicated Child (can be viewed online, follow link)

Most experts agree, the term "hyperactive" is applied too often and too widely. It is not uncommon these days for 5 to 10 kids in every classroom in America on average to be labeled "hyperactive" and subsequently diagnosed with ADHD. This is surprising, considering 50 and 60 years ago, no such label even existed. There were no "hyperactive" kids 50 to 60 years ago: they were considered "lazy," or "rebellious," or "fidgety," (Nylund, 2000). Think to yourself, was Huckleberry Finn ever labeled "hyperactive?"

Run down the list of the diagnostics for yourself and consider if this folk hero of American literature was in fact diagnosable by today's standards: "Often does not give close attention to details..." "has trouble keeping attention in tasks or play activities..." "does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork..." "avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort..." "often interrupts or intrudes on others..." "often talks excessively..." ...etc.

Huck Finn is the archtype of the classic American boy, no doubt of antiquity, yet if he were growing up in this century, there is no way he'd be able to escape childhood without a few diagnoses. From 1990 to 1998, there was a 700% increase in Ritalin producation in this country (Diller, 1998). These are staggaring figures. Disorders don't just blossom over the course of a few years. The only explaination for this medicinal and diagnostic trend is, the medical industrial complex, and the uninformed, paranoid public. And either variable has been made dependent on the other.

Ritalin does have some short term advantages, it has been found to reduce non-compliance, incrase attention and cooperation. However, it has been found to have side effects such as incrased heart rate and blood pressure, interference with growth rate, insomnia, weight loss, and nausea (Friend & Bursuck, 2002; Hallahan et al., 2005; Panksepp, 1998). Now if any of your parents think your child will be better off with any of these side effects, you are free and certainly encouraged by the Medical Industrial Complex to do so, at your expense, and unfortunately, your child's. Fight for your kids!

On top of these side effects, it is doubtful whether drug therapy behavior improvements as described above even lead to better academic performance or better social relationships, which are the two areas that ADHD kids have trouble with. Furthermore, the "positive" effects of behavior modification drugs often make parents think that the problem with their child has been "cured" simply because their child's bad behavior has stopped (which happens 80% of the time) and that no other treatment is necessary(Doggett,2004; Purdie, Hattie, & Carroll, 2002). It hasn't stopped. Our children constantly need our help to socialize them properly, with or without the pill, and that's what the drug companies won't tell you, and that is what the drug companies are trying to make us forget.

Research tells us otherwise:

"Multimodal approaches to intervention have been found to be most effective in terms of lasting change...treament with psychostimulants has beneficial effects, provided that it is accompanied by remedial tuition, counselling, and behavior management by parents/teachers as required (van Kraayenoord, Rice, Carroll, Fritz, Dillon, & Hill, 2001, p. 7)."

What are some alternatives? First of all, make assignments for children assumed to be hyperactice or inattentive shorter--lots of problems or lots of paragraphs at once might only bog down a child who is struggling, and make sure you set reinforcements for completion that favor the step by step, problem by problem, paragraph by paragraph accomplishments, along with a reward for completion. You also have to train the child's "skill" and "will" to improve their own acchievement (Paris, 1988).

Pills take the parent/teacher and the child out of the process of the child's development and hand that responsibility to the pill's effectiveness. The responsibility should always be primarally between the parent/teacher and the child, whether he or she is on the pill or not. Children should be taught to control and monitor their own behavior, and this has been shown to have positive effect on their attentiveness or self control. One child-centric (not pill-centric) method for dealing with an ADHD diagnosis is to enlist the child's own strengths and thoughts to combat the urges to behave inappropriately--essentially, to get them to self monitor their own behavior.

Nylund's (2000) strategy for dealing with ADHD children is to get the child to combat sources of "boredom" "trouble" and other external forces, and to help them find ways to first recognize when these urges are happening, and then apply their will to overcome them. This is called the SMART approach, and it begins with seperating the "problem" from the child.

Nylund talks about how a boy named Chris (9 years) and his teacher worked together in unison to overcome his urges. She put him up front so that she could signal to him every time it was time to pay attention, and it was up to him to train himself to pay attention whenever he saw that signal. He got back on track and was able to organize his desk, for instance. He was better attentive, and very self controlled by the end (Nylund, 2000). The only way to get a child to control themselves it seems, is to get a child to literally "control themselves." This seems like common sense, but that's not what the drug companies want you to realize (the ones profiting from that 700% increase in Ritalin production).

If you don't believe this technique can work, ask Chris what he thinks, and he'll tell you:

"You just have to have a strong mind and tell ADHD and Boredom not to bother you (Nylund, 2000)."

So you don't want your child turning into a Huckleberry Finn? That's reasonable. We have to try as a society to implement other strategies with children that don't divest parental or professional involvement in a child's development to a pill. Children have always needed to be taught proper socialization skills, and the rise in ADHD is only symptomatic of a society that has dropped the ball on it's ability to that. Teaching a child socialization skills does not happen on its own, even if the child has been medicated and is showing a "reduction" in negative behaviors (Purdie et al., 2002). ADHD is not a disease, it can't be cured like the flu, it takes active involvement, it takes teaching and learning. It did back in Huck's day, it does now, and it always will.

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