Monday, April 1, 2013


The Times reports that 11% of kids, including 19% of high-school-age boys, are now diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Those are stunning numbers. Does anyone believe that that many kids are suffering from a diagnosable mental illness?

The article disappoints in its discussion of why. It briefly blames parents who want to gain a competitive academic edge for their kids—“some parents are pressuring doctors to help with their children’s troublesome behavior and slipping grades.” There is no discussion at all of the role of education policy—specifically high-stakes testing—in pushing kids toward these diagnoses.


Anonymous said...

I've found that schools (or at least my kids' schools) no longer provide kids an outlet for their energy at appropriate times. Even in grade school, they must keep it bottled up until the very short recesses. In junior high and high school, recess becomes a period to stand around in a small area, not stretch and run.

Suzanne Lamb said...

And it's not just ADHD, of course. I know of one school where nearly 30% of kindergarteners and first graders were identified as having some type of speech disorder. It seems entirely reasonable to ask who profits from such frequent diagnosing (e.g., drug companies, speech pathologists), but of course the narrowing of the curriculum and the focus on test prep are enough to make schools intolerant of those who are later bloomers or less capable than others of tolerating boring and authoritarian environments.

Chris said...

Anonymous: I agree. It's asking too much of young kids to be "on task" for as long as they are now expected to be, without a break for physical activity and down time. And here in Iowa City, there is no recess at all in junior high and high school.

Chris said...

Suzanne -- Yes, I agree that it's part of a larger problem, and that it does reflect an institutional intolerance of kids who don't satisfy whatever the prevailing standard is.

It's one thing to try to help kids learn; it's another thing to immerse them continuously in atmosphere where they do not feel accepted. I worry about the long-term effects of that non-acceptance, even for the kids who aren't diagnosed and medicated.

Sue said...

While there are children who truly have ADHD, it is an easy label for schools to use to push parents to put their children on ADHD drugs. While I think that these drugs can work wonders with a child who does have ADHD, they are not for every child. Especially the child who does NOT have it.