I am a therapist in private practice so I regularly have parents coming to my office saying that they have a child who has ADHD. What to do? I want to make certain that parents get all the information before making a choice regarding their treatment plan. Too often parents only hear a limited part of this complex diagnosis and its treatment options.
I want to share facts that many parents don't know:
1. The only person who can diagnose ADHD is a specially trained psychological professional. Not a teacher, nor by a single visit to your physician.
2. The most common age of being diagnosed with ADHD is age seven, coinciding with the onset of desk work in school.
Notice from the list of behaviours of children meeting the criteria for ADHD below, that each behaviour is one that doesn't tend to go over well in a classroom setting:
- Often fidgets or squirms
- Has difficulty remaining seated
- Is easily distracted
- Has difficulty waiting turn in groups
- Often blurts out answers to questions
- Has difficulty following instructions
- Has difficulty attending to tasks
- Often shifts from one uncompleted activity to another
- Has difficulty playing quietly
- Often talks excessively
- Often interrupts and intrudes on others
- Often doesn't seem to listen
- Often loses things necessary for the task
- Often engages in physically dangerous activities without considering consequences.
3. To date, there is no known biological abnormality in children diagnosed with ADHD according to the 1998 National Institute of Health ADHD consensus panel. No blood test, genetic marker, MRI or any other test can support a biological explanation for ADHD.
4. In the US, nine per cent of school-aged children are diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed a pharmaceutical medication for treatment. Yet, in France, psychiatrists understand ADHD as being a psycho-social and situational problem.
The French treat ADHD with skills development. Only 0.5 per cent of the children in France are diagnosed and medicated. While numbers for Canada are unclear, the estimate is an incident rate of 1 in 20 children and a rising use of pharmacological treatment plans.
5. The US prescribes 90 per cent of the of the world's use of Ritalin. Sales increased 700 per cent between 1990 and 1994. At current diagnosis rates, the documentary Generation RX by Kevin Millers asks: "Why are 10 million kids labelled defective?" We are either pathologizing and drugging normal childhood behaviours or do we have an real epidemic we are not addressing? Which is it? Neither is acceptable to me.
6. News reporter David Bruser and data analyst Andrew Bailey, published an article in the Toronto Star in 2012, citing the Canadian findings on the number of side affects these psychotropic drugs cause, including an increase in suicidal behaviours and psychosis. The pressure on Health Canada and the FDA to look at these side effects has increased in recent years as the number of child suicide increases while on Ritalin, Adderral and others. In fact, these drugs have more side effects than any other known medications.
7. Many parents mistake the "rebound effect" as proof that the drugs are helping their children. Basically, when the child comes off their drugs they exhibit worsening behaviours. That is true but the explanation is rebounding, not proof of drug effectiveness. Imagine the drug was alcohol. If you fed someone a steady diet of alcohol until their system acclimated, then withdrawal the alcohol, the person experiences sweats, tremors and can even die if the detox is not handled well. I think you would agree this is not proof the alcohol is working effectively. A child coming off Ritalin experiences a rebounding phenomena, too.
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