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ADHD: Challenging adults, children, and educators alike

Posted by Stephen on February 10, 2007

In my continued attempt to address issues pertaining to Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) I was encouraged to consider the diagnosis efforts which are of great importance. There are continued efforts to identify genes that can be linked to the disorder. However, even as genes are identified, it may not settle the debate about ADHD.

Diagnosing ADHD is not an exact science. There is no biological test that whips up a diagnosis for the disorder. In many cases it’s a teacher that initiates the process by informing parents that their child is daydreaming, constantly disrupting class, refusing to pay attention, failing to complete assignments, and basically driving everyone crazy.

Diagnosis 

Child Psychologist Larry Silver, of the Georgetown University Medical Center, says “the problem is that the parent goes to the family doctor, who writes a prescription for Ritalin and doesn’t stop to think of the other possibilities.”

It is important to eliminate other possible explanations for the symptoms to be sure that misdiagnosis is avoided. For example, there are other issues that young people face that may provide ADHD like reactions. Some of those include depression, anxiety over worrisome issues, or perhaps a learning disability. Any, or all, of these issues can cause a child to respond in a fashion very similar to the ADHD child.

The greatest challenge for people, and the medical field, is to separate those that truly face this disorder and those that have other problems. Adults in particular are looking for answers to life’s problems. Unfortunately, many people began experiencing these problems as adults while trying to deal with life’s furious pace. If we are not careful we will look around us and think everyone we know has ADHD.

University of Chicago’s Mark Stein, an expert in the field, admits, “we need to find more precise ways of diagnosing it then just saying you have these symptoms.” He agrees that the traits of ADHD “are personality characteristics,” but he feels “they become pathology when the traits are so extreme that they interfere with people’s lives.”

Symptoms

To distinguish one symptom from another, doctors often rely on interviews with parents and teachers, behavior ratings, scales and psychological tests which can cost anywhere from 500 to 5000 dollars, and insurance coverage poor.

To begin diagnosis a family must determine when the symptoms were detected. Did the problems suddenly come to the forefront, or have they been there all along? Researchers agree that ADHD is not something you suddenly wake up with. It is important to take down a careful report of a child’s history.

For hyperactive kids the symptoms and patterns are unmistakable. From birth, did the child have an active lifestyle? Was he colicky? Oh, he never stopped crying. Did he start to walk early in life? You say he never walked; he just came out running and has now mastered how to climb the wall without shoes or a rope. Did he go through the terrible two’s? Oh, I see, he went through the terrible two’s, three’s, four’s and fives, the scary sixes, the awful eights, the naughty nines, and the ‘I’m-gonna-kill’em’ ten’s. I see. There might be a problem worth looking into then.

Dr. Bruce Roseman, a pediatric neurologist in N.Y. City, says that diagnosing the ADD child without hyperactivity is a little trickier. These kids are often described as daydreamers, space cadets, and underachievers. They are not disruptive, but “they sit in front of a book for 45 minutes and nothing happens,” says Roseman. It is important for the welfare of children that this disorder be addressed as early in life as possible.

Conclusions

Most experts agree that ADHD is a lifelong condition. By late adolescence many people will learn to compensate for their impulsive nature and their disorganization. However, in other cases the disorder wreaks havoc in their lives. Many cannot settle on a career, they can’t keep a job, and if they don’t like what they are doing they will likely leave the job before they find new employment.

ADHD continues to challenge our educational environment because the diagnosis of the disorder is inconsistent and educational leaders have done little to address professional development plans for teachers. It is amazing to witness what teachers are being asked to do. They are now our catch-all. No matter what the problem is, teachers have to overcome it because if they don’t someone will administer a test that could lead to the end of a teaching career.

Yet, these same educational and political leaders do little to address the professional development opportunities that are necessary for teachers to be able to address the many diverse challenges that enter the classroom. If Wall Street conducted itself in the same haphazard way we’d be a third world country mired in poverty instead of possessing the largest and most successful economy in the entire world.

Stephen Winslow holds a MAEDS and is the executive editor of Conservative Viewpoints.

Copyright 2007 by Stephen Winslow. All rights reserved.

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