Is it Really ADHD or Just Too Much Pressure?

I’ve always contented that we, as a society, are too quick to label our kids with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, pump them full of meds and forget about the issue.  I’ve read two articles recently that support my theory.

I’m not saying that ADHD doesn’t really exist or that there are indeed extreme cases in which medications are needed to moderate behavior.

However, I feel that society finds it easier to tack on the ADHD label than to work on a development issue.

The MSNBC.com article “Who is to blame for boys struggling at school?” talks about how boys are more often targeted for ADHD.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2003, 14 percent of boys across the nation were identified as having ADHD by the time they reached their sixteenth birthday. And the percentage is continuing to grow.”

It went on further to add.

“Either we are witnessing the largest pandemic in our country since influenza struck in the United States in 1918, or school-age boys are being overidentified and overdiagnosed.”

But if you read the article, the offending behaviors are just typical boy behavior.  C’mon we all did that kind of stuff as a kid.  But because it disrupts the classroom, it must be a medical issue.

Let’s look at why it’s disrupting the classroom.  What are we asking our kids to do in the classroom these days?  The list is getting bigger and bigger by the day.

When I was a kid, kindergarten was more about learning how to behave in school.  We had play time and nap time and we might learn our letters, colors and numbers.

But these days, the pressure is on.  Preschool is now where kids learn the basics – and sometimes even more.  And by kindergarten they are already learning to read.  Some people are even holding their kids out of kindergarten until they are six so they know more going in.

School days are filled with a variety of work and little time to play.  Then the kids come home and have more work to do.  Some schools don’t even allow kids to talk during lunch to keep lunch time to a minimum and get the students back in the classroom.

Kids are kids, they have lots of energy. We must allow them some time to be a kid, to have fun, to goof off.

If they are in school all day and aren’t allowed to talk during lunch, when are they allowed to be themselves? If we don’t give them some time to express themselves and be a kid, they will make their own.

I think it’s unrealistic of a teacher to think (especially with the younger ones) kids are going to sit still and pay attention for 6-8 hours a day. Heck, I know most adults that can’t do that.

It doesn’t mean we should start medicating everyone.

The solution is two-part. Parents need to work with their children on appropriate behavior and offer them an alternative activity during non-school hours to exert some of that energy. Teachers must be willing to teach in a method most conducive to the child rather than what’s easiest for them.

The New York Times article “Training Young Brains to Behave” talks about why kids are so quick to move from one topic to another.  A short-attention span is natural.

“One reason is that an area of the brain that is critical to inhibiting urges, the prefrontal cortex, is still a work in progress.”

It’s not ADHD, it’s a development issue. .

“Some children’s brains adapt quickly, while others’ take time.”

The article goes on further to discuss how much this erratic behavior changed when teachers and parents took time to work with the child on self-control, memory and flexibility.

When this behavior is shaped “it is more strongly associated with school success than I.Q.” 

Imagine that – long-term results without any drugs and all it required was a little effort on the part of parents and teachers.

Finally, the study also said “Although play is often thought frivolous, it may be essential.”

I think as adults we often overlook this very key piece in children’s development. I know for myself, I have to do a mental check to make I’m not overscheduling my kids, that I’m allowing time for them to just play.

What do you think?  Is ADHD overdiagnosed?  Are we putting too much pressure on our youth to succeed?

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6 Responses to Is it Really ADHD or Just Too Much Pressure?

  1. em1l33 says:

    I would agree with you…100%. As a former preschool teacher who dealt with parents being very quick to have their children “tested” for ADHD, it is a tough thing to see. We are such a work-minded society that we forget what it means to be human, let alone be a kid!

  2. vacelts says:

    Thanks Em, for stopping by. Did I know you use to be a preschool teacher?

  3. Ben says:

    have to half-agree with this article. i’ve been a middle school teacher for 5 years now, and even in that relatively short time i’ve noticed the rise in ‘ADHD students’.when i was a student myself only 10 years ago, and if someone in my class wasn’t paying attention the teacher would say to them ‘hey come on let’s focus’. some people had more difficulty paying attention than others, so they had to try harder. same as those who aren’t particularly fit have to put more effort into running the 100m. now we have a name for people whose minds wander, and for some lame reason that makes it ok. “hey pay attention!” “i’ve got ADHD” “oh ok then”. it’s ridiculous, there’s in fact not enough pressure in schools i think, there are way too many let-offs. those who aren’t up to scratch for whatever reason need incentives to overcome their difficulties. if a student is in a wheelchair, do we let them stay home? no we install ramps and tell them come on let’s go. i mean what’s next, laziness disorder? “i didn’t do my homework” “what? why not??” “i suffer from laziness” “oh ok then”…
    (before you argue with me go and look up exactly how ADHD is diagnosed and defined)

  4. vacelts says:

    Ben,

    I partially agree with you. I agree that once there is a diagnosis that there is no pressure. In fact the ADHD because an excuse/crutch for everyone — the child, parents and teachers.

    Most of the issues that lead of to the diagnosis (the MSNBC article goes into the factors for a diagnosis) are behavioral and could be worked on as described in the NY Times article. But once a ADHD label is applied, we just through some medicine at the kid and blame everything on the ADHD.

    No one teaches the kid to correct the behavioral issue. Instead the kid is stuck on medicine for the rest of his life.

    But I still that that pressure is a factor in the increase in diagnosis. There’s pressure on the school to keep up a certain standard. There’s pressure on the teachers to not spend too much time with any one kid. There’s a high-pressure curriculum (at least in some of the younger grades — I have friends who are having their preschooler learning foreign languages) so that the student doesn’t get time to burn off all the extra energy.

  5. Diane says:

    I agree with you also. And I agree there is pressure to excel, and not all students have equal ability to excel at the same rate, and therefore may get side tracked, lost or bored, It is too easy to label a kid with ADHD because of the symtoms and not looking at the true cause of the behavior. Not to discount there are some cases that are true ADHD, but I think it’s lazyness or time saving to quickly jump to this diagnosis of ADHD on the part of society who makes this decision.

  6. wrongshoes says:

    I think there probably is more ADD these days – environmental factors play a part in creating these personality traits. BUT I also believe that the school environment and expectations are not necessarily healthy for those kids who do tend toward ADD. Meeting them where they are is important and not expecting them to be different just because we have different expectations of them. In other words, I think we should begin by questioning our expectations.

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