ADHD – is it over-diagnosed?

children playingAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 5.4 million children ages 4 to 17 in the U.S. have been diagnosed at some time with ADHD  [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder ], and 66 percent of those with current ADHD take medication to control the condition.

Is ADHD perhaps over-diagnosed?  Might Ritalin be over-prescribed?  In my humble opinion, yes.  Is there something to be done about it?  Yes.

I am not a child psychologist or educator and I don’t have children of my own.  BUT I am an acute observer of human nature and work in the holistic health profession and am of the opinion that most prescription drugs are over-prescribed.

Why do we as a culture go along with this?  Because we are a society of people who want a quick fix.

The best explanation I have found as to why ADHD is over-diagnosed comes from Sir Ken Robinson’s brilliant February 2006 talk on Ted.com about an 8-year old child in school in the 1930s: Gillian Lynne.

Gillian was doing very poorly in school so the school board wrote her mother saying she must have a learning disorder because she couldn’t concentrate and kept fidgeting in class.  [Today they’d undoubtedly say she had ADHD but there was no such diagnosis back then].

Her mother took her to a specialist who spoke with them for a while then the doctor said,  “Gillian, I need to speak with your mother privately.  So please wait here, we won’t be long.”

Before leaving the room he turned on the radio and once out of the room, he told her mother to just watch Gillian through the glass. As soon as they left, Gillian got up and started dancing around the room.  The doctor turned to the mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick.  She’s a dancer.  Take her to dance class.”

Her mother did and Gillian said it was just wonderful because it was filled with children like her: children who couldn’t sit still.  Children who had to move to think.

Gillian went on to go to the Royal Ballet School, and eventually started her own dance company.  She choreographed some of the most successful musical theatre productions in history, including Cats and Phantom of the Opera, and is a multi-millionaire.

Sir Ken said, “Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.”

Sir Ken went on to explain that education systems world-wide were invented in the 19th century to meet the needs of industrialism.  Mathematics and science were valued over the arts, as they still are today.  And many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not talented, because the thing they are good at in school isn’t valued.

How many other bright shining lights are being snuffed out by being medicated and not allowed to find their true gifts and expression.   We really, really need to find a solution to this national education tragedy.

In the meanwhile, please do all you can to encourage and mentor the children you know so that their talents can flourish.

I would love to have your comments.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends.

Molly Larkin

Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller "The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman”  and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments