Tag Archives: Ritalin

Diagnosing a four-year old with ADHD – really?

Child suffering from ADHDA couple of weeks ago, I ran across an article from NPR (National Public Radio) that almost made my eyeballs pop out of their sockets. It was titled “Kids As Young As 4 Can Be Diagnosed, Treated For ADHD“.

Say what??? As parents, we keep hearing of more and more cases of ADHD being diagnosed (and prescribed to) every year. Just like autism is being better diagnosed, ADHD is becoming more “common”. Or is it? Are kids suffering more from ADHD today than 30 years ago? Are doctors better at diagnosing it? Or is it easier to stick a label on children who may behave on the edge of the norm rather than the quieter middle?

Here’s what bugs me about the uphill trend of ADHD diagnoses in the USA. Pediatricians are starting to make the diagnosis on their own, without the help of a trained psychologist. Ask people who got diagnosed 20 years ago how many questions they had to answer and you’ll find out it took hours, even days. Today, a pediatrician may ask just about 10 questions and label your child with ADHD. As if it were that easy. And now it seems some pediatricians want to make it even easier by labeling kids as early as four years of age.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I completely agree that ADHD can be a debilitating condition that affects many aspects of a person’s life. If that person can’t function without psychological and/or medicinal help on a daily basis, of course they should seek help so they can have a “normal” life.

But here’s what irks me the most about this recent idea of diagnosing four-year-old children with ADHD. According to the pediatrician-led Healthy Children website (linked from the NPR article), here are the main symptoms of ADHD:

Symptom

How a child with this symptom may behave

Inattention

  • Often has a hard time paying attention, daydreams

  • Often does not seem to listen

  • Is easily distracted from work or play

  • Often does not seem to care about details, makes careless mistakes

  • Frequently does not follow through on instructions or finish tasks

  • Is disorganized

  • Frequently loses a lot of important things

  • Often forgets things

  • Frequently avoids doing things that require ongoing mental effort

Hyperactivity

  • Is in constant motion, as if “driven by a motor”

  • Cannot stay seated

  • Frequently squirms and fidgets

  • Talks too much

  • Often runs, jumps, and climbs when this is not permitted

  • Cannot play quietly

Impulsivity

  • Frequently acts and speaks without thinking

  • May run into the street without looking for traffic first

  • Frequently has trouble taking turns

  • Cannot wait for things

  • Often calls out answers before the question is complete

  • Frequently interrupts others

 
Now, let me think about this. I want to guess at least 80% of four-year olds display most of these behaviors on a regular, even daily, basis. Let me share a few examples:

Often has a hard time paying attention, daydreams? Well, that was me throughout my whole school experience. Most teachers left me alone because my grades were fine, but I was bored to death at school. My favorite activities were doodling and staring at the window, coming up with wild stories in my head. Oh wait, I still do that today!

Often does not seem to listen? Yeah, my kids consistently don’t listen when I ask them to do things they don’t want to do. That’s definitely a problem. I think most husbands are guilty of that too…

Is easily distracted from work or play? I’m guilty as charged, especially when working. So are about 90% of the people I have worked with so far in my career. Give them something better/more interesting to do with their time and they’ll jump on the opportunity.

Is in constant motion, as if “driven by a motor”? Hmm, isn’t that what young kids do with their excess energy? And then doctors complain kids are getting fat from sitting down for too long, go figure!

Talks too much? I have two chattering boxes competing at home. “Argh, stop cutting my words, I was talking first!”

Cannot play quietly? I think that’s called imaginary play. I sometimes join my kids on the spaceship ride, and yes, it’s quite loud during take-off.

Cannot wait for things? “Are we there yet?” “I want a cookie now!” “Is it Sunday/Halloween/Christmas already?”

Frequently interrupts others? Wait, I know lots of adults like that. They must all have ADHD.

You get my point. If you let a pediatrician diagnose a child using this list, the Ritalin manufacturers would be ecstatic. Who knows what effects Ritalin and other ADHD drugs have on a brain that’s still developing? No studies have been led on this subject. And what happened to using behavior modification before popping pills down a child’s throat?

What do I read through this article? I read that our society wants children to sit down and be quiet. Listen to us and do as we tell them. Not think for themselves and just agree with us. It makes them good little students in school and compliants workers later in life.

What is society missing when it trains children to become quiet peons? No more creativity, no more imagination. This means no more design engineers, architects, artists, graphic and web designers, people thinking outside the box, you name it. There’s a creative drain in the US, which is great for foreigners willing to fill the void, but it can make for quite a boring society and no ideas to create new jobs.

What is your take of such an early diagnosis for ADHD? Would you let doctors label your child at such a young age or use behavior modification and see if things get better or worse down the road?

As a follow-up to this post, I wrote Follow-up thoughts on ADHD and divergent thinking a couple of weeks later, with a very interesting video speech from Sir Ken Robinson discussing how school systems around the world are really getting it wrong with our kids when it comes to preparing them for the 21th century. A very inspiring, yet depressing speech, well worth listening to!
 
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