Somewhere in Kentucky, an eight year old boy with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) was handcuffed by a law enforcement officer.
There are many professional articles that discuss under as well as over diagnosing ADD. The diagnostic manual for the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) outlines specific criteria for diagnosing mental illnesses. Yes, ADD/ADHD is one of them.
Casual observers may be quick to judge that kids with ADD are merely undisciplined. Even some parents of children with ADD think the kid just doesn’t listen. Or obey. Many of us may have difficulty accepting that our child has anything wrong – last of all a mental disorder!
Diagnosing ADD is not as simple as diagnosing strep throat or an ear infection in kids. A quick look at the back of the throat confirmed with a swab culture; a lighted peak into the ear; taking a temperature and perhaps blood tests are fairly fail safe diagnostic techniques. Proper treatment cut and dry.
There are no blood tests or simple diagnostic tests for ADD/ADHD. Diagnostic questionnaires completed by parents and teachers are helpful. Observing and talking to the child are useful too. If symptoms, behavior and other characteristics strongly suggest ADD/ADHD and stimulant meds seem to “work,” it’s a good thing.
Oftentimes ADD/ADHD may be mixed with other presentations (comorbid) such as learning disorder, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or underlying stress from something happening at home. Or bullying at school. Or there may be a medical cause. So if the stimulant medication prescribed because indications leaned toward ADD/ADHD didn’t seem to make any difference…the dosage may not be correct or it could be something else.
Under diagnosing or over diagnosing ADD/ADHD is understandable.
Attention deficit disorder is truly a dysfunction of synapses in the complicated workings of the brain. Perhaps an oversimplification may help to understand. Imagine cutting open (unplug it first) an electrical cord. There are a lot of tiny wires. If all of the wires have been severed the electricity will not flow properly because the connection has been interrupted. If some of those wires are still intact and the faulty cord is plugged in, there may be sparks but the lamp probably won’t light or work properly.
The pathways within the brain may be thought of like those tiny wires within the electrical cord. In the brain of a person with ADD/ADHD, the synapse (or the wire) is interrupted from completing the connection between the transmission and receptor neurons. (The lamp switch and the outlet).
Stimulants can help the synapse to “jump” to the receptor and complete the circuit or pathway. Clearing this is not a discipline issue. Handcuffing a kid until he can listen and behave is not only ineffective, it is a total lack of any inkling of understanding the disorder. That is the crime.
And the fear of every parent of a child with a dysfunctional brain. My three children are all grown. However we spent time educating ourselves so the appropriate attention and treatments were availed for their disorders.
Dyslexia. Developmental speech delay secondary to repeated ear infections.Speech impediments. Attention deficit/distractability. Tourette syndrome. Oppositional defiant disorder(ODD). These conditions were spread among them. Believe it or not the toughest one (on me) was ODD.
As adults, two of the three take prescribed medications to assist and “normalize” their daily living. Regular visits with psychological and psychiatric professionals are part of the treatment as well. One took a turn at self medicating during high-school but realized that was not successful.
This is the twenty-first century. Information about any and every thing is literally a few key strokes away. Public awareness has been forged regarding many topics such as biploar disorder, depression, urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) considers ADHD one of the most common of childhood disorders; it can continue through adolescence into adulthood. There are no cures. Appropriate treatment therapy (medication and counselling) is effective at controlling symptoms.
The Beatles sang about “mothers little helpers” and “we get along with a little help from our friends.” They may be referring to tranquilizers and marijuana. During the year and a half that I had horrible hives, I was prescribed marinol, a pot pill. It helped relieve the anxiety and major discomfort of total body hives so that I could sleep. I have been taking an anti-depressant for many years.
Some individuals strongly oppose the “drugging” of America. In many circumstances and under medical supervision, if the correct pharmacological formula offers cure, relief or control why not take advantage of the pill, ointment, cream, tonic or other therapy.
Whenever possible contribute in some way to raising public awareness and steps toward eradicating ignorance, misconceptions, and apathy.
It does take “a village” to raise a child and to educate each other.
Below are resource links provided for your convenience.