I strongly disagree with the recent article in Today’s parent magazine “What’s in a Label?” http://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/kids-health-labelling-behaviour/, which states that labeling a child with a disorder, be it ADHD, ODD, anxiety or OCD, imprisons a child and gives them the feeling of a life sentence. Liza Finlay, a psychotherapist, goes on to say that these labels allow a child to sidestep any effort to improve. My experiences are far different. From a personal family perspective as well as the perspective of someone who has spoken to thousands of families over the past twenty years, it is the lack of early diagnosis and therefore lack of treatment and access of resources that have imprisoned many children into a life of dealing with the consequences of these disorders. Left untreated, ADHD can lead to additional mental health disorders, increased rates of high school dropout, less years of education, self-medication leading to substance abuse, involvement with the justice system, as well as increased socioeconomic costs.
A psychologist who believes that the earlier mentioned disorders are nothing but behaviours, and that children can simply choose to adopt different behaviours, is an affront to decades of medical research. Does therapy combined with other treatments for these conditions prove helpful? Sometimes, but that does not mean that ADHD is simply a set of behaviours that can be unlearned.
The notion that "once a child is diagnosed with ADHD, parents stop expecting them to behave" is not only ludicrous, it is insulting. Once a diagnosis happens, parents are able to put the child’s behaviour into perspective. They are then able to focus on appropriate parenting strategies to assist that child with their behaviours and access other appropriate treatments.
I certainly agree that additionally focusing on a child’s strengths and working to increase their capacities is essential, but the best way to do this is within the understanding of a child’s overall profile. The lack of understanding of a child with ADHD can lead to all of the above mentioned consequences as well as increased childhood and family stress, family breakup, and, in extreme cases, abuse and children leaving home.
Do we need increased tolerance for those who do not fit into society’s definition of normal? Do we need to expand society’s definition of normal? The answer to both of these questions, of course, is yes. But we need to make sure that while we work on this goal, we don’t neglect the children who are labeling themselves as stupid, lazy and bad because no one has let them know why they might be finding it more difficult to succeed than their peers.
*** You can comment on the original article or click here to leave a letter for the editor. ***
ADHD is neither a mental health crisis nor a cultural one, as Maclean’s Magazine asks in the title of their article this week. It is a mental health condition that needs to be taken seriously as a medical issue, and not used to sell newspapers and books. I was actually interviewed for this article and, as I was assured, by the author, were Canadian medical ADHD experts, this however was not evidence anywhere in this article. One would expect the authors and publishers of the books highlighted in this article to do their utmost to sensationalize the title of their books and create catchy, if inaccurate sound bites, to sell their books, but how easily journalists, such as Kate Lanau fall into line with the marketing ploy is rather shocking. Journalists who use these exact tactics themselves to increase sales totally disregard the harm they do when they sensationalize a medical condition without balancing it with decades of scientific research. How many children and adults who may have received help will go undiagnosed because this misinformation is being promoted? The most unfortunate thing is that some real issues that do need looked at here in Canada, such as the misuse of medication by some post-secondary students, and the lack of training for physicians and educators in ADHD, won’t be discussed because everyone will be focused on the pure sensationalism of this article.
Since the chances that they will publish it are slim, here is my letter to the editor of MacLean’s Magazine.
“It is irresponsible to publish an article regarding a medical condition, in a Canadian publication, using US medical, information statistics and issues with very vague Canadian references, but not include Canadian expert interviews covering the Canadian situation. We are seeing far too much of this type of journalism lately in regards to ADHD.”
This is another perfect example of how the media jumps on anything about ADHD that is controversial.
Harper Collins the publisher is doing a superb job of selling the book even before it is released and the media falling right in line with their marketing plan. Again the hugely frustrating thing is that almost every article and blog about this book does not allow for a rebuttal from the other 99.9 percent of medical experts to comment on some of the sensational statements that are obviously meant as a selling tool for the book. Unfortunately the author and publisher, as well as the journalists who buy into these tactics, totally disregard the harm they do by using sensationalism without balancing it with decades of scientific research. How many children and adults who may have received help will go undiagnosed because this misinformation is being promoted?
As Dr. Kenny Handelman stated in his blog post in January: http://www.drkenny.com/adhd-does-not-exist. I was also reluctant to comment on this fearing I would drive more attention to this book, but taking the high road in the past has not helped to decrease misunderstanding and stigma around ADHD in the past. ADHD professionals understand, as should parents and adults, that making a diagnosis of ADHD means ruling out any other potential reasons for symptoms of distractibility and hyperactivity, as much as it does confirming that the symptoms are due to ADHD. This is a very basic part of the assessment process. But, of course this is fact is not included in these articles.
If you come across any articles promoting this book and its messages, I encourage you to send your comment so people can “Get Real” about ADHD.