Are There Really More ADHD Kids or Just A More Intolerant Education System?

The Globe and Mail ran a six part series on boys and education.  As a mother of three boys and a former teacher, I was interested in reading the opinions of various experts.

The stand-out point for me was the discussion surrounding the alarming number of students being medicated for Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD).  Along with the rise in diagnosis is the number of children being prescribed Ritalin with the majority of cases being identified in young boys.

The article identifies that the only way ADHD can be diagnosed is by reviewing reports authored by parents and teachers about a child’s behaviour.  The question that comes to my mind, is it possible that we have created an educational system that stifles a boy’s natural instincts (to be fair, some girls too) to be physically active and in constant motion?  Is it possible that we are trying to manipulate a square peg in a round hole?

Generations ago children played outside, walked to and from school, were responsible for helping with household chores.  In effect these actions helped to “get the beans out”.  Maybe our sedentary lifestyles, complete with video games, t.v., car-pools and heavy after-school programming has attributed to children being under-stimulated, both physically and emotionally.  After all, playing outside for hours on end not only encourages children to use their imaginations but also to be active.

Who knows?  Maybe thirty years ago there were just as many ADHD kids but we just didn’t have a name for it.  Maybe those kids were labeled “bad”.  Regardless, if the numbers of boys being diagnosed ADHD is on the rise, then do we not owe it to our boys to review the education system where they spend between six and eight hours a day?

I grew up in the “girls are just the same as boys” era.  We were told that we were the same as boys and could do anything that our counterparts could do.  But now, as the mom of three boys, I see that message is flawed.  Yes we can do the same things boys can do but there are some fundamental differences between the sexes.  Leonard Sax and Barry McDonald both have researched and written extensively on the subject of boys and gender differences.  I have found their findings to resonate with me and have helped me to understand my boys’ behaviour.

For example, they physically are not able to sit at the dinner for 20 minutes without fidgeting, they have to jump on couches, everything must be tossed into the air like a ball (forks, shoes, books, etc.), physical contact is necessary in relaying their messages especially when they are toddlers . . . it’s not their fault.  It’s in their genes.  It’s in their wiring.

I understand that there are societal norms that my boys have to adhere to, but I want to know that the education system is taking steps to understand how the sexes learn differently.  Prescribing drugs is a dangerous band-aid solution that may  simply prove to only sedate our children while damaging their self-esteem.

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256 thoughts on “Are There Really More ADHD Kids or Just A More Intolerant Education System?

  1. Thank GOD someone else said it! I get pretty much ANGRY when I see that stupid ad that talks about ADHD meds and it says something like “Concentration until 6PM.” Um, WHAT!? What kid should be CALM and concentrated on things until 6PM??? Shoot, I can’t even do that. I don’t think today’s society “gets” kids anymore. They’re KIDS. They’re not adults. And like you said, they’re wired to do certain things, like play, run, jump, throw balls, etc. I don’t know about you, but I don’t WANT a child who can sit there all day long until dinnertime “concentrating” on anything. After school, shouldn’t they be having fun? Running around? Going crazy like a kid does? They’re KIDS.

    • I know that there are many, many children with ADD but I cringe to think of the number of children being diagnosed and parents encouraged to give meds to kids who are just being kids. I just wanted to throw it out there . . . see what others think.
      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      • I know. I know what you’re saying. So many children who are “just being kids” (running around, hopping all over the place having fun) are being labelled “hyperactive”. I think there’s so much (or maybe too much) emphasis put on the Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive type because they draw so much attention. Yet the ones with ADHD predominantly inattentive (ADHD-PI or ADHD-I) are often overlooked. It’s really the inattentive ones that should get help. They don’t get diagnosed (because they don’t notice) and grow up thinking they’re “stupid” or “slow” and even their parents don’t get them. It’s terrible for someone to grow up with the idea that they’re stupid/slow. It does so much damage to their self-esteem. And they get blamed for their bad grades for “being lazy” (especially when their IQ test results turn out to be very high). I grew up like that and it was frustrating. I wasn’t diagnosed with the inattentive-type until grad school!

  2. working in the children’s/adolescent mental health field, i can see both sides of the story…but being a mom of a boy (still an infant…), i can’t help but be worried of what’s in store for him in this avenue. my brother was a “bad” boy when he was younger, and there’s no doubt that if he was a boy in this day then there would be some pills pushed his way. he got in trouble, he was rough and busy…but ultimately, he was a BOY!

    • There are definitely two very compelling sides to this “argument” and I think that the Globe and Mail’s series has done a phenomenal job at sparking conversation in Toronto. This has been water-cooler talk for the past few weeks.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. Hi! This reminds me of a conversation I was having with two other women after church. One is a mother of three grown boys and the other is a mom of two young girls. They were discussing the vast energy level difference between boys and girls. I am sure many moms can relate to your post. Nice seeing you again!

    • I know that it is impossible to generalize boys/girls but there is a lot of mom-cedotal evidence out there suggesting there are many defining characteristics between the two genders.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  4. I definitely agree that children are under-stimulated when it comes to exercise, but I also think they are over-stimulated when it comes to visual input. Television programs, video games and phone apps that provide instant gratification and constant audio/visual shocks don’t do much in terms of helping kids learn to be patient or focus. I think that children do have a natural tendency to want to move around and change activities, but I also think that parents can do more to help them learn to focus in situations that are intellectually instead of physically exciting. Things like family dinners, limitations on electronic equipment and, like you said, giving househould chores and opportunities to move around outside would all help.

    • You raise an interesting point about instant gratification. I hadn’t thought about the impact the “immediacy” of our culture may play havoc with our children’s attention spans. There is no doubt that there are many children with ADD but at what point do we look at the number of kids being diagnosed and ask the question: what’s really going on here?

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

    • I agree with this- and I think we can take that a step further, when we’re thinking in terms of “behavioral problems”. What is popping a pill to cure said issues if not “instant gratification”? But sadly, many parents are finding that the results are not what they expected them to be- so we end up with an entire generation of kids on these pills, but who aren’t being kids.

      I personally don’t feel that ADD, etc is as widespread as it seems. I’ve talked to too many parents to believe that it doesn’t exist, but at the same time- posing the question of over-diagnosis is important. Encouraging active use of that abundant energy is important. Understanding that as you said, this visual and emotional overload that comes with an overabundance of media driven entertainment is a part of the problem- well, that’s something I believe that many just refuse to address and it is really sad. I agree with you 100%, give these kids the chance to be kids, give them the tools they need to cope, the outlets for the energy, the opportunity to learn to focus- and I am willing to bet many of the “cases” of ADD and the like diminish.

  5. Amen. I think there are genuinely some kids who have severe problems, but I tend to think that a vast majority of kids are being needlessly medicated.

    If your kid gets up, makes and eats breakfast by him/herself because the parents are busy to interact with them, then driven to school, goes to school in a classroom overcrowded with other kids, then is picked up and driven home, parked in front of a tv or game system for most of the evening with little to no exercise or personal conversation or stimulation and is probably filled with junk food all day instead of real food– what do we expect? I feel that medicating children is the absolute LAST resort a parent should take, and not one that should be taken lightly. You are messing with their body chemistry and potentially screwing them over in the long run. Why would any parent take that risk?

    Your kid is hyperactive– how about taking him/her for a hike; letting them go bikeriding or play hockey/baseball/basketball/etc. instead of sitting in front of the tv or letting them play video games? How about playing and interacting with them more. Reading to them at night. Feeding them REAL food, not just pre-packaged garbage. How about exploring different ways of learning if they find it hard to sit still– my mom used to let me take apart things and try and put them back together instead of just having me sit there and telling me how things worked. Hands on approach to learning works much better for many hyperactive children. People learn in different ways, and the majority children are not going to be able to sit and concentrate for long periods of time without getting fidgety. Sedating children only makes the parent feel better, it doesn’t “solve” the problem the child has.

    • Ah, your comment is truly amazing. It is exactly how I was raised, along with my siblings. All of my siblings lived at home while going to college, and we still had home-cooked dinners together. We were not allowed to have video games. If we were bored, we were told to go outside and play, or in my case, get into the arts.

      My father would not have anything to do with this ADHD business, because he put his kids before anything and everything else. This is what most parents say they do, but their actions are hypocritical… I mean, cell phones at the age of 10, seriously? I feel like it’s becoming a more superficial role of parents, and kids are leading their life by themselves.

      And yes. One of the best things I remember from my childhood (and I’m only 21 now) was my mother reading to me every night. Gave both of us time to unwind from the day, and created a close bond. Where has that gone in the generations after me?

  6. Love this post. It’s really important. Great observation that in previous generations, life was mostly physical, and if you were “antsy” you had ample opportunity to release the extra energy, both in free play and later, in work that didn’t keep people glued to computer screens all day. But I also think that we have created a toxic environment for children (food/TV/computer) that is creating problems that were unheard of a generation ago.

    • Absolutely – I look outside after school and the streets are deserted. Where have all the kids gone? (Ps – it doesn’t help that a few streets over from me the city posted a NO BALL HOCKEY sign on the street!!! Seriously! And this is Canada!).

  7. I raised one of these boys you are talking about. I thank God everyday that they didn’t know about Ritalin then. I am sure I would have grabbed onto to it on one of those days I was at my wits end as to how to handle a situation. He was not diagnosed until he was in his twenties. He tried a prescribed drug, but didn’t like the way it made him feel. He has learned behavioral management works best. Maybe we need to train parents and teachers in that. That little boy is now 39 years old and is a Special Ed teacher, specializing in kids with Autism, along with ADHD and other learning differences. He knows exactly what to do because he has been there. I admire this little boy who has grown into an amazing man. He has taught me so much about living and loving and coping with the differences in children. Medicating these children inhibits the person they will become. Yes, boys and girls are certainly different and we need to allow those differences to develop. We need to learn how to nurture and help them grow into fine men and women without prescribed drugs.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly that there are inadequate physical avenues for children to burn off energy; however, when did we abandon teaching children any sort of self control? If your 6 or 7 year old seriously cannot sit at a table in a restaurant quietly, how does one expect him/her to learn when he/she is in a much more structured environment?

    It boggles my mind, thinking back to my education, that my first grade teacher (a nun) got forty 6 year old children to sit still with hands folded. None of us went to preschool or kindergarten. And sad to say, we got a better education out of 8 years than most do today in 12 with drugs and snowplow parents.

  9. My youngest has been diagnosed with a number of questionable problems from ADHD, sensory integration issues, OT, behavioral etc.
    We were sent for the full edu./psych/behavioral/neuro battery of tests when he was just four. The reports we got back were staggering in length and awe inspiring in content.
    It sounded like we were cultivating the next unibomber.
    He’s active, he’s stubborn and he’s got a mouth on him that would shame Lenny Bruce but so far we’ve resisted the push to medicate and at nearly six MANY of his issues shook out when he was let loose outside for the better part of four hours a day to burn the crazies off.
    He goes to an occupational therapist and a behaviorist but an adjustment in diet and physical activity level has made the biggest difference.
    I’m sure many kids do need the Ritalin but I wonder how many take it with no need.

    • See, I think that’s another part of the problem- the knee jerk response anymore, is to offer meds.

      I think that it’s awesome you chose another route. Even had you ultimately ended up medicating- it is clear that though you’ve obviously had your hands full, you looked into every option. I’m glad to hear that you found ones that worked for you. 🙂

  10. Dear Beth-Anne,

    I completely agree with you. I wish I could find where I read it, but I was reading in a book on the web about this very thing. There was a child who was not succeeding in school and who was always moving around. This was years ago. And a very astute psychiatrist interviewed her and her mother. Then the psychiatrist took her mother outside of the room and left the radio on where the child was. The child began dancing. The psychiatrist said to the mother: There is nothing wrong with this child. She needs to dance.

    The mother took the child to dancing school, and the child later recalled: I felt I belonged. Here were other children who also had to move in order to think.

    This child became a famous dancer. — Oh, I just found the wikipedia entry on her, and it corroborates what I read. It’s here:
    Gillian Lynne is her name, and I think she’s still alive.

    Anyway, the author said: what if she had been drugged to be more passive?

    A huge question!

    • I am sure you mean the story that Sir Ken Robinson talked about on his awesome speech at the TED conference. You can find it here:

      Besides ADHD, which is like pig flu just another try to make people more scared and sell more drugs, our western school system is flawed. Subjects like basic financial education, happiness, meditation, creativity, searching for a kids interests and talents, art, basic psychology and just playing with ones friends is totally underrated.
      I believe what makes people wiser, happier and fulfilled in life should be tought most – because from the Pyramid of Needs by Maslow we know these are a humans greatest needs. Todays schools are not made for future jobs, long term thinking or teaching happiness. Another nice video what really drives us – and it’s not money:

    • If she had been drugged as a child, who knows if we would have “Cats” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” Gillian Lynne was the choreographer for both!

      • Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element is also excellent. He has fantastic ideas about how to completely restructure the school system so that it will not only work for all students but for the future as well.

  11. Being a young adult who was diagnosed with ADD years ago I’m inclined to agree with the majority of this article. I would say that kids are not under-stimulated, but over-stimulated on the wrong things. Technology and it’s applications in the media world have advanced so quickly I don’t think most parents realised how it might affect their children until it was too late. I was checking out some old tv shows I used to watch as a little kid and thought the Pee Wee Herman show alone could have been the cause of my inability to focus on a single thing for more than a few seconds that wasn’t loud and flashing. If you couple this with schools that have to be nicer to children or otherwise face litigation it’s a great recipe for ADHD. I went into engineering and was forced to focus in order to keep my job and I feel like I have overcome any major obstacles I faced in school.

    • There are many experts who agree with you that TV is causing more harm than good in our children. Especially when many children go from tv to computer to iPod to iPad, etc., etc.

      Thanks for sharing your personal story.

  12. The question that comes to my mind, is it possible that we have created an educational system that stifles a boy’s natural instincts (to be fair, some girls too) to be physically active and in constant motion?

    For example, they physically are not able to sit at the dinner for 20 minutes without fidgeting, they have to jump on couches, everything must be tossed into the air like a ball (forks, shoes, books, etc.), physical contact is necessary in relaying their messages especially when they are toddlers . . . it’s not their fault. It’s in their genes. It’s in their wiring.

    Whether or not the educational system is growing less tolerant of the range of “normal” behavior in children should certainly be addressed, revisited. Moreover, the educational system (and society as a whole) needs to understand that some people live in their bodies and other people live in their heads.

    If your attention span can be engaged for long periods of time but you still get fidgety and want to move around, maybe you live in your body. If you seldom, if ever, want to be physically active and you’d really rather stay inside and read a book or do your homework, and tend to stare out the window or into space, maybe you live in your head.

    If you can be physically active when necessary and cognitively active when necessary, then you live in harmony with your mind and body.

    And then, the educational system can decide if children who are body-oriented or head-oriented need to be balanced out…without the use of pills.

  13. When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with ADHD. My mom’s solution was not to medicate but to get me very involved with sports. Although it is sometimes hard for me to sit still, I was able to graduate from college and then graduate school and do well professionally.

    Although some kids truly have ADHD, I think the large increase in ADHD can be attributed in part to being over medicated, too sedentary, watching too much TV, and eating too much sugar. Kids need to get outside and run around.

    • Totally agree with the last part. Another unpopular issue are ingredients in food (glutamate, saccharin, aspartame…) and plastics ( that change or destroy the brain structure and hormone levels.

      BTW: Ever wondered why many young boys start to look and behave like girls? Bisphenol A could be one big reason.

    • Bravo to your Mum. Would that many more are that sensible. Give her a big hug for being so brave to fly in the face of the medical system. have you heard of Dr John Demartini? worth investigating.

    • Jackson Rodgers: Thanks for sharing your story and in your particular case it is great to read about the benefit of sport. Your mom must be an amazing person to dedicate the time to help you get through all of your schooling.

  14. When I first started school I could never sit still. I would stand and walk around my desk or around the class. I would get into so much trouble for not listening. My mom was concerned and wanted the schools help. I do not believe they had EBD classes then. In 5th grade I was enrolled in EBD classes, and stayed in them until I left school. I was diagnosed with ADHED, and later with bi-polar and anxiety. I still have the ADD lable and I take meds everyday.

    I think the true test on if your child has ADHD is how they act in school. They can be as crazy and wild at home, but in school they have expectations on behaviors. The ADHD component comes into play when they are not able to “conform” to this sociatel norm. (I am anti-conformity) The schools want our kids hopped up on meds because it makes the indoctrination that much easier.

    I have a six year old son who I believe suffers from anxiety and ADHD. I do not want him to get in the same cycle I was by forcing him to take meds. On the other hand I do want him to have the best chance to succeed, and if that requires meds then what do you do?

    • I feel for your concern about your son, but try everything you can before you resort to meds.
      ADHD isn’t a disease. Unlike Bi-polar which is in a different category and requires a different approach.
      I spent most of my life crippled with anxiety but after years of cognitive behavior therapy, (which also did wonders for my ADHD) I am now anxiety free.
      Best of luck to both of you!

    • Hi Tim, I read jenny’s comment and agree with her totally. CBT is an amazing process and far far preferrable to medications. Ritalin is so not the answer. Good luck to you and your son.

    • When being busy and active moves on to being disruptive, overly physical, and unbelievably impulsive, one of a variety of medications (many NOT in the same family as Ritalin, which is in essence speed) may help a child succeed in a school environment, without turning him into a robot, a couch potato, a conformist or a drug addict. No one knows why boys appear to be more prone to having ADHD but as a mother who grew up as a child with ADHD, I know what torture it is not to be able to control your actions or what you say. I grew up well before the “age of Ritalin” and before the advent of noxious food preservatives and chemicals to which my young sons–both of whom are being successfully treated for ADHD, which we do know has a genetic component–are exposed on a daily basis. I can only imagine how much of a role diet and the environment play, but I am sure it is a toxic one. My boys play hard at sports and are outside whenever possible and I encourage that as well as quiet time, when they can slow down a little and think. They both go to excellent schools where their individuality is celebrated and where they are supported, a condition that I believe is vital to successful treatment. I am blessed to have had them diagnosed and treated and believe that they will not look back at their childhoods with the same lack of self-esteem that characterizes my memories.

    • Hi Tim:

      Thanks for sharing your dilemma. This is the exact conversation that I was hoping would be generated from this post. The Globe and Mail has put together a compelling series on boys and education (6 parts) that has a lot of Toronto talking. Check it out. Worth the read.

  15. This is post is vital to the awareness of parents to understand that the school DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILD It is your responsibility. My son was ADHD, no ritlan for him. It was tough, but now he has his masters and is a LCSW. Find a learning disability specialist and take your child. I know it’s more expensive then a bottle of ritlan. Please do not blindly give this drug.

  16. I don’t have ADHD, or “ADD” as I usually call it. But I know a LOT of kids who have it–and I mean a LOT. One boy I knew was so hyper he had to take his meds before appearing in any public place. If he forgot, however, he was a total nightmare. He’d get hysterical and start screaming and couldn’t sit still and it was awful to be in the same room with him.

    But back to your post … I really liked it, and pretty much agree with you. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

    • I don’t question that there are many, many kids with ADD but what I do question is are we over-medicating kids who don’t need it.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and join the conversation.

  17. So many good issues in this post. Such as the decrease of play time and physical education in our schools (United States) because they need more time to study for the standardized tests. Such as the fact we do have all of these inactive video games instead of outdoor fun. Such as the very real energy level difference between most boys and girls. Congrats once again.

    • I always find is amusing that we have video games that mimic outdoor activities. I will never be an olympic ski jumper and sure it’s fun to virtually experience it but what is cause for concern is people who consider these games a substitute for actual outdoor activity. 🙂

    • My oldest son is a victim of the addiction cycle video games bring. When he is grounded from video games he goes through withdrawls. I am an addict so I know the symptons. He is still active plays football and trains 365 days a year. What suffers is his school. He just doesnt care. No matter how hard we try he is content with failing. We ground him, and just finds a bandaide to subside his withdrawls

  18. I say no pills. I had ADHD and probably still do. I stopped taking ritalin and adderall years ago. It suppressed my appetite, made my stomach hurt and slowed me down physically. Family members saw a change in me right away and they did not like it. You should not put your kids threw this. Let them live naturally. Put them in sports or another physical activity and use it to their advantage.

  19. You touched a nerve here for me. Thank you for saying it.
    I really do think that this is about not just an intolerant education system but an intolerant society!
    I have ADHD, but was thank goodness only diagnosed as an adult when I could make decisions for myself about whether I wanted to add an amphetamine addiction to my list of problems.
    As someone who has tried every drug available to deal with my symptoms I swear that if I had children they would NEVER be given any of those drugs!
    Headaches, night terrors, total inability to function without the drugs once I started taking them… and then there was the one that I took for 10 days which left me with a stutter that thank God went away after 10 weeks.
    We have to stop trying to fit children, regardless of sex into a one-size-fits-all box and find better ways to teach that will work for all students.
    I do realize that this is no small task and I do not blame teachers for the failures in our education system. Their hands are full, and often tied.
    That said. We need a new paradigm because I believe that we are ruining some of our best and brightest!
    Thank you for this, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Jenny:
      Great points you have raised. I am not blaming the teachers either. There is no doubt for many their hands are full and tied – like you said. That is why we, the 4 mothers, felt like the Globe and Mail raised some very critical issues in their 6 part series on education and boys.

      Thanks for joining the conversation. 🙂

  20. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!! My son is extremely active, and my husband have been fighting tooth and nail to keep him from being labeled ADHD. There’s nothing wrong with him, he’s just very active.

    We have noticed that healthy diet and one-on-one contact with him do help ease his hyper-activity. I very much believe that diet is a key factor in behavior. And I also believe that people are less tolerant, and don’t allow children to move as much as they need to.

    • Shannon – thanks for joining the discussion and sharing your story. I am sure you have been on the receiving end of many glaring strangers. Good for you for sticking with what you think is best for your son. Check out Leonard Sax’s book: Why Gender Matters. It has helped me to be a better mom to my three boys.

  21. This is something that really gets to me. I *know* that ADHD is real, and that it’s a serious problem for some kids. But I would venture to say that many cases that are diagnosed are simply a result of kids being kids. I’ve actually had someone suggest to me that my four-year-old should be medicated because he’s “spirited”. He’s not spirited. He’s a four-year-old boy. Why do people expect kids to sit still like a bunch of robots? They’re *kids*. I think part of the problem here is that there are parents and teachers out there who simply want to make life more convenient for themselves.

  22. When I was young I was diagnosed with ADHD and my parents were advised to medicate me. I’m happy that they thought that doctor was crazy. “She doesn’t have a disorder. She’s just a kid.” They asserted.

    I was lucky when I got into the school system because we had an amazing special education teacher who taught me great ways to manage my energy and to channel it into productive and creative pursuits.

    For me that was a cure.

    I do think I had ADHD. I also don’t think it was a very severe case. I’m very thankful for the school system I was a part of. To this day, I still use the tools that special teacher taught me to focus at work and in life.


  23. You are absolutely correct. This is why schools like Waldorf and Montessori are beneficial. Personally, I homeschool my kids. I know my eldest son, as bright as he is, would never make it in government schools.

    The other thing that I believe is overlooked is the fact that what many parents are feeding their children these days is contributing to the problem. Processed foods high in sugar, corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and more affect their health, how they feel, and how they act.

    Changing their diets would do so much for them. It makes no sense to drug up a bunch of kids to get them to act a desired way when you are feeding them poison in the first place.

    Controlling people with drugs to get a desired affect smacks of cult brainwashing to me. Really, how is it different?

  24. All I can say is “Thank goodness” someone else notices what I notice…

    Without getting into the whole “Keep us on meds” kick… I first and foremost would like to say that I believe that there are NOT more ADD/ADHAD children out there, we are simply suffering from an educational system which has not advanced with the audience it is intended to deliver to.

    Our school systems are the same archaic ones our grandparents and prior were educacted through… we no longer love/discipline/interact with/understand/speak to/are spoken to/ or think of our children the same way… our children also have VERY different circumstances, challenges, expectations, media influences, physical and technological desires than our past generations… what does this mean… This to me clearly = A NEW DELIVERY VEHICLE/ARCHITECTURE is desperately need by our educational system…

    Educational delivery/procurement efforst are futile without one very key element… The absolute catalyst in my opinion to absorb/retain knowledge is INTEREST! If we are not interested, then even the most knowledgable teacher/intstructor can not and will not leave the muse with any gains as far as knowledge/information is concerened. We are not ADD/ADHAD… we are simply a new generation which is HIGHLY immersed in an ocean of interactivity… from your cell phone, to your V-Smile, to your hands-free automobile features mom and dad use, we are simply expecting our world to respond and interact symbiotically with us… So when our children show up to school for EIGHT HOURS a day, and they are talked to as a group, very little buttons to push, very little scene/background change, very little sound change, very little interactivity period…

    If you take the most so called “ADD or ADHAD” child you can find, and ask them about their favorite video game or cartoon show, etc… they can most likely speak to you like a Ph.D. about the topic… To me this simply proves that they do not have a learning disability, they have simply tuned out what they are not interested in, and they are also then able to FULLY immerse themself into a subject they DO enjoy and find INTEREST IN… CHANGE THE DELIVERY VEHICLE/ARCHITECTURE, INCREASE TECHNOLOGY, INCREASE INTERACTIVITY, INCREASE ENVIROMENTAL RANDOMNESS AND FLUID ONGOING CHANGE, AND YOU WILL INCREASE THE KNOWLEDGE/CONCENTRATION/AND INTEREST OF OUR YOUTH, and you will then also INCREASE YOUR CONTRIES PRODUCTIVITY, INTELLIGENCE, LOGIC, ADVANCEMENT, and ETHICAL/INTEGRAL QUALITITES>….

    I myself can tell you, that I have a tested I.Q. of 161, and I was a true C- to D+ student in high-school… This was honestly not due to a lack of intelligence, it was a lack of EFFORT because I just wasn’t intrigued or interested whatsoever… Now ten years out of high-school, I self prescribe efforts to learn phyics, complex mathematical problems, philosophy, etc… this is because through technology, video, surfing the web, various things made me INTERESTED in these subjects… now today I can speak to you about these subjects in an extremely educated light, and I have a natural passion for them, because I say through a channel that was interactive, that they were quite interesting… quite the contrary to sitting at a desk with an intructor or teacher “Telling” they are interesting and “Telling me” or “Writing on the chalk-board” the reasons why… C’mon people, we are very different, we deserve a different educational architecture with a newly engineered delivery model.

    Thanks for listening to me run on and on, but coming from someone who would have surely been labled ADD or ADHAD if I would have bee “taken in” (lol) to the Shrink or Dr., I thought I had a valuable picture to display through my own constellation of detail.

  25. Hello ladies. I read your article with great interest since this is a subject that has really bugged me in the past and continues to do so now. I totally agree with you regarding that ADHD is too easily ‘prescribed’ these days. Not to blame anyone in particular but it would seem that medication is used far to readily in order to quell behaviour that could be remedied in a far more productive way. As you say, in years gone by we played outdoors most days. Many a day my Mother used to have to phone around the neighbourhood to find my sister who was a real tomboy and a complete tearaway. It was her nature to be active, run about like a lunatic and basically have fun. Nowadays children are not allowed to run about in case they fall and hurt themselves, many a time they are shunted in front of the TV and play-consoles instead of being active and outdoors. Boys are meant to be active and curious and bash things and play full out, even girls if it their nature. I hate that folks have allowed their kids to be medicated, and get especially angry at those lazy doctors who should know better and prescribe medication. Much could be said for the food (or non food) that kids are allowed to eat and I am certain that the preservatives we find in packaged food has a lot to answer for with children who are overly hyperactive. Give them fresh healthy food, space to play, lots of attention and allow them to be children. As for the education system, it is geared to squash the imagination, create robots and promote conformity rather than inspiring children to reach their potential. That is not to say that all schools or teachers are at fault, although there are some who should not be allowed near children, rather it is a system that is geared to manage the masses. There are of course the exceptions. If I had the time over again to raise my daughter I would have sent her to a private school where the children are encouraged to reach their full potential rather than conform to strict regulations geared to squash any character. Get them active, get them busy and while I agree that some kiddies do have behavioural problems, many a time if you look behind the behaviour you will inevitably identify the problem which can be resolved without medication. Thanks for a great post and congrats on being ‘freshly pressed’ 🙂
    p.s. have you ever heard of Dr John Demartini….. a brilliant man who is a Chiropractor and a philosopher, and he was dismissed as being of sub-intelligence when at school. his story is amazing.

  26. To me the issue is that there has been a large skewing of mis-educational structure where the importance of a child’s development has been ripped from parents and legislated to those who are ‘professionals’. The problem with this is that systems are created for generalities, not individual traits and learning styles. The education system, unfortunately, isn’t about learning, it is about conditioning a child to perform on cue.

    • I sort of beg to differ on the “ripped from the parents and legislated” bit. What I find as a teacher is many, many (oh far too many – but certainly not all) parents have had very little interest in their child’s actual development. They’re far too happy to let the educational system deal with it and, as you stated so well, the educational system is created for generalities.

  27. Medical diagnoses sometimes seem to follow what looks like haphazard routes, but often, if you look, you will see patterns.

    One VERY important reason behind the skyrocketing of a particular diagnosis is that a patented (and hugely profitable) DRUG has appeared on the market for that particular condition. Do you think that we would be facing the huge numbers of attention deficit diagnoses today that we are if drugs like Ritalin had not appeared in doctor’s offices 10-20 years ago?

    I do not.

    This isn’t to say that I don’t believe that some people have extreme difficulties with focusing their attention. I do. But I also think that because drugs now exist that are thought to ‘treat’ hyperactivity, the diagnosis of attention deficit is one that parents, educators, and doctors are much more willing to make.

    Do schools, with their focus on kids being able to sit still for hours at a time, exacerbate these problems? Perhaps. But schooling has always asked this out of kids; in the fifties and sixties when I was in elementary school, we were expected to sit still for far longer periods than kids do today.

    And guess what, there was not ONE diagnosis of attention deficit disorder.

    Kids who couldn’t learn to focus–and boys were not the only ones who had to work at that–suffered, as did their grades, the teachers, and the kids (like me) who sat around for interminable minutes and hours waiting for the class to ‘settle down’. We got yelled at, teachers weren’t always nice, and often were not happy. And a huge amount of time was ‘wasted’ while a small percentage of every class fiddled, goofed, wandered, interrupted, fought, and controlled the teacher’s attention.

    This behavior among a few was accepted–unless extreme–as within a ‘normal’ range.

    Is there a greater premium placed today on being able to focus?

    I don’t see it–among schools or in the adult world. If anything, I see greater tolerance for scattered energy, multi-tasking, and superficial responses. Indeed, we are coming into an era that well may be creating advantages for those individuals who have a high tolerance for interruption and are skilled at multi-tasking.

    Is there a gender issue in all of this? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. Plenty of boys learn to focus superbly (check out the current list of lead academicians and Nobel laureates) and plenty of girls do poorly in school.

    • I did not think that there was an issue in our schools when it comes to boys either, but after reading the six part series in the Globe and Mail, I have lots of questions now. Being the mother of three boys (one in school), I was very interested to read the varying opinions and points of view.

  28. Wow…this is a beautifully worded and intelligently organized post! As a mother of 3 boys myself, I couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for having the courage to speak out and stand up for our sons!!!

  29. I love this article. I would say hold off the drugs. Let’s find some other alternative before doctors prescribe them. If da Vinci was alive today, he would most certainly be diagnosed with ADHD. Had he been medicated, he would probably not have developed his true potential.

    Children (and adults) should do what our bodies are designed to do. We should exercise (our ancestors have to run a lot to avoid hunters like lions), use our imagination (they used their creativities to survive the scarcity in the wild), and use logic. We are neglecting exercise and creativity.

  30. It is hard to keep up with all the reasons why children are not learning. As a retired teacher, I will say that all children do not learn the same way. I tutor now, and many of the children I have tutored in the past few years have had difficulty learning. That is why they came to us.
    Tutors can choose to be more patient, and increase the one to one instruction. They can diagnose problems or gaps in learning.
    Creativity is one of the keys, and keeping things educational, but moving. Spend shorter times, use markers and ways to keep them interested on on task. In my day, we were told, “stand on your head if you have to, but engage the class in learning.”
    That was not always easy. Twenty-five different learners is not easy with seven subjects to teach. Maybe things have evolved, but teaching was not,nor has it ever been a piece of cake for me.

    • I would imagine that the expectations for educators has increased significantly over the past few decades. I know from my limited years teaching that children now are expected to know more at a younger age. The curriculum (at least in Ontario) has swelled and teachers are pressured to cover it. To add, class sized have grown, and funding for extras is low. Sad to say, but kids living of a higher SES have greater access to the “extras” that often help them to excel.

      Thanks for your comments.

  31. I am ADD, my entire life I struggled in school because I was deemed as a ‘disturbance’ and my parents refused to medicate me. When I turn 18 and went to college I took it upon myself to get tested and medicated for help with my college curriculum. I take Adderol and I can honestly say my GPA skyrocketed once I was able to focus. On the flipside… I believe that if I was medicated as a child my personality would not have shown (and that’s what helped me be successful in social organizations etc) I have been researching ADD for 7 years (since I have it, I want to learn a cure for it etc) I do believe it stems back to the early childhood and stimulation. A case study I conducted in college proved that between newborn to 3 years old a childs brain is still developing and television is highly impacting brain development. A lot of parents use it as a babysitting/distraction tool to entertain their children while they take care of other chores. I’m against medicating children because I was tested at age 18 as the highest level of ADD and made it through grade school fine. I have friends with young children who are ‘behavior problems’ in the classroom and I beg them not to medicate their kids with Ritilin, Adderol, Concerta, etc. Let kids be kids, they will outgrow it. We ALL are ADD to some degree.

    • There is definitely more research being done on the effects of TV and brain development. Parents seem to be divided on this issue. I wonder if in 10 years time our collective view will be different?

  32. I agree fully. I grew up in a family of 3 sisters and one brother. We always knew he was different: he was so loud! Now that I have 2 boys, I really know what loud is. They are so full of energy. They are not engaged by school the way I was. They are given twenty minute recess a day. I think this inability to express themselves physically during the day is stressful for them, and makes it difficult to focus.

    • Where I live, the recess time has been slashed and fewer kids walk to school. I am guilty of this too – with three kids to drop off at various points in the morning, walking isn’t a luxury we can afford – – time is always of the essence. I try to balance that by having “outdoor play” time in the afternoon where the boys are shuttled outside. Sometimes their activities are self-directed and sometimes more chore-based, but either way, I need them to get their beans out!

  33. I’ve seen and observed that some moms like saying “Yeah, he has ADHD” and continue their “Whoa is me” discussion with other moms. I think it’s just an easy excuse to medicate a kid a mom can’t handle.

    I’m sorry but these are sometimes the moms that are too geared for their careers rather than motherhood.

    It’s just too easy nowadays to label a child ADHD. I agree with you, lack of stimulation. Not enough “GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY”.

    I could have easily been labeled ADHD back in the ’60’s. I was always in constant motion, playing with one thing, then right onto another, running up and down stairs. I played outside alot as well. My father always had a hell of time trying to put me down for a nap when I was a baby. He’d lay me down, and I’d pop right back up. I was constantly black and blue from running in to things and falling. But ADHD was never brought up let alone known about. I survived. Mom survived. Dad survived. It’s all good.

    Patience and understanding along with some good ol’ fashion outside exercise goes a long way. Too much medicating going on.

  34. What is sad is that we are letting teachers make the diagnosis on our children. Teachers are frustrated, the class is out of control and it is easy for them to say sure give the kid some drugs. The doctor gives a simple form to the parents and teachers to fill-out that could describe any active boy. When did teachers become psychologist? The problem is with society and our failing school system not the kids.
    They wanted to put my son on medication. My wife and I made the decision to home-school. It was a hard decision but in the end proved to be a good choice.

  35. When I was five I was diagnosed as “Hyperactive.” I don’t think they had coined the term ADHD yet, but they certainly had Ritalin. First, though, the doctor had my parents give me coffee. Apparently the doctor believed that it had the opposite effect on children than it does on adults. (I’m not sure about this to be honest). Well, let me tell you, five year old boys do NOT like coffee – particularly without sugar or cream. When that didn’t work (because I wouldn’t take it) they put me on the Ritalin, and I basically spent second grade stoned most of the time. Did I learn better? I don’t really think it helped much.

    Has anyone ever done a long-term study on the effects of Ritalin and a correlation to drug addiction as adults? Or a correlation with Alzheimers? Depression? Epigenic effects that might affect offspring? (Note, I’m not trying to start a conspiracy theory here, just wondering if the studies have been done).

    We tend to look at drugs as an instant solution for things, when conditioning may be a solution we don’t even try or don’t consider. It seems like we should look at concentration training first and work on that before we start giving kids drugs. Then, when they grow up, maybe they won’t look first to a pill to fix things when a problem arises.

  36. I have never agreed with the mass diagnoses of ADHD. Your comment re: the square peg and round whole hits the nail on the head. We are not successful with these so-called ADHD kids because we aren’t trying to teach them using methods that are appropriate. To be honest, I probably would have been labelled ADHD now – I was just lucky that through the efforts of a very special teacher and my parents, they discovered my disruptions were because I wasn’t being challenged enough in my class. I was placed in an enrichment class and flourished from that point. Where would I have been if I was medicated to conform?

    • Thanks for your comment. I just think that it’s time we look at examine the system. If more and more kids are identified as having difficulties thriving as a part of it, perhaps there is something wrong with it?

  37. I do believe that the standard classroom model is flawed. I do also believe that kids are being diagnosed more often with ADD and ADHD, not just because of the flawed classroom model – but also because of environmental factors that no one, especially not the school system or government is willing to look into. I think there are “things” in either our food or in our surroundings that have made this “disease” skyrocket.

    I am by no means a conspiracy theorist, a “crunchy mom” who gives her kids pure whole foods and monitors everything they eat. And I don’t think that toxins or chemicals in food or surroundings is intentional – just unrecognized at present. I do have an ADHD son, so these thoughts go through my mind a lot. I think it’s screwed up that no one thinks about the validity of kids with ADHD and wonders, “Why are there so many kids with ADHD?” Instead of assuming that doctors are over-diagnosing, and parents and school expect a docile child. Is part of the problem the fact that they have PE just once every 7 days instead of twice every 5 days? Recess for only a few minutes a day? No outlet for pent up energy? Absolutely! But is that the only answer? Definitely not.

    There is something else going on. With my son, this is not a “boy being a boy.” I do know the difference. This is a child who played outside for hours every single day in elementary school, and is in a marching band with strenuous outdoor practice every day, plus daily PE now that he’s in middle school. He’s not suffering with pent up energy. It’s something else. And I wish there was someone besides a few of us worried parents looking further into it. But until you actually have a child with ADHD you really do not know how that simple name fails to encompass things that are more than “hyperactivity” and “boys being boys.”

    • Well said – it appears that many of the commenters of this post seem to agree that the lack of physical activity is impairing our kids. Exercise offers a plethora of benefits and considering the staggering rate of childhood obesity and the number of children being diagnosed ADD, perhaps it’s time to look at the current paradigm?

  38. I agree with ’emailwilliamg.’ Our school systems rely on processes that work adequately for a cooperative mass of kids but not for a specialized segment of kids that are either especially active, especially intellectual, especially creative, or especially special. Of course, as a society we not only have a duty but a responsibility to make sure the outliers (and I am very much thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s book of the same name) can bring their special talents to our collective table.
    -Mike Raven

  39. I was in elementary school in the 60’s. We had 36-40 students per class. The classroom was always quiet and well-behaved. We had recess twice a day and ran off steam that way. Every other day we alternated physical education and music class. We had no sugar or sugary beverages at school and were not allowed to buy any. We could either eat what the cafeteria served, and there was only one choice, or we could bring our lunch, but it had to be nutritious.

    If a child disrupted class, they were paddled. Parents did not need to give permission for a child to be paddled. Corporal discipline was swift and harsh.

    Chances are, when the child went home from school and the parents found out they had been paddled at school, they were spanked with a belt at home and given other harsh punishments as a future deterrant.

    We played outside after school with our friends. An evening’s play consisted of kickball, dodgeball, baseball, riding our bikes or skateboarding.

    At mealtime, we were hungry enough that healthy food looked as good as anything. If we didn’t like it, then we could wait until the next meal and hope it looked better – and it would because we would be starving by then.

    Nobody was on Ritalin back then, nobody had ADHD, and few were disobedient at school. The worst behaved kid in my class grew up to fly Air Force One for a number of years.

    We need to get back to basics. Cut out junk food in schools, add extra exercise, and make bad behavior hurt.

  40. I had Ritalin as a child growing up because of my cerebral palsy, ADD/ADHD and bi-polar disorder. (Today–it’s Factor Five Leiden amongst other health issues.)

    Drove my mother (cowbell!) crazy!

    I can tell you this much: I was a super-powered 8 to 10-year-old on that crap. :0)

    Few people understood what I was going through and the fruits and the nuts only saw me as an “out of control child in need of medication”.


    I made friends with Ritalin! Stayed on it for a few years at least. Don’t know what made me go off of it.

    But knowing what I know *today*, I’m glad that I wasn’t addicted or overmedicated on that stuff.

    Schuyler Thorpe

  41. I agree with some of what you’re saying.

    I think the pharmaceutical industry is out of control and there’s over-medicating going on all over. About ADHD, it seems to me not enough people are looking at exercise levels and diet before looking at Ritalin. There probably is a valid place for Ritalin, but surely it shouldn’t be the first option. I know there are parents who are successfully controlling their kids’ ADHD with diet and exercise, and I know there are parents who have tried diet and exercise to no avail; but there does seem to be a disturbing trend to skip over these options and go straight to the drugs.

    The stuff about differences between the sexes, however, doesn’t resonate with me. How do you define “sex”? Do you realize how many children are born in America every year with “ambiguous genitalia”? Most of these children are assigned a gender (usually female) so they will fit in with society, but when we talk about different learning styles or other supposedly sex-based behaviours, where do these children fit? These kids, of course, are only the extreme of what I’m talking about. Take me, for example: there’s nothing at all ambiguous about my sex, I’m a woman inside and out, but I’ve never felt especially “like” other women, nor especially “unlike” men. Give me any “women are like this, men like that” conversation, and I guarantee you I won’t fit in there. I think when you stop looking at people as individuals and start looking at them as part of a group, you can’t avoid the pitfalls: some people simply won’t fit in with your ideas of their supposed group, and they will be left behind, ignored. I think before we go back to “boys and girls are different” thinking, we should very seriously consider just what, exactly, *is* a boy or girl. At this point in time, we have no good answer to that question.

    @writerdood Ritalin and caffeine are both CNS stimulants – this might explain why your doc tried you on coffee first.

    • I think that’s absurd. It’s okay to make generalizations about gender, as long as you qualify them as exactly that, a generalization. Not all boys are rambunctious. Not all girls are good at English. Yeah, that’s all fair to say, but do we really have to struggle to define a “boy” and a “girl”? That’s ridiculous. Here’s your definition: If “it” has testicles, it’s a boy. If not, then let’s just assume that “it’s” a girl.

      Talk about splitting hairs. Sheesh!

      • @zohrbak I think you missed my point. It’s not so much the definition I’m concerned about, but rather the idea of choosing our treatment of someone because of that definition.

        According to your definition, I’m a girl. That’s fine, but when you start going further with your definition – talking about girl-specific learning styles, for instance, and deciding to teach me according to those styles, as opposed to other styles, because of that definition – we run into problems.

        What if the only thing that makes me a “girl” is my genitalia? What if I don’t “learn like a girl”? Teaching me like a girl, then, wouldn’t provide me with a very good education, would it?

        Ideally we would approach each child individually, determine his or her learning style (through the help of certain group-based guidelines, perhaps), and teach them accordingly.

        I suppose that’s not very practical, though…

    • You raise a good point. I am cautious of the over-generalization too but after reading Leonard Sax and Barry MacDonald (both researchers are very clear that there are many “outliers”) a lot of behaviours starting making more sense to me. You are right though, when making generalizations caution is paramount.

      • There was also a Discovery Channel documentary years ago about a woman going through a sex change. For weeks before it began, she took tests and had brain scans. The first step was to give testosterone injections. After a week of this, the same types of tests and the same brain scans were done and they were changed. Different areas of the brain were responding to the same questions, some questions were answered more quickly and others more slowly. As the hormone dosages increased, the changes became more pronounced. So there ARE definitive and measurable general differences between male and female.

  42. I too agree this is a great post. However, I urge caution with accepting ‘fundamental’ gender differences so we do not return to the accepted double standard that still prevails in part today. I personally believe we should stop trying to fit children to an educational/gender/etc formula and try allowing children to create their own formula for education. Peace to you.

  43. I’m glad you bring awareness to this issue – it is long over due. I have such a hard time hearing about the rise in ADD/ADHD diagnosis because I feel that the label places children at a disadvantage. They are known by their diagnosis and not as a person. I am a recent graduate from a Master’s in Exercise Psychology and I am trying to find ways to bring back the activity-based learning to our children. Keep writing – it only takes one person!

  44. Back in the day when I was in elementary school (early 80’s) we had 3 recesses..morning, lunch and afternoon. Both of my kids are in elementary school now, 2nd and K, and they get one recess a day! This is completely absurd to me. How can you expect 5-9 year olds to sit all day with only one ‘run around get your energy out’ break? In my opinion schools/teachers are way to quick to slap on the ADD/ADHD label. Kids will be kids and they will be energetic and a little on the crazy side..that’s what makes them kids! Let them be, give them the opportunity to get the energy out before you slap that label on them and want to introduce drugs to calm them and make them what I think is zombie like kids! If after all of the outlets are given and they are still having trouble THEN look into them having ADD/ADHD, but they have to be given a chance with other outlets first. Just my 2 cents.

    • The lack of opportunity to exercise, and socialize during the school day is appalling. It is absurd to expect anyone to sit still for that long while focusing on content that may not be of any interest to them. Goodness knows that I can’t sit still and listen to something that I am not at all interested in.

  45. When my cousin was little, professionals told my Aunt and Uncle that their daughter needed to be put on Ritalin. They said, “Thanks but no thanks!” Instead they got her involved in a lot of after school activities and one of them really hit a chord for her. Now she is a Taekwondo Junior Olympic star and on the fast track to being an Olympian! Makes you wonder!

  46. It cannot escape notice that the overwhelming majority of elementary teachers are WOMEN, and if these women haven’t been blessed with the opportunity to raise a boy or two of their own, they just don’t get it. I have raised four girls and three boys to become admirable women and men. I have also been a public school teacher, and been horrified at the number of children–mostly boys–who need to go to the office each day for ritalin or adderal. How long will we continue to institutionalize (school) little human beings and instead of meeting their developmental needs–exploration, exercise, fresh air–shove them into a program designed to make life convenient for the adults and then BLAME THE KID aka diagnose with ADHD when they don’t conform? My suggestion to any parent who has the courage: homeschool them–you can accomplish in 2 hours what it takes all day to do at school–and then let them run! And please don’t buy into the “socialization” justification for school. I guarantee that you don’t want your children socialized by the bullies from whom I as a teacher was powerless to protect your child. End of rant.

    • Very well said, motherofseven. I agree. I have a sixteen year old who was on Concerta from grade 1 through grade 4. It made the teacher’s days much easier, but I cringe when I think back on what, exactly, it did to him during that time. I was young, and he was my first. My third child and second son, who is now 5, is really give his teacher (and us, for that matter) a real run for our money. No matter what, I will NOT medicate him. My oldest son lost a lot of his personality, weight, and imagination during those four years. I will never be able to give that back to him. I’m sorry that I drank the kool aid that was shoved down my throat.

    • Re: your point about the number of teachers being women . . . This exact point is examined in the 6 Part Globe and Mail series. The discussion between the experts is worth reading.

  47. I’m sure that the main contributing factor to the ADHD label is excruciatingly tedious classroom work requiring little imagination, deep thinking or even engagement opportunities. Highly intelligent children sometimes need to move to think, and there is certainly no room in schools for that.

    The solution? Rethink learning environments to provide kids with customized personal learning opportunities, and give them some space and autonomy to move!

  48. We live in a drug-happy society where the answer to everything is MEDICATE! My Grandmother is of Eastern Cherokee heritage and I’ve had the privilege of accompanying her on educational journeys with the children in our family who have been home-schooled over the years. Her traditional ways of dealing with “problem” children through Sacred Psychology and just plain common sense put the PhD’s to shame. Drugging our youth is not the answer. Kids aren’t any different or more of anything that they’ve been for centuries. We are now in the “instant” culture where patience is something you find in a museum and kid’s needs all too often fall second to selfish adults who haven’t grown up themselves. The educational system needs an overhaul and the Psychiatric Associations need to stop drugging our youth. One of our kids was going to go on a camp-out with his Cub Scout Pack and his mother received a letter saying that each kid had to have one parent along because too many of the kids were on medication. WTF? In traditional societies the Elders help to take care of the babies and children. Their wisdom and patience work in helping to raise the kids while the parents work and haveto be away from home. Maybe we should dump some of our “sophistication” for more “primitive” ways. (And before someone points out the drug and alcohol problem on the Reservations to negate this…I’m referring to Eastern Asian cultures and Traditional Indigenous Societies in America pre-incarceration on reservations.) Drugging our youth is not the answer to behavioral problems. Greater teacher-student ratio, saving music and arts and other special programs from being cut and helping to educate parents about parenting will go a long way to helping us raise a DRUG-FREE and neurosis-free generation.

  49. Look back to “Little house on the Prairie” days when boys had a hard time with school. The bigger boys attended school part time, intimidated the teachers and waited impatiently for their time in the fields.

    School is structured for girls to succeed.

    YES children used to have chores. They learned a LOT from them.

    Bring back the chores!

  50. I think we’ve just become less tolerant of these behaviours, and it’s just become easier to slap a label onto these “hyperactive” children, instead of directing them towards things that may be useful to get their energy out. It’s so much easier to chug down pills than to deal with the root of the problem and find out why this is happening. My mother is a Marriage & Family therapist at an elementary school, and she says the rates at which children are referred to psychiatrists and doctors to “Cure” this problem are ridiculous! Children are children, and even if they do have issues, and even if they DO have ADHD or ADD, we should NOT be giving them drugs at such a young age – there should be better ways of dealing with them, instead of messing them up for life.

    very insightful read – thanks for sharing!

  51. As a psychology student myself, I think Kids are naturally hyperactive. Some curriculum are not designed to meet the needs of children… like it’s too tedious, too many home works, too serious, sit all day, all-teacher class like there’s no space for autonomy…

  52. I partially read your article. Please forgive me, but I just had to comment. The points you bring up are a reflection of my own thoughts and experiences. I have 3 girls (20, 18 & 16) and 1 boy (15). My oldest daughter was diagnosed as ADHD. And here I thought she was just rambunctious, energetic and simply rebellious. She is also very creative, popular, intelligent, and talented (whatever she puts her mind to). I honestly believe the ADHD rants and raves by many people in “authority” is just an attempt to categorize and corral intelligent and energetic kids so the systems of education and childcare don’t have to deal with problems. So they prescribe drugs and put them in a corner. It has been said that many of histories leaders and overachievers may have been diagnosed with ADHD today. Mainly because they were rambunctious, energetic, intelligent, talented and refused to take no for an answer. The very qualities that used to be admired and helped leaders of old get to be the leaders seem wrong (if you listen to “authorities) today.

    • You raise an interesting point about instant gratification. I hadn’t thought about the impact the “immediacy” of our culture may play havoc with our children’s attention spans. There is no doubt that there are many children with ADD but at what point do we look at the number of kids being diagnosed and ask the question: what’s really going on here?

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

  53. As the mother of an 8-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD at age 6 (and actually had symptoms much younger that I tried to deny), I have to agree with commenter Victoria. “Hyperactivity” is not the real issue for ADHD kids. It’s things like focus and impulse control. Being unable to control them can destroy their self-esteem. I was anti-meds for a long time and had an attitude similar to many of those expressed here. It was only after watching my daughter suffer and become increasingly depressed—despite therapy twice a week– that I finally changed my attitude. Medication was the last resort. And I believe this is true for most parents who make this difficult decision. Medication has made a HUGE difference in my daughter’s life. Her self-esteem has improved dramatically. She no longer hates school or cries herself to sleep every night. She still has executive functioning issues, but she is so much better and happier than she was before. Journalist Judith Warner’s book “We’ve Got Issues” does a great job of exposing a lot of the myths about kids being over-diagnosed with ADHD and over medicated.

  54. Bravo.
    We just took our 13 year old son off Concerta, which he has been taking for 6 years. Lo and behold, he has a personality! He eats. He speaks to others! He falls asleep easily.

    His ability to focus is slightly hampered, but it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

  55. My son was bored in school and as a result, acted out. His second grade teacher insisted we take him to a Dr. to be evaluated, i.e. medicated… for alleged hyperactivity. Never did she suggest that he might be acting out because he was bored or that the curriculum failed to challenge him, which ended up being the real problem. Girls may be bored in school but bored girls tend to turn inward and daydream or doodle, which is not as noticeable as a bored boy who will tend to act out and cause mischief to alleviate his boredom. Thankfully my son’s doctor refused to label him as ADHD or give him “calming” medications. After a thorough physical and psychological exam, she determined that his main problem with his behavior in school was boredom, and that he would do better in a more challenging environment. We enrolled him in a more challenging school which helped to a degree. Making sure he had plenty of intellectual challenges as well as lots of physical activity after school helped channel his energy in more positive ways also. It is troubling how many of his friends who exhibited similar behaviors in school as young boys were labeled ADHD and medicated into submission for simply being normal boys. Like it or not, boys need activity- not just mental activity but hands-on physical movement and action. I am sure some kids really do need the meds -but the vast majority of them are likely being medicated for teachers’ and parents’ convenience and not because the child is incapable of concentrating and learning.

  56. Fortunately, the awareness of this problem is growing: I regularly read posts with a similar content from various sources. The tentative explanations offered range from undue influence of the pharmaceuticals (who earn money on Ritalin et co.) to a problem with too large a proportion of female teachers (who would often be unable to understand how boys naturally behave).

    In a bigger picture, the school system is generally very poor at handling anyone who is not a good match for the “one size fits all” model usually applied (and, usually, that one size fits a minority well, the majority border-line adequately, and many very poorly).

    A related issue is whether ADHD is something which should at all be treated: Being different is not the same as being “wrong”, and the main criterion should be the child’s own well-being—not how easy the teacher has it or how conformant the student is. If the child suffers and wishes a change—treat. If it is happy—do not treat.

  57. I agree….and there are many ways we as parents can help our boys live and thrive in the “school system” we already have. Without labels, we can view these boys as high spirited, energetic, and one day potential leaders or athletes. If you can….read “The Trouble with Boys” by Peg Tyre….it talks about this very thing and why the educational system is in essence failing our boys. I have written on the subject as well…when my little boy was called out for Not Sitting Still in Circle Time! Good article!!

  58. I thought your point about physical activity was a good one. Want to add children are eating much more sugar and food with additives in them than when I was growing up, and I feel certain this adds to the growing ADHD numbers. That stuff is no good for growing little bodies.

  59. There’s a doctor named Daniel Amen who has spent years doing brain scans looking for the causes of ADHD (among other things. Posters of scans he did on drug and alcohol addicts were used in anti-drug campaigns in schools for awhile). His conclusion? Vigorous exercise, no sugar and supplements like fish oil will eliminate the problem entirely more than half the time. If you find his books at the library they make for good reading. Of course, you might never let your kid out the door without a helmet again……

  60. Truly a great article. As a grandmother who has often- times been broken hearted over “bad” grandsons whom people (teachers specifically) labeled yet refused to try to help by doing something other than trying to label them as ADD or ADHD. Also, most of them have put the parents in the wrong. These boys aren’t “bad”. They are the most lovable people in the world as long as they know you care about them.

  61. This was a wonderful posting. I used to coach soccer and was given four boys with ADHD on my team. So I read up on ADHD, thinking that this would help me, and began practices. Practices were horrible because the boys with ADHD would kick the ball off the field into the woods or play football instead of soccer or just sit on the ground and veg out. So I had to get tough. The parents of these boys complained, saying that I was being unfair in taking away their right to play in the next game if they couldn’t control themselves. None of the parents pulled their kids off of the team, though.

    Now, I realize that these children are taken off their Ritalin or what have you during the summer. And I asked the parents if they put them back on their Ritalin when I noticed that these four boys were behaving. They were actually listening to me, cooperating, doing what they were told, and playing the game the way it should be played.

    Another instance is the fact that my children didn’t wander further from the house than I could see from the porch. If they did, they were grounded for two days in the house. I never gave in to the whining and unruly behavior. They served their time. The neighbor lady came looking for her three year old one day. She said that she didn’t know why my children were so well behaved and stayed near the house. If she only knew how much discipline I needed to discipline my children to get them to stay by the house! But it paid off.

    There is something to be said for discipline. From what I could tell, those four boys needed discipline, not Ritalin. That is the problem that I have with ADHD; I believe that this is a discipline problem, nothing more. When I went to school forty or so years ago, we had to sit in our chairs in class but could run and play outdoors at break. We also had to use indoor voices. If we didn’t, we got a good spanking. If it kept up, you went home. If you got in trouble in school, your parents were called. So you usually got a punishment at school and then one at home.

    Punishments have gone by the wayside. If you send the child to their room, they play on the computer, call their friends on the cell, or whatever. What kind of punishment is that? Most parents don’t want to listen to their kid screaming for ten minutes of time out in the corner, so they let them out in three minutes. Some just give up right off the bat.

    At any rate, we didn’t see this kind of behavior forty years ago, so it must be something to do with the way children are being raised. I believe that it is the lack of any discipline in the home and school. Until that is remedied, ADHD will become an excuse to medicate children just to get them to settle down for five minutes because parents are too lazy to handle the problem in the proper manner.

  62. Thoughtful, well-written post. Thank you so much.

    I think another issue to consider is that many parents of girls (only) don’t understand the realities facing parents of boys, though this may just be my personal experience. Like you, I grew up during the “girls are the same as boys” era. It wasn’t until I became a parent of a son that I was faced with the utter lunacy of that assertion (and I should add that I suddenly understood grown men a whole lot better, too!). I might never have grown as much as an individual if I’d had a daughter.

    I had to quit my son’s school PTO because he couldn’t accompany me to our meetings – too rambunctuous for homes not boy-proofed – and the PTO officers didn’t want to meet at our home (which was not centrally located for the majority, so I saw their collective point). No one seemed to understand that a six-year-old boy could not keep himself occupied by playing quietly indoors, unsupervised, for four hours on a Saturday morning. Their daughters could do it, why couldn’t my son?

    I adore my boy and would move heaven and earth for him; he is spirited, high-energy, occasionally infuriating but always full of wonder and very loving. He does have some problems with classroom attentiveness, but even with an ADHD diagnosis, if one is ever received, we have already agreed that we will not medicate him even if it means more work on our part with providing guidance, behavior therapies, and so on.

  63. GREAT post! My daughter’s father was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and put on Ritalin. It was the beginning of years of substance use and abuse. Thankfully he is clean and sober now, but believes his experience taught him to manage his emotions and impulses with medication rather than lifestyle modification, etc.

    There are definitely cases that need medication, but I believe the vast majority could be vastly improved with more exercise (not only do kids not walk to and from school anymore, many schools no longer offer phy ed) and better nutrition (less sugar and corn syrup).

    I commend you and other parents of boys for questioning what seems to be the easiest or most profitable solution.

  64. My kid is 8 years old, and has no classmates diagnosed with this. Here, in my country, I’ve never seen kid diagnosed with ADHD. I dont want to offend anybody, but as I see american TV programs, it looks like many people is taking prozac or something. Is it true its because of pharmaceutical companies’ vast marketing programs, that make you think something like “certainly there is something wrong with kid and should be put on drugs”? Hope Im wrong, but if not, think that would be very bad for your kids.

    • As a nurse, Konrad, I have to agree with you. Pharmaceutical marketing is so pervasive that people just come into the hospital asking for the medicine instead of being prescribed it.

      The biggest thing about Americans is the tendency to rather take a pill than resolve the problem with lifestyle modification. My son had Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) for which the psychiatrist wanted to put him on medication. Instead, I choose counseling for him and myself. I wanted help in developing a plan on how to handle him. Then I got social services involved. The first two workers didn’t last the night. Nightime was always the worst time. But the third worker knew exactly what to do and handled my son perfectly, teaching me how to do the same.

      ODD is a form of autism. I didn’t know this until well after the fact. If I had known, I would have read up on autism. My son is now a Sargent in the National Guard and has served in Iraq. That is quite something that he should be proud of given what he had to overcome. If he had taken medication, he (and I) would never have learned lifestyle changes (parenting changes) that would have made him what he is today – a solid American citizen.

  65. Well-written and insightful post. As a father of three young boys, I understand the suggestion that boys are naturally more rambunctious. However, our one little girl (aka, The Hellcat, as I affectionately refer to her in my blog) acts just like them, so I’m always torn between the nature vs. nurture argument.

    As a teacher, I observe middle school boys still using physical contact to communicate, particularly to show affection to their friends. A playful shove, a punch, a big bear hug and squeeze is the equivalent of saying, “Hey, you’re okay.” This gets misinterpreted a lot.

    Great piece, and Congrats on Pressed.

    Chase McFadden

  66. It very simple. First, kids aren’t given the opportunities to burn off energy by just playing because parents are worried about letting them just play. Second, we fill kid’s times with constant sensory stimulation–TV, video games, music, just to pacify them that it’s no wonder they are used to a ratcheted up level of energy.

    • I agree in a way Jim… although I would hope you agree that technology and high concentrated doses of sensory stimulation are not going anywhere… they surely produce way too much revenue, and they are now deeply deeply woven into our everyday lives; therefore it is in my opinion intelligent to incorporate the technological stimulous into the educational delivery vehicle. This is where, (like it or not) the mass INTEREST is, and interest is the only thing that is going to provide for effective and efficient learning.

      I’m sure someone is thinking that every school doesn’t have that kind of money, and I could only bring up an example such as Chicago; taking in $7,500.00 PER student, and they’ve a 40% GRADUATION rate!… so although I certaintly agree that much time would be required to get “Caught up” technologicaly to complimenting the audience who receives the educational display, it is a necessary and worthy cause.

      I fully agree with the need for MORE physical activity though… both at school AND at home (Obviously on the parent). I want to be clear that what I am suggesting is to bring more (A LOT MORE) technological attributes into the school systems educating architecture.

      Take care Jim and please accept my potent gratitude for your imput.

      Nicholas Papillon

  67. I’ll step it back even further: That there can be one diagnosis that explains all cases of not paying attention in class is a ludicrous and offensive suggestion.

    People don’t just pay attention to what you ask them to, for as long as you ask them to. They just don’t. Parents have an advantage with their own children, for at least as long as their children care about approval, but teachers sure as shit don’t. In fact, teachers face an array of built-in obstacles.

    Prescribing ritalin every time some kid doesn’t want to be there is like treating a nervous twitch by beating someone soundly with a shovel.

  68. An excellent article.

    I can not count the number of parents that brought their child to my Karate Dojo and began the introduction with “(My child) has ADHD.” The truth of the matter is that their child was simply a healthy child that needed a constructive outlet, other than T.V., or one that only exercises the thumbs (video games) to stimulate them physically and mentally. Our tendency to rely on a pill to solve all our problems from mood disorders, E.D., and the like, has extended to the absurd; there is now a pill for long, luscious eyebrows. At least give our kids the chance to be kids before we pollute them with an all solving pill. Of course, the corollary effect of kids being kids is parents must be parents, but that’s for another day.

  69. I think putting a name to it and giving it a drug gave schools and parents an easy way out when kids are particularly spirited. Instead of letting their kids be themselves, or finding ways to use their child’s energy to benefit the child or augment learning, they slap on an ADHD label to make the situation easier to deal with.

  70. Attention Deficit Disorder

    + ADD can mean this symbol too +

    ADD if you look at right
    Through the eyes of an expert with remarkable sight
    You may discover with an alternative view that
    ADD can mean this symbol too +

    A plus indeed to have the means
    To see all thing not as they seems

    A plus for sure to have a mind that travels faster then its own kind
    To see each thing in a flashing haste and able to
    Copy, cutting, manipulate and paste

    The only deficit I have being ADD is having the other people keep up with me

    + Tina. McInerney April 29, 2004 ™+

  71. Hallelujah! Someone said it! I am childfree, but I went to an experimental high school where in my freshman year we had to spend one day out of the week volunteering and getting school credit (I completed the program with flying colors despite a 33% success rate that nixed it in the end). I was sent to tutor elementary school children in a low-income neighborhood school and a retirement facility where kids and the elderly did programs together.

    I was shocked to find out that a quarter of the students were on ADHD meds in both places! When I compared what the kids behaved like when I was in elementary school with that set, ALL of us would have been pilled up! There was NO FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE! I was also galled to hear the program director call the kids “too immature”. Lady, what do you want from a bunch of seven-year-olds?! And SHE was a parent of a kindergartner!

    Pilling up a child is just an easy way for a parent to say “Stay out of Mommy’s/Daddy’s way” without using words.

  72. Yes..and No. The world moves so fast now, no time to be a kid. Parents on cell phones, computers, shuttling kids to play dates, classes, all before they are ready. Schools saying “standards” need to be raised and 5 year old trying to do what 8 year old used to. The more you shove at kids, the more they push back. We need to slow back down and make school about learning. Not about performance.
    Schools still teach the same way they did in the 50’s with 100x more information needed to be taught.
    That said ADHD is a real neurological problem. The medication’s effect should be seen within 1-2 days. The half life of the drugs are super quick so there’s no lingering in the system. Medication can work wonders. I do think kids are over diagnosed however.

  73. Excellent post.
    As a health educator, I have to say that I can 100% agree that the freedom with which medicine is prescribed is taken way too lightly. Most of the time, I tend to think it is more for the sanity of the parents than the kids. And we absolutely have become unbelievably sedentary the last 20 years which is destroying us all around, not just the ADD kids.

    There is hope, however. I treat kids all the time with ADD. Current advances in science are showing how there appears to be a functional disassociation within the brain and if you can challenge that, then the ADD symptoms can decrease significantly. I have parents that are seeing tremendous improvements in their kids and are loving what is going on. Check into chiropractic neurology. Lots can be done to help!

    Dr. James Ashley, DC

  74. I finished up high school in ’99, and in a class of about 85, I believe we had 1 kid on ritalin. And yes, I believe he needed it. We had another kid that I thought could have used some – and if he was getting some, they should have upped the dose. Our school system didn’t administer daily phys ed until 7th grade, but before that, we got some time after lunch to run around for a while. I remember hearing that the percentage was much higher for people younger than me, and we would joke that if that many kids had ADD or ADHD, that it wasn’t a DISorder, it was THE ORDER. We just assumed it was crappy doctors coupled with crappy parents… but i would bet a lack of gym time doesn’t help any…

  75. Wow.

    Posted on this earlier in the day, just checked over many of the comments. The numbers that commenters here are giving are really alarming. Did a little research and quickly came up with this from the CDC which is even more alarming.

    The governments data shows that between 7-10% of kids around the country are diagnosed with ADHD (or some variant of it).

    This is really insane, and worse, just doesn’t make sense.

    I really applaud the parents (and handful of professionals) who have posted here saying that they are actively resisting this labeling, and, most importantly, the medicating of their kids.

    Although I still believe, as I said in my comment way up above, that I do not for one moment believe that ADHD would be diagnosed at the rate that it is if no drug treatment existed for it, I do agree with many of the posters that it’s important to look at how kids lives have changed in the last generation or two to gather additional clues as to what the heck is going on here.

    The CDC site states that environmental, exercise, entertainment, and food factors are not believed to cause ADHD. But I can’t resist adding that despite living in a safe, pleasant environment I do not see or hear kids playing outside as often as their numbers here would suggest.

    I fought 12-20 years ago to protect the freedom of my kids to play in unstructured settings. It was hard enough then, and I understand harder today.

    Can unstructured children’s play be a serious factor in kids learning to develop the control and habits that mitigate against the development of conditions like ADHD?

    After all, play was, and still is in pockets of this country and much of the world, the primary ‘work’ of childhood. Now, for most intents and purposes, it seems to be gone for so many kids.

  76. My middle child (my first son) was a handful right from the get-go. I had a Doctor tell me that he possibily had ADD and told me to look into getting him medicated.
    It didn’t sit right with me so i changed his diet and a lot of the overactivity died down a bit.
    I say a bit because…..he’s a boy! And it’s always going to be there.
    Fast forward 4 years and he was diagnosed with aspergers disoreder (high functioning autism) and everything is finally explained.
    Then his little brother grew up a little and he had a playmate and the “active boy” thing started al over again.

    Boys as they say….Will be boys!

    There are far too many medicated children out there that take away the seriousness of the condition for those families that REALLY DO have children with ADD.

    Doctors take the easy way out far too often.
    Great post 🙂

  77. I remember as a little kid, my mom always said I was such a cautious kid. I wouldn’t do anything crazy or dangerous, but my little boy best friend was always leaping off couches and falling off of stuff if you took your eyes off him.
    I agree, it’s a shame kids who need activity and stimulation just get shuffled out of the way and get diagnosed with an easy pill fix

  78. Great topic! So many great responses.

    As a transgendered person, I disagree with the sweeping generalities about girls vs. boys in anything accept biology, since from the moment we are born adults begin to treat and gear us differently.

    Janet’s link above says so much about the role that schools play and how we really need to recreate our whole education system.

    I love this line in your article: “…our sedentary lifestyles, complete with video games, t.v., car-pools and heavy after-school programming has attributed to children being under-stimulated, both physically and emotionally…” I think this is the key!

    My partner and I spent sometime last year looking for neighborhoods where you could see and hear children playing out in the streets and sadly, there were very few to none. When I grew up in NY suburbs there were streets filled with children playing. So it’s not just the schools but all of us who have changed the landscape. Screaming, shouting, laughing loudly is frowned upon in our society in general today. Diagnosed myself with ADD in 1969 my mother fortunately refused medication and put me into tap class and provided me with other stimuli to help burn off all my extra energy. There were a lot of “hyper” kids around we were just differently engaged with by adults.

    In short, how can we change our schools when we ourselves have bought into the consumer lives that keep us working longer than our parents and stuck on the computer after hours? (Speaking of which I need to log off!) – Cafes once a place of meeting, talking and idea sharing, at least in the SF Bay Area, are a lot more like museums where everyone has their face in their computer and if you talk or laugh you are considered being rude. I totally get and understand how the “terror” talk and alerts keep us afraid of each other and until we become better communities, our schools can’t change.

    What can we do? I’ve been volunteering in schools since 1995 doing everything from IT, to teachers aide and now I do diversity training. We can make the shift every day by

    • Thank you so much for replying. This is the exact kind of discussion that I was hoping would come from the post. I appreciate your point of view and your comments have given me lots to think about.

  79. One more comment.

    A number of posters are saying that ADHD is ‘a real neurological problem’, and then stating that drug therapy produces quick improvements in functioning.

    First, the fact that taking Ritalin or similar substance produces quick improvements in one’s ability to focus does not prove that ADHD is a ‘neurological problem’. Many drugs (try nicotine!) improve our ability to focus–college kids (and some high schoolers) are using Ritalin and similar drugs in large numbers to improve concentration and stamina.

    Just because one’s concentration improves with a drug doesn’t prove, or even necessarily support, the proposition that ADHD is neurological.

    Next, what do people mean when they say that ADHD is a ‘real neurological problem’?

    I would certainly expect that the brain of a youngster having acute problems focusing to be ‘different’ from the brain of a kid who is focused–at least temporarily. After all, the two young individuals are doing different things with their brains.

    But to suggest that 7-10% of the population of kids diagnosed with ADHD (current CDC stats) have some kind of neurological injury, trauma, or disease is simply illogical, untenable, and not supported by research.

  80. I am a teacher and I have two older daughters and a son. Yes, I believe that boys do have a different energy level than girls do. I also am viewing a society that has changed since my days of elementary school. Many children are not playing outside and have large amounts of screen time. Some children aren’t allowed to be “bored” and don’t have to figure out on their own (without screens) what they can do to “not be bored”. My life is extremely hectic (as I write this on an evening of coming back to work after running kids). I tend to fall into this busy lifestyle that doesn’t allow children to play also and I have to check myself continually. I also am noticing that foods that I put into my children’s bodies seem to make a difference in them too. The more processed, the more “hyper” they seem. My oldest daughter even told my husband who was doing the grocery shopping last year, that with the food he was buying, she just didn’t feel good. She wasn’t able to focus or think well in her high school classes. She thinks it is the food. My older girls are competitive dancers and high achieving students. My son plays Spring sports so far and has done Hip Hop and Tap classes. He seems to be a high achieving student also, but it pretty early to tell. We have to really regulate their screen time, activity time and types of foods that they eat (we buy) and they seem “better”. I am not saying this is the answer, but we need to eliminate all the other variables before a diagnosis is made.

  81. As the mom of 1 very energetic, full of energy, bright son I have to say thank you. I am dealing with this same issue right now with my son’s school. The teacher allowed some quack to observe my son in his class while he was there to observe two other boys without my consent. The doctor later called me to tell me he wanted to try a few behavioral programs with my son and he told me that he feared my son had ADHD. My immediate response was that noone asked me if his behavior was the same at home, church, public, or anywhere else. The doctor then proceeded to tell me that he is granted millions of dollars along with his colleauge to basically go around the country looking for little black boys with behavior issues. I went directly to the principal to complain because my son makes great grades and does all required school and home work. He may not sit in his seat without fidgeting but that doesn’t mean he has ADHD! I absolutely agree that boys are singled out and its not fair. Especially when they are full of personality like mine.

    • “Little black boys with behavior issues”? Lol – sorry I had to comment, but how does race play into it? That’s strange he said that to you. I would be just as livid. Maybe your boy just needs to burn more energy, although you might think that’s not possible, push his limits.

    • “Little black boys with behavior issues?”

      What a loaded statement!

      There seems to be an assumption that such children would be from single parent families, with a vulnerable, unsupported mom who could be gulled into believing her lively young athlete was sick.

      Since the description further suggests or implies that Medicaid would be paying for the drugs, then full steam ahead for Big Pharma.

      Friend’s kid, lovely, extremely intelligent boy, dxd with ADHD. They completely ignored/missed his dyslexia, put him with developmentally disabled children where he was bored out of his skull and developed behavior problems. I noted that his dad was a marathoner, and the young fellow had the same lanky build and suggested they forget the Ritalin and start training. He began to win top awards but was then found to have a tumor on his knee bone and had to drop out of training. This was devastating. He later turned to drugs. I wonder if Ritalin pre-disposed him to addiction.

  82. I completely agree with you. I just got done partially reading a book specifically about boys and behavior called “The Way of Boys” by Anthony Rao. He basically states that boys are over diagnosed with ADHD and ADD, because they just need to be moving. In our society, we are trying to change boys basic behavior. I have a 5 yr old son, and a soon to be 2 yr old son..which is why I checked out this book. I also have a 9 yr old daughter, and let me tell you, I have found that girls so far are easier. I also grew up with all sisters, so maybe that is why I think that. My daughter was never this busy, and she listens, time-outs worked for her, they were a challenge with my son. After reading the book, I now am a little more enlightened, the author states in the book how time-outs don’t work for boys, because they can’t sit still. I do believe we need to change our education system, but unfortunately I don’t believe that is a high priority with the government. The education system needs government funding in order to make a big change like this. Anyways, I completely agree with you on this topic.

  83. “When I gets to fiddlin’ I just takes me Ritalin, I’m poppin’ and sailin’ man!” – Bart Simpson.

    I’m in Australia, and school just didn’t work for me in any of my attempts.
    I needed people to really tell me what I was doing, and I didn’t get it unless it was explained in a certain way – I got very frustrated and I was hesitant to do my work because I was scared of doing it wrong.
    My problems aren’t ADHD-ish, just more anxiety and insecurity.

  84. I have 2 boys and I recently finished listening to a book on my IPOD titled “Boys Adrift” by Dr. Leonard Sax. The book was outstanding and in my opinion, a must read for everyone who is the parent/guardian of a boy. I downloaded my copy from, but the book is available in your local library. He touches on everything from the effects of environmental estrogens to how our educational system has changed in the last 20 years, to the dangers of stimulants such as ritalin, concerta, etc. He even goes as far as to say that if your child must be medicated, there are better solutions than stimulants.

    I’m not judging anyone who has their child on stimulants, I’m merely passing on information. I have had my own challenges with a wonderful young man who just doesn’t learn the same way that others do. It was during my quest to find out what to do for him that I came across this book.

    One option that Dr. Sax speaks of in the book is being careful to not try and make the “school fit the child”. At first I viewed this negatively, but then we decided to try it. We took our 8th grade son out of the school system he had been in for 8 years and put him in a much smaller school. The result has been incredible to say the least. I haven’t seen him feel this good about himself in so long.

    Read the book, you won’t regret it!
    Mother of an incredibly wonderful son who struggles with Auditory Processing Disorder,

  85. I completely agree. The over-prescription of drugs really worries me. Surely a lot of it is kids being kids? They run around, they don’t pay attention, they like to do their own thing. You might work to change this, but I wouldn’t want to medicate it.
    I think your point about exercise and physical activity is very astute. There’s probably also a lot to be said for a proper diet. Great post!

  86. This is the sanest thing I have read in a while.

    The education system puts little boys in girls in desks from grade 1 onward, tells them what they must learn, and then wonders why they don’t like it and don’t sit still. Kids do way more learning – how to share, how to interact with others – through playing and using their imagination at that age than by sitting in a desk and listening to someone prattle on for hours. But since this is the way we do it, we give them drugs to sedate them. It’s sadistic in that it murders the child’s innate imagination and creativity.

    I agree with people on here that there needs to be education reform but I doubt it will ever come from the federal government. Does the government want intelligent citizens that will grow up and question unconstitutional wars, that will grow up to fight against blatant affronts to our civil liberties like the patriot act? Or does the government prefer the current system which makes our children stupider?

  87. Oh wow I am not alone! I am going through school now to be a teacher, and I have very different beliefs than most of my co-students. I keep saying that times are changing, but we are not! We still need to run around and play outside. Even as a girl I was outside all day long. Being inside was a punishment! Thank you for this post, it lets me know I am not alone!

  88. I feel health terms, which are quite serious, are being used with a lesser sense of urgency. ADHD, depression, anorexia; these are all terms that are thrown in the air at the drop of a hat.

    If you’re sad one day and it shows, friends will most likely ask “why do you look so depressed?”.
    I think the seriousness of these words needs to be returned to them and we need to be reminded that despite the information that can be easily accessed online, we are not (once more, for emphasis: NOT) diagnosticians. I’ve heard of many a person going to the doctor already convinced they’ve got something and asking for a cure, not an opinion.

    Just so everyone knows: the latter’s cheaper.

  89. I see the emergence of these different children as a gift – as well as marked social difficulties most of these “diagnosed” children are amazing in so many ways.

    Ages ago in Time magazine a very successful 27 yr old said that the best gift he was ever given was a book on Etiquette – it wasn’t that he didn’t want to do the right thing, he just didn’t know what that was all the time or subliminally the way others do.

    I say Vive la diffrence!

  90. We can invent epidemics of kids with illnesses by redefining the illness in a manner that practically everyone can be diagnosed with it.

    same for autism

    heck, I’ve known many adults trying to claim asper’s syndrome, when in reality, they are just rude and inconsiderate.

    which is different than actual asper’s

    that plus it’s easier to give something a label and smack it down with pills than taking the time to find out if there’s anything actually wrong or what it is

  91. Thank you so much for this. I will never forget when my son was in Kindergarten and his teacher asked me what I thought about the school curriculum. I laughed, hesitated and asked, are you serious. I proceeded to tell her how I thought our children had more stress on them than ever before. How home lives were more chaotic, over worked and broken. How the school system was less tolerant, had more educational demands and provided less physical activity. Furthermore the less recess and social interaction could potentially lead to an inability to communicate. That we were guiding our youth into a medicated society. Whether they’re taking medication for hyperactivity, anxiety, diabetes or an inability to socialize. She agreed with me completely and excused the circumstances saying well you know the state sets the standards. Years later they tried to medicate my son for ADHD. After a short experience with it, my son asked to discontinue it. Being that it could stunt his growth, killed his appetite and caused acid reflux, which would in turn damage his teeth and esophagus, we got off that stuff. I think I am ADD, I think a lot of people are, especially if you’re not interested in what you’re doing. As an adult we have to learn to work with what we got and try for something we love. I know there are extreme cases that medication is needed, but for the majority the diagnosis is abused. The teachers need to try to make it more interesting, the states need to slack up a bit. If you are a teacher you need be there because of your passion to help guide our youth, NOT the nice summer schedule. And the schools need to stop passing the buck and zoning out the kids so they don’t have to do their job.

  92. ADD and ADHD is a made up medical condition. There’s no such thing

    Proper diet and nutrition, rest, structure, rules, and discipline will cure MOST so called ADD or ADHD kids

  93. You make some great points, but I don’t think it’s either/or.

    I think we’re better at identifying ADD/ADHD today and I also believe our lifestyles and educational systems are less tolerant, as you suggest. I have daughters – one with ADHD and one with ADD. From the time she was a baby, people commented that my ADHD daughter “was like a boy in a girl’s body”! People are very disapproving of a little girl who has characteristics (lots of energy and movement, loud, etc.) of a boy.

    We’re not helping her with medication (at this time, but remain open to the idea), but trying lots of behavioral strategies that so far, in 1st grade, have been successful. My children eat real food, they participate in sports, they have lots of time for free play. We’re lucky that our school and teachers have been fabulous in trying different strategies to help her focus and stay on task (and not be disruptive to other children). Getting through the public school system will be a challenge, but once she’s unleashed, watch out world, she’s going to do great things!

  94. Ahhh, the Ritalin debate…I am a single mom with four boys. The only time my boys wiggle “too much” is when they are bored, but I do expect my boys to behave a certain way in certain situations, like school. That is, I want them to be respectful, pay attention, and do their work.
    I homeschool them for half of the day and have discovered what works at home. They work far better when the directions and expectations are perfectly clear. They are not like me at all. I was one who could pick up on subtle suggestions and observe how to behave based on other’s facial expressions. After 12 years with all boys, I’ve figured out that they just don’t figure things out like that.
    They squirm with maybes, idunnos, and inbetweens. It confuses them to the point to where they don’t know how to behave.
    Yes, they have energy, and some days are worse than others, but I don’t want them believing that it’s okay to lose all sense of boundaries and respect for rules. Otherwise, they will just end up misusing or abusing people in the future. The older they get, the harder it is to teach them how to respect others. I want them to be good to people, you know what I mean?

  95. As a former teacher, I agree with the posters who would rather try alternative methods in treating ADD and ADHD. I was always very willing to put in the extra work required for my students with hyperactivity and shorter attention spans, as I was like that as a child. My only concern is that I’ve seen a few posters mention that they didn’t want to medicate their bi-polar child. My daughter was diagnosed with type II bi-polar disorder at 14. She is now 20 and a very successful college student. She takes lithium morning and night, and because of this, she is living a full and normal life. Some disorders do require medication, and refusing to give a child, who is properly diagnosed, with bi-polar disorder medication keeps them from living the best life they can. My daughter without medication has psychotic episodes, deep depressions, and periods of delusional hypomania. This is not something that couseling or behavior modification therapy can fix. She has a chemical imbalance in her brain that lithium makes right. Please. please if your child has bi-polar consult a proper psychiatrist, or several, for proper treatment.

  96. A few remarks to recent comments:


    There have been some research showing early differences in treatment. There has also been some research showing equally early differences in behaviour, definite variations in behaviour when the testosterone level of the same individual varies, an increased proportion of tomboys and spatial thinkers among girls who were exposed to unusally high levels of testosterone in the womb, etc.

    The problem we have today is undue denial of objective, biological differences and an exclusive believe in “gender as a social construct”—not the other way around.


    There are many bad parents, true. However, at the same time, we have mandatory schooling for which the parents (directly or indirectly) pay and which reduces the parents’ opportunities to raise the children. Putting the blame on parents when the child is not up to the schools expectations would put them in a highly unfair position.

    @Linda S.

    I do not quite follow you on the school-fit-the-child-or-not part. In particular, by changing schools you did alter the child’s environment rather than the child. Could you clarify?

    @Jumping in Mud Puddles

    My own practical experiences with children of that age are too far back for me to judge whether this specific behaviour is in need of treatment or not; however, what you basically say is “This child does not behave as would be convenient to me.” or “This child does not behave according to the norm.”—and that, I contend, is exactly the wrong way to approach the issue.

    @Random Ntrygg

    You are right that there is problem with self-diagnosis with Asperger’s; however, the argument you present that “they are just rude and inconsiderate” is not generally correct:

    Different people (be they aspies or NTs) do have different wirings and norms. Much of allegedly rude behaviour among educated adults is just that—norms and wirings clashing. The one prefers to be told the truth straightforward and assumes that others are the same; the other prefers to be told the truth in a round-about, silk-glove manner (or not at all…) and assumes that those who do not are rude. The one considers a compliment an obvious attempt at flattery to gain goodwill; the other takes it to heart and is filled with joy. Etc.

    • I believe you just put words in my mouth. I did not say that the child is behaving from what is convenient to me. Nor did I say that this child does not behave according to the norm. I am saying that they child cannot stay on task for more than a minute. How is that “Inconvenient?” This is impeding his potential for learning. Your attempts at paraphrasing leave much to be desired.

      • I relay my impression of what lies behind your statements based on what I have seen a number of other teachers say and do. It may be that this does not apply in your case (in which case I apologize for any unfairness), but I note that most of the aforementioned teachers have simply not been in the clear about their own motivations or had a too one-sided view of the issues.

        I further note that your claim “This [the child’s behaviour] is impeding his potential for learning.” basically implies that the school does what it should do and the child is doing something wrong. This is an assumption that should be questioned—indeed, it is variations of that assumption that ultimately justifies over-medication, destructive treatment of non-conforming students, and one-size-fits-all education. For instance, many gifted have the same problem of not being able to focus on a task for more than brief periods of time—for the simple reason that they are under-challenged and under-stimulated. Other categories of children may have different reasons rooted in problems with the educational effort. (Others yet may have legitimate disorders benefitting from medication. The point, however, is that the automatic assumption that the child is wanting and the school is not should not be made.)

  97. It IS normal behavior! Their brains aren’t even developed yet and we as a culture drug them… it’s out of control.

  98. I too feel that there are some situations where there is certainly a deeper issue than just having an incredibly amount of energy to burn… As a dance educator, the school that I teach at has developed a boys program that is directed specifically for boys from the age of 4-9yrs. They learn the same concepts and technique as the girls, but the program is structured to meet the needs of the boys. What I have found interesting over the past ten years is that there are boys who need a more structured setting that is broken up by physical activity where they can move freely around the room (with some direction)… and there are boys who respond better in a mixed class setting (with the girls) and have already developed an instinctive focus. All of this reinforces the idea that every child (boys and girls) develops at their own individual rate — wouldn’t it be nice if the education system could tap into this notion and use varying pedagogical tools in the classroom? Perhaps this would aid in changing how ‘good/bad’ behavior is viewed and ultimately what is deemed active and overly/hyper active.

  99. I totally agree!!! I have three boys and one girl… and they definitely are wired differently!!!

    The school system my kids go to has cut back on recess. And, PE!!! They have PE twice a week! At their same ages… I had PE everyday and second recess wasn’t an earned privilege… we had them regardless!!! I don’t get it… and they wonder why our kids are bounces off the walls!!!

  100. There are definitely two very compelling sides to this “argument” and I think that the Globe and Mail’s series has done a phenomenal job at sparking conversation in Toronto. This has been water-cooler talk for the past few weeks.

  101. I agree….and there are many ways we as parents can help our boys live and thrive in the “school system” we already have. Without labels, we can view these boys as high spirited, energetic, and one day potential leaders or athletes. If you can….read “The Trouble with Boys” by Peg Tyre….it talks about this very thing and why the educational system is in essence failing our boys. I have written on the subject as well…when my little boy was called out for Not Sitting Still in Circle Time! Good article!!

  102. I’m sure plenty of the other commenters have already touched on anything I could add, so I just want to commend you on a well written post. I completely agree with you.

  103. i believe that teachers as well as parents dont know what to do with these kids who in some cases are just a little special. although i have met children with adhd and i also believe that their is such a thing to be treated. Maybe we just dont evaluate them as well as we should

  104. You’re probably right. But take in consideration the steady rise of autism and other special needs. Sometimes its simply better science, and sometimes it’s science getting in the way.

  105. Abolutely brilliant piece. I’m a Primary school teacher from Australia. The numbers diagnosed and on medication are startling. I think we need to reflect on how we teach boys in particular, and in what ways we can better cater for their needs

  106. Imagine this! We give our boy children everything needed to have great energy levels; we let them sleep 8 hours or more, we keep them disease free, we feed them well from birth onward, we stimulate their minds and bodies AND THEN, we load them into cars in the morning, drop the off at school and expect them to sit QUIETLY in class and CONCENTRATE, when all of their healthy little bodies are raring to MOVE. I let my son play for 2 hours before school, outside in summer, inside on the gym in winter. We could give Ritalin a miss in this way. The downside… getting up at 5!

  107. What a great article! In my profession I see the over diagnosis of ADD/ADHD (and autism) all too often. It seems our society has the need to label every child that doesn’t fit perfectly into the “normal” mold. Instead we need to be looking at what these children need to succeed, and how we can best address that need. I do believe that medication is needed by some (but not all) children, but it has to be used in conjunction with other therapy methods and behavior tools. Medication is not the only answer.

    I read an article a few years ago about some research indicating that many children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD were actually sleep deprived, either due to not getting enough hours of sleep, or actually having sleep issues such as sleep apnea. Shouldn’t that be an automatic to rule out first, before medicating a child?

  108. Congratulations on being featured on Freshly Pressed!

    Barry MacDonald is a well-known Canadian author and educator who has written an excellent book to help us understand how boys learn. It’s definitely worth a read for parents and teachers. It’s called “Boy Smarts: Mentoring Boys for Success at School”. His website is http://www.mentoring

    I appreciate the various opinions expressed in the comments. As an educator, I have worked with countless students who actually benefited from taking medication for ADD or ADHD. Before a diagnosis was given, they were carefully screened by school psychologists and pediatricians with follow up, in consultation with parents and teachers, at regular intervals. By being able to focus, the children were able to develop social skills and friendships. They were also seen by their peers as contributors rather than the ones who consistently disrupted group activities and lessons with loud and inappropriate comments, pushing and shoving, and restlessness that interrupted their own ability to focus and learn. Often children with ADD or ADHD are capable of hyper-focusing on one or more topics and can easily explain what they are interested in. Distractions in a classroom make it difficult for them to concentrate. These kids are intelligent, loving, sensitive human beings who want to cooperate and be respected for their marvelous senses of humour, great ideas, and talents. Medication gave them a chance.

    It is certainly not for every child who lacks focus or who acts out. As many people mentioned, other things need to be put in place such as plenty of opportunity for regular exercise and stretching throughout the day, healthy nutrition, time with family and parents, activities outside the school day, encouragement, opportunities to have some input into their school projects, and study skills/time management strategies.

  109. ” Maybe those kids were labeled “bad”. Regardless, if the numbers of boys being diagnosed ADHD is on the rise, then do we not owe it to our boys to review the education system where they spend between six and eight hours a day?”

    Always this blame on the education system! The thought of reviewing it’s current form is good, but, too many parents tend to tip over the actual responsibility of raising their own children on their teachers?!

    I know ADHD is a medical condition, but, knowledge about it’s symptoms and how to handle them can substantially lessen the effects of the diagnosis. Here, the parents got the decisive responsibility. Then, the education system can increase it’s awareness aswell.

    School is about education. A home, and, parents, are the ones to teach the children behaviour and good manners, or how to handle a medical condition.

    The idea of adapting the education system to children loaded with “surplus energy”, can be a good thing. As long as families remebers who bear the actual responsibility.

  110. Living in Germanies most conservative state, Bavaria, I have been fighting for over 8 years against perscription of ADHS medicine for my son, now 14 and a truely and happily normal male teenager.

    Myself born in 1974, I was lucky to not undergo therapy or treatment for my wild and free behaviour at school – ADHS diagnosis had not been invented yet as a cure for most problems and: I was a good student with great results, so nothing anybody really wanted to change – only my lack of concentration and love for motion in calm situations stood out from the folks around. But: I was a kid. So noone seemed to care.

    What changed in the late 90ies. When after a funeral my pig-shaped beyond-age-90 relatives from the German countryside mumbled to my parents comments about me: “She always has been a hyperactive child and still is…” – needless to say I attended this funeral in my mid-twenties being the mother of a four year old child and felt nothing like a ADHS toddler.

    Last not least here in Germany most ADHS cases are diagnozed only when school starts and puts boundaries in kids lifes as well as judgement. In my older sons first year at primary school about 30% of the entire year were on Ritalin. Mostly boys. I have many adult friends who take this drug to enhace their concentration during tests and exams.

    Would they be cyclists, they would be banned from the contest due to doping.

  111. Great post, on ADHD. This is a pet peeve subject of my own. Exactly, boys are more energetic by nature. After all, their collective unconscious contains a lot of data like: go hunt wild animals to feed the family, defend the tribe (group), build shelter, etc. The old adage “boys will be boys,” to some degree, has reality based meaning; without the energy and physical drive of males, we as a specie would not survive, hence, survival of the fittest.

    Just because many middle aged, primarily female, teachers prefer to sit through the day due to a diminishing drive to exert energy, does not make something inherently wrong with children who have, want and need to express their innate drive to move frequently and freely. Also, moving about has been researched and accepted to be a primary element in intellectual development of the young. Yes, young girls can be full of energy too; their moving about is often not focused on, not noticed or simply ignored by teachers. Yes, PE as it used to exist in the old days is generally extinct; our children, in USA, typically have no meaningful outlet for their naturally high energy level.

    Hats off to our boys/youth; let’s continue to advocate, defend and protect them!

    DC Few

  112. Is Free Thinking A Mental Illness?
    Oct 8th, 2010 | By Andrew | Category: Big Brother, Politics | Print This Article
    Is nonconformity and freethinking a mental illness? According to the newest addition of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it certainly is. The manual identifies a new mental illness called “oppositional defiant disorder” or ODD. Defined as an “ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior,” symptoms include questioning authority, negativity, defiance, argumentativeness, and being easily annoyed.
    The DSM-IV is the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses and, with each new edition, there are scores of new mental illnesses. Are we becoming sicker? Is it getting harder to be mentally healthy? Authors of the DSM-IV say that it’s because they’re better able to identify these illnesses today. Critics charge that it’s because they have too much time on their hands.
    New mental illnesses identified by the DSM-IV include arrogance, narcissism, above-average creativity, cynicism, and antisocial behavior. In the past, these were called “personality traits,” but now they’re diseases.
    And there are treatments available.
    All of this is a symptom of our over-diagnosing and overmedicating culture. In the last 50 years, the DSM-IV has gone from 130 to 357 mental illnesses. A majority of these illnesses afflict children. Although the manual is an important diagnostic tool for the psychiatric industry, it has also been responsible for social changes. The rise in ADD, bipolar disorder, and depression in children has been largely because of the manual’s identifying certain behaviors as symptoms. A Washington Post article observed that, if Mozart were born today, he would be diagnosed with ADD and “medicated into barren normality.”
    According to the DSM-IV, the diagnosis guidelines for identifying oppositional defiant disorder are for children, but adults can just as easily suffer from the disease. This should give any freethinking American reason for worry.
    The Soviet Union used new “mental illnesses” for political repression. People who didn’t accept the beliefs of the Communist Party developed a new type of schizophrenia. They suffered from the delusion of believing communism was wrong. They were isolated, forcefully medicated, and put through repressive “therapy” to bring them back to sanity.
    When the last edition of the DSM-IV was published, identifying the symptoms of various mental illnesses in children, there was a jump in the diagnosis and medication of children. Some states have laws that allow protective agencies to forcibly medicate, and even make it a punishable crime to withhold medication. This paints a chilling picture for those of us who are nonconformists.
    Although the authors of the manual claim no ulterior motives but simply better diagnostic practices, the labeling of freethinking and nonconformity as mental illnesses has a lot of potential for abuse. It can easily become a weapon in the arsenal of a repressive state.

  113. hi i had add was never medicated became an amphetamine addict at 35 realized 86 %of prison inmates had ADD AND 80%WERE THEIR FOR DRUG MATTERS realized this society is committing genocide against those that dont fit in in order to reduce the gene pool to only those genetically suited for slavery either have fun as a slave or join my fight for freedom from governments that believe they own us .Give your time writing for us or donate money for our challenges to crucial laws.that trap us in slavery ,but do something and do it now tomorrow is too late soon the technology will exist so you can’t think a thought your masters wont like and you will spend your life working hard to live in a cell with all the offal you can eat your kids raised and indoctrinated by the all knowing state and your free time in front of the tv medicated with valium .it really is now or never to act circulate this to your friends and tell them to pass it to their as my web sites are quite often blocked and can’t be accessed this is a matter of life and death .regards the motorcycle messiah and the junkies against crime.

  114. I’m very sorry, but as a mother of an ADHD boy (who has been taking Ritalin for 6 years now) I can tell you lots of stories about how things are handled in our home.

    What worries me most is that the school system is becoming very untolerable towards children that don’t fit in, that don’t immediately do as they are told, that don’t agree with the teachers. They are blamed as being ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’ and this lowers their self esteem. He has been kicked out of one school, because he “doesn’t fit into the educational values of the school and is a interfering factor in the education of other children”.

    Sports clubs are just the same. Last night, we got a phone call from his jiu jitsu teacher, saying that he is no longer welcome in the club because “that boy, he’s always in some kind of trouble”.

    What to do? We have tried to take him off his medication for quite some time now. I always assumed that at a certain point in time he would not be needing it anymore. Every time we tried to stop the medication, our lives turned into a living hell. He has no focus, no empathy, no consideration, no awareness of consequences. He thinks AFTER doing and basicly gets into a lot of trouble.

    He failed to pass the first grade of high school last year, and is now retaking it. The school, although very admirable in all its efforts, gave us a letter with a ‘first warning’ after just 4 days into the new school year.

    Taking him off his medication is in my opinion no solution. It would only make things worse, because the school would not understand this decision at all. We would immediately receive a telephone call from the school’s principle saying we need to talk, meaning he will be kicked out of school again. Then what? This is just no option!

    I can agree with the author of the article to a certain extent, but one has to take into consideration that ADHD influences the whole society and it is this society as a whole that influences our approach of ADHD. And change is very necessary. One day, I am sure everyone will agree that we have given these kids medication too fast, and that the modern educational system is not ready for them. But until that day comes, it is a matter of survival. And survival means: keeping my kid IN school.

  115. I happened to catch your blog as I was signing in to blog myself and it caught my eye, because I recently started teaching at an all boys Korean middle school – and recently attended a conference with other american teachers with my same job, and we had this very discussion. The kids are wild animals, to say the least! But one thing that we all noticed, was that unlike most American kids, little to none of our kids are prescribed any kind of medication, nor do they get diagnosed with these and many other diseases commonly seen in elementary schools, like diabetes, asthma, obesity, etc. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I don’t encounter these types of students..well…I’ve yet to. But you’re right, I teach in a big city, and these are city boys. They take the subway and bus to school every morning, they’re at school all day until almost 5 o’clock. They eat healthy meals with many vegetables, soup and rice every day. And at school, all they drink is water. And let me tell you, those kids run like hell in those hallways…and no one seems to stop them. In fact, they told ME when I first went to work there, to Be Careful! lol They are CONSTANTLY hitting, pushing, grabbing, putting each other in headlocks, chasing eachother like wild beasts, SCREAMING! It took a lot of getting used to but the screaming that I hear during class breaks (which are 10 minutes) is jaw dropping. But in class, they sit quietly. They listen. They pay attention. The really hyper active ones joke and interact constantly with me through the class. Granted, if they step out of line they get whacked with a stick or worse paddled, I still think that their activity level has a lot to do with it. I see them every day after school, playing soccer in their little suits and converse tennis shoes, running down the street to catch the bus, and wandering around the town even later into the evening. I think this is because Koreans typically live in apartments, and it’s so small it’s uncommon to stay in the house very long, it’s very utilitarian. Anyway, I thought your blog and the article really provoked thought, and wanted to share my experiences with you because these boys are so happy, and so energetic, and they are allowed to be boys, I think maybe we are creating an intolerant learning environment.

    • You said: “The kids are wild animals, to say the least!” and “chasing eachother like wild beasts”

      It’s not okay to use animal references when talking about children, especially if you are supposed to be an educator and especially if they are COC (children of color).

      As educators, adults/parents, it’s important to remember that not all of us have been domesticated (The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz) as long as others. While some have a line of folks who had the privilege of sitting in classrooms, then moving to more intellectual professions, even more of us have a genetic makeup that includes labor.

      Our history includes children and adults who worked the fields/farms/lands for generations. This includes Euro-Americans as well, obvously. And, when we look back we can see children working at 10, 12, 14 in America and even much younger in other places. Somewhere along the line we decided that children developed slower (I imagine that happened as jobs grew tight) than they always had and we put a lid on their learning, working and play opportunities.

      I absolutely don’t think we should go back to child labor 🙂 and imagine if our school systems reflected our capabilities vs. we being trapped in a factory designed education system. – When I went to school in NYC in the 70s I had a plethora of music, art, language, athletic and shop classes not to mention summer camps that were affordable or free. By the time I was in 8th grade I took Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Violin, trumpet, swimming, track, art, typing and so much more (IS 180, Bronx NY).

      What I’m saying is that yes parents clearly have a role and that role should not be how to tame and shut down their child, but rather allow BIG play and learning space and help with moving them in the direction of their interests and sharing that with teachers and schools who can help nurture them as well as offer basic education.

      And, someone may have said this, I just haven’t had time to read the full list. I’m really glad I stopped here.

      Signed a proud person thriving with ADHD!

      • I am not the author of the comment to which your reply is directed, but…

        Oy. Talk about political correctness! I find Heather’s comment interesting and eye-opening. Why shouldn’t a writer describe kids as running ‘like wild beasts’?? Gave me a very clear picture of what she’s trying to convey…

        She also presents a very pertinent point in this dialogue: in the Korean school in which she is working, the kids have the ability to shift from wild and raucous behavior between classes to highly focused behavior in the classroom. That’s very interesting, and suggests–again–that a good deal of the problem in American schools might be stemming from kids leading lives that are too structured/housebound/physically inactive.

  116. I am an adult child of the ADHD craze. You remember, back when it started becoming “the thing”? I got hit with it. I was the girl who daydreamed, couldn’t focus, didn’t get her work done.
    Looking back, I know I was bored. I was understimulated at school. If you took me outside, you could teach me anything. Make me sit in a classroom for hours on end with no outlet, that’s where the trouble began. (I won’t even get into the issues with aversive therapy, restraint and other issues I’d later come to know but I can tell you, meds? It’s the tip of the iceburg with what some will have to deal with.)

    It was the first diagnosis in what would become a lifelong string of diagnoses. As an adult, I have come to a point where I recognize the things that make me fidgity, make it hard for me to focus- and I’ve found ways to work around that, or to work through it. As a kid, I just did not have the ability to relay that to adults- I couldn’t say to them, “Well it’s because…and here’s what I think we should do…” Even had I been able to- would they have listened?

    It makes me think, and it scares me. How many kids are we medicating because they can’t relay the things that are impacting their ability to sit still?
    Why does our system not recognize different learning styles and as you mention- the changing landscape in which children are being brought up?

    I am not saying that we should not discipline children to learn self control, but I am saying that drugging them into it cannot be the right answer each and every time.

    I can also say that there is not a day goes by that I don’t wonder, had I not been made to go down that path by my parents, teachers and other influential adults in my life- how different would my life be? Would I be 31 and still trying to find myself?

    I don’t blame them, but it’s something you can’t help but think about when at the most impressionable times of your life, you were medicated into “being good”, rather than being guided and taught, rather than being given the tools. I’ve got them now, but I don’t know if I’ll ever stop wondering what could have been.

  117. It sounds as if you are one of those parents who has yet to discipline their children. Boys do NOT have to jump on couches, throw things in the air…this is not in ANYONE’s wiring or genes. Some boys may be more kinesthetic than others but this is NEVER AN EXCUSE to allow poor or rude behavior. Shame on you for blaming your poor parenting or lack of discipline on sound research about the kinesthetic nature of some boys.

  118. I disagree that boys are not “physically able to sit at the dinner table for 20minutes without fidgeting,” that they “have to jump on couches” and that “everything must be tossed in the air”. Although I agree that boys are naturally different than girls, it is not “in their genes” to act in this way. I think this has more to do with personal parenting and the expectations we place on our children. I’m not saying that this is wrong, or that whoever allows their kids to jump on couches and destroy whatever they come into contact with is wrong. I personally believe that we teach (in this society) a lot less self control than before. We also channel this natural energy in negative ways (internet, video games, instead of sports, for instance) I have a young boy, and I have always expected him to behave according to my own social expectations of people in general, and he is able to sit through an entire meal (even in restaurants) and even if it’s for a couple hours, he respects people and objects, he is mindful and he is aware that he can’t just do what he wants when he wants to satiate his own desires. He’s 4, and has a really fiery personality, so my child could EASILY be the type of boy you describe. Knowing that our boy needs movement and action, we find different ways to relieve him of this built-up energy, but we teach him self-control; behaviour is not only biological, but also reinforced by environment.

    I digress.

    As both a mother to a boy and a young teacher, I relate to this post in many ways.
    1) We are a highly over-medicated society: Our kids are far too stimulated but are not given proper means to expulse all of this stimulated energy.
    2) We are sending boys (especially) mixed messages. Society expects them to be boisterous, full of energy, bouncing all over the place, but the classroom expects them to be completely still, concentrated and obedient.
    3) The education system itself is biased (in behaviour expectations) towards girls.

    The system set in place for identifying children with ADHD is highly subjective and is being abused. I have personally met many professionals who themselves advocate for the “quick fix”. It just makes it easier on everyone when the kid is drugged. It’s sad, if you ask me.

    I also believe that teachers have been placed in a difficult mix. Kids are not taught proper etiquette anymore (they come to class as spoiled little brats who expect everyone to bend and tend to their will and needs), kids are over-medicated by a society gone wild, teachers are expected to fulfill an array of roles with few resources, the promotion aggressive competitive behaviour is rampant (and I could go on), but we maintain that our classrooms should be perfect little places for learning. People are making efforts to create good learning environments, but the entire context itself does not lend itself to a conducive learning environment. Despite NCLB, many children ARE being left behind.

    In my opinion, it’s not just the education system that is “at fault”, it’s a social issue in general. It’s social expectations, our modern social reality, parenting, modern medicine (not that it’s bad… it’s just that we over-medicate), education, lack of resources, lack of community, … it’s everything.

    Anyhow, I don’t want to write a book as a comment, so I’ll leave it at this. In my opinion, we need to reconsider and “reform” many areas before we can expect to have balance in our children and in the classroom.

  119. This type of question has been on my mind a lot lately.
    One thing I would like to say right now, where I do believe there are probably some behavorial disorders out there, in most cases I don’t believe its a disorder at all!!! Like you said in the post,
    “Is it possible that we are trying to manipulate a square peg in a round hole?”
    my personal experience, is YES!!!! Its not a disorder at all (in most cases) its a different way of thinking that does not fit in with our extremely outdated education system which is why our ranks among other countries is falling so rapidly. WE need to help our kids get proper educations, not medicate every kid that doesn’t fit the mold of perfect student when our education system is not up to par.
    At the same time, we, as parents need to play a more active role in the kids lives. Its not enough to just feed your kids & sit them in front of a computer, playstation or tv. They need so much more.

  120. wow what a great article. I am one of 4 boys in our thirties and forties. I know if we had been born later at least two of us would have been diagnosed with adhd and would have been on meds. Thank God that wasn’t the case. we spent our childhood outside. None of us criminals and we all live very productive lives.

  121. I vote yes to all;

    Mothers previously on the pill, mercury and toxic laden adjuvant vaccines, Monsanto high fructose corn syrup, EMP radiation while in gestation, BPA in plastic baby bottles, etc,etc, etc.

    To the young mothers, who may have forgotten their parents who used to go out and play in the dirt, that’s right dig around in the dirt and mud and play. They were getting the protection from illnesses during those periods as well.

    There’s a real problem with people waking up to the soft kill agendas to keep the pro eugenics eco-nut jobs happy and the big PhRMA corporates fat. Disease and Death are big business in the new global economy.

    As for the Public Education System or the indoctrination into new world society, I suggest mothers to spend a few days in these classes and see what neurosis they are inflicting on your most precious gifts.

  122. This article resonates with me for off-topic reasons, just because as a child I was perfectly happy and active, but had moments of deep depression for what I later realized was no real reason. On the flip side of that, I was fidgety and spacey, and daydreamed a lot. I later learned that mental illness runs in my family, and that I’m Bipolar. All I have to say is, as much as my parents are very emotionally detached from everything I do, thank God they did not medicate me with Ritalin. I may have become psychotically manic, and who knows what would have happened. I had an episode where I was 13 and put on antidepressants, and had a horrible mixed episode where not only could I not sleep and had racing thoughts, both features of mania, all I did was cry for no reason. I was too young to understand what was happening to my body. All because a stupid psychiatrist medicated me without investigating the full spectrum of my condition. Who knows, in five years half the nation’s violent crimes may be caused by mismedicated people. Our medical system is certainly not equipped to deal with actual mental illness, that’s where the problem lies. It had become clear to me over time that there are those who have degrees in psychology and may be sufficiently knowledgeable about how the brain works, but are not taught how to properly receive and diagnose patients. Perhaps the root cause of this epidemic, then, lies deeper than just the public school system? Perhaps it lies in the entire educational system, from universities teaching classes that qualify someone for a degree in child psychology to the elementary school principle that threatens to expel a student if he/she is not immediately medicated with SOMETHING. ANYTHING.

  123. An interesting blog which echoes many of my own concerns.
    I am incredibly skeptical of Ritalin, as well as, the existence of ADHD in so many children.

    Teachers need to look beyond ADHD and instead read up on multiple intelligences. Kinesthetic learners, many who are boys, need the movement and “bad” behaviour in order to learn. If we allowed our learners to do more cardiovascular exercise before tests etc, the results in behaviour will be different because the excess adrenalin gets used up.

    I’ve never recommended to a parent that they should check their child for ADHD. I hope I never do.

    Peace to you and yours,

  124. Ineresting that you list a bunch of things that PARENTS control, like whether a child walks to school, does chores, plays outside (rather than video games), and then you blame SCHOOLS for the rise in ADHD cases. I think part of the problem is that too many parents have given up their responsabilities to the schools. If you want your child to play outside more, limit his/her computer and video game time and tell them the alternative is to play outside. So tired of hearing parents blame schools for not being a parent to kids.

  125. Amen, Amen and Amen.

    Our society is continually looking for a quick fix. Whether it has to do with our government, our environment or our behavior, we want the prescription that requires the least amount of work to just make the symptoms go away.

    At the end of the day, focus and concentration is something all of us have to work at. There may be some out there that have a real condition, but most of the time kids are just being kids–curious and constantly looking around. Teachers have to suck it up and remember that guiding the attention of kids is part of their job.

    I feel like it is the same deal with anti-depressants. Every time someone feels “down” out come the pills to brighten their day without actually solving any real problems. It’s disgusting.

  126. I am not a teacher, physician or psychologist. I am a parent of a learning disabled child who fought my school district Tooth and Nail to NOT label my child ADHD. I have learned to be a passionate advocate for my child. We knew something was “up” with our child in Kindergarten. We had no doubt he was smart but he was not learning as he should. It was a big mystery. One of our many frustrations was when he was in the First Grade, we wanted him evaluated. However, he was too young for one type of test and not old enough for another type of test. So we were in limbo for well over a year, no testing could be done. Then he was assigned to a horrible teacher for Second Grade. This teacher made up him mind very quickly that our son was ADHD and went so far as to tell us we should simply medicate him. The school psychologist quickly got on board and before she even evaluated him, she had made up her mind my son had all the classic ADHD symptoms… but she couldn’t understand how we could take him to church, movies, or the grocery store without our pulling our hair out…. But we better put him on meds. It was against my better judgment, but we tried Concerta and I think Stratera (can’t recall the exact name) just to shut the School People up! It had no effect on my son except make his regular behaviors more obsessive. We stopped the meds. I told the psychologist to throw the stupid tests away and just sit down with my son and have him read out loud to her and to write, which was something he had difficulty doing. She refused and said the batteries will “tell her all she needed to know”, but she seriously doubted the tests would show he was learning disabled.

    Well, guess what?! She contacted us before his testing and evaluations were done. She was shocked to discover he was not reading at grade level, but he was very intelligent and that just didn’t make any sense to her. Duh! Ya think!?! So, long story short, our son was classified as Learning Disabled. I made a point to scold the school psychologist because she had not evaluated my son objectively. He has a documented Central Auditory Processing disorder and an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) in place. I am still not convinced that there isn’t some dyslexia/dysgraphia affecting him, but we have not yet found a way diagnose the disorder.

    My son is now in the 7th grade. We still have to remind his teachers about his accommodations and advocate on his behalf. The good news is he is better at understanding his “disability” and has advocated for himself on more than one occasion. I have no doubt that he will successfully complete school with a Regents diploma and go on to college. He may not be an A student, but he is always willing to go to school and work hard. We are very proud of him.

    Now, here are my Two-Cents. We learned though our experience that ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the body, much like depression or anxiety. Proper medication can effectively treat and adjust the chemical imbalance. So sometimes, medication is not a bad thing. The other point I really want to make to any parent struggling with whether or not to medicate their child is this: IF your child was missing a limb, blind, or deaf, you would not DENY your child the tools he/she needs to live a happy and successful life. If you have a cognitively disabled child, be it dyslexia or ADHD, you have to provide for your child as if he/she were physically disabled. It is much easier for the school to provide service for a physically disabled child because the disability is evident. A cognitive disability is not easily recognized. My son and most LD children look “normal”. Very few people understand what a Central Auditory Processing disorder is. Basically, his brain can’t hear. He can’t filter out extraneous noise in the classroom, which impacts his learning.

    There are many, many factors to consider on this topic. I personally believe that 15 years ago schools were more focused on improving girls’ performance in school and tailored the school curriculum to help girls embrace math and science. But the pendulum swung too far and now we are seeing the negative impact on boys. I read an article in Time around 2006 about this and I sure wish I kept the article. I think the family structure has an effect on all students’ performance. I think food may affect certain people in both a positive and a negative way. I think we’re all too quick to want the quick fix for everything.. not just the treatment of ADHD. I keep telling my children that life is not Instant Coffee. They can’t just get what they want whenever they want it.

    My closing thoughts to learning disabled parents… Please fully evaluate your child. Implement whatever tools your child needs to be successful, be it medications, home schooling, diet, charter schools, whatever works best for your situation, income level, religion, or life style. You have to develop an “IEP” for your life as well as for your child’s education. Thanks for letting me chime in.

  127. I was a kid in the 1970’s, long before my teachers and parents had ever heard of ADHD. I was one of those people who just couldn’t sit still. I would get all of my work done and then I would bother everybody else in the room. I tried, I honestly tried. I had a couple of teachers when I was in the third and fourth grade who noticed that if I was working on a creative writing project I would be busy the entire class period. They started keeping these story- starter papers in their desk drawers. When I was done with my in-class work and if everything was done correctly, I could have a story-starter page to work on.

    I remember working so hard to make sure that all of my work was done and done accurately! I couldn’t wait to see what story I could create. My teachers would read them and tell me what a great writer I was. My behavior of “disturbing others” completely disappeared and there was more than once that my teachers had to come to my desk to let me know that all of the other kids were going to recess. I was that involved with what I was doing.

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those teachers, even now. They made a choice not to “label” me but to “educate” me. I learned life-long skills, and to this day, I still write creatively.

    I have a son who is the exact same way that I was. He isn’t “hyperactive” he is BORED! He is highly gifted. One school wanted him in “special” education and another wanted him in gifted and talented education. We did try the medicaton route, on the advice of many doctors, right up until he had a serious psychotic reaction to his Ritalin. Our family doctor said that we should just forget what the behavioral therapists are saying and wean him off everything. It worked and with maturity he has also learned to channel his gifts of high intelligence and high energy. He is graduating high school this year and looking forward to college. It has been a rough road and some of his teachers were great and others just really wanted him to shut up and sit down.

    Thanks for your blog and for giving parents of wonderful children a place to connect!


  128. As an educator for 28 years I witnessed the initial rise of ADHD in our kids. I read the early reports and sat at referral sessions with Doctors, behavioral psychologists, admin and parents. Almost always the consult was initiated by admin through discipline reports or parents who were at the end of their rope. Regardless of severity or circumstance, the child was rarely medicated. Although frequency increased, the urging for a quick fix was tempered. Drugging kids was viewed as unethical and was never initiated by schools. Ritalin or other meeds were always assessed and prescribed by our public universal medical system. Schools were never responsible for medication only behavioral and education plans.

    The rise of social education and especially behavioral problems is not the schools fault. They are funded and equipped for a bygone age. They will faulter as child centered educational institutions when their reality is part welfare state, food bank, mental health clinic, and prison reform system.

    I agree that schools have accepted more and more demands from society, when they should be focusing on core education. The flood of poor behavior in all venues of society has spilled into the schools. Guns, drugs, violence in the classroom is more than ADHD! It’s more than teacher training!ADHD, like drug and alcohol or mental health problems in kids start at home. Society, LIKE MANY TROUBLED KIDS, needs remediation .

    • “It’s more than teacher training!ADHD, like drug and alcohol or mental health problems in kids start at home.”

      Al – in many ways you are right, the problem does start at home. However, there are teachers out there that do more than their fair share to make it even harder on the children and parents.

      I would like to mention a couple of my “happier” moments with teachers that thought they knew more than me as the parent.

      1. The 1st grade teacher that told my son that I lied to him and that Santa Claus was real. (a major violation of my 1st Amendment rights)

      2. The second grade teacher that drug me into her office to yell at me and my son because he didn’t take the basic skills test seriously – only to get the results and see that he maxed out each and every test. He was just reading faster than all of the other children.

      3. The third grade teacher that called the “school liason” to speak with me about my son because she felt that since I had been going through a divorce and was receiving some state assistance that I could possibly understand what she was talking about – because I must be stupid! (Never mind the fact that I was helping to supporting myself and three children by teaching part-time at the local community college while I finished school.)

      4. The fourth grade teacher that told my son that there was nothing wrong with the Harry Potter books and that he should take it home and read it anyway…just hide the book and don’t tell his mom.

      Do you want me to keep going? I know that there are really great teachers out there…but there are also some who need to find a different line of work. I seem to meet an awful lot of those, these days.


      • Awesome! Totally agree with you, Joan, 100%. My son is in a class where the teacher is horrible. Always has something negative to say but he scores 100% on most papers and 90 on others. Some teachers are the ones who need an evaluation and put on meds.

  129. There is a very good documentary on PBS Frontline called “Raising Cain” that talks about how boys are falling behind in schools and “misbehave” more often because of the way the classrooms are set up to stifle boys’ energy. As a teacher, and a former “trouble-making boy” I know full well, the value of going outside and running around like crazy and spending all of that energy outside the classroom so that it doesn’t cause trouble INSIDE the classroom.

    You can watch the full documentary online:

  130. My one son, got so many stitches in his poor head from tearing around that i was waiting to be reported to some authority. But here was a curious thing – the kids knew which friend was on Ritalin in high school (there seemed to be no stigma attached) and bought it to off him help them study for exams (or so they said).

  131. As a Mom to one girl and two little boys, I acknowledge the differences in them that seem to be hormone related and those that seem to be strictly personality related.
    I have had an ongoing struggle in my daughters education and near the end of the last school year I discussed it with my peditrician at the end of the discussion he handed me a precription for, Concerta and advised me to use it for my daughter.
    That was one discussion based on my thoughts and observations and I was very disturbed that my daughter would be given a drug that would alter her Central Nervous System based on that and that alone.
    I was disturbed and found myself in numerous discussions with other mothers, my daughters teachers and vertually anyone who would listen to my distress.
    I decided to pursue second opinions,alternates and alternatives and have yet to make my decision for her.
    I am concerned at the number of children I see being medicated for a “condition” they may not really have and the number of parents who are not given all of the information readily and may not have the resources to go looking on their own.
    I am curious to know what everyone thinks is the main issue behind all of this….Do we really have that many more kids that are not controlled enough to concentrate or is it just our need for a quick fix answer?
    My daughter incidentily is not a hyperactive kid, she does have concentration issues and an unidentified learning disability but my children are far to important to me to drug them at random. Sitting in the middle of this is hard and I am pulling for the best possible outcome for my little girl!

  132. I agree that our school system and our culture are not helping boys. Boys learn in motion. They are wired for adventure, risk and challenges. We do our culture a disservice to raise them any other way.

  133. I am thrilled beyond words to read this engaging and respectful discussion about boys, education and the rise in medicating our children. It gives me profound hope that if a discussion board of strangers can respectfully discuss various points of view on these issues, than perhaps change is on the horizon. Wishful thinking?

    Thank you for taking the time to share your personal stories, offer suggestions and take issue with the information presented. It is inspiring to know that so many people from around the world truly care to see our education system evolve to better serve the needs of children, regardless of gender, today.

    Thank you for taking the time to join the conversation. I am humbled that so many people have commented and expressed thanks for bringing this much debated issue to the discussion table.

  134. I think you have some valid points about our lifestyles being more sedentary. This is something worth reflecting on within the family unit, but I can’t see how education is to blame for a sedentary lifestyle.

    It’s very possible that we are over-diagnosing ADHD, but I cannot see how this is the fault of the education system. Teachers and parents both report to therapists their observations of the child in question. The therapist then diagnoses. If a child is bouncing off the walls, can’t follow directions, is disrupting class excessively, etc, then this is going to be clear in a teacher’s observations. A good teacher can tell the difference in excessive behaviors of this sort versus normal “boy” activity.

    Certain areas of teaching are trying to fit square pegs in round holes. Teaching a student how to behave or act in certain situations is part of the educational experience, even if it goes against that particular child’s “instincts”.

    In my experience, the education system does indeed take steps to understand how the sexes learn differently. Of course, not all schools are the same, and not all teachers are the same. I agree that prescribing drugs as a band-aid is a potentially dangerous solution, but again, I don’t see how the education system is to blame here.

  135. ADHD is not a disease to treat it with drugs !! Some kids are restless but highly intelligent while others may be of the quieter type. As rightly put, what we need is a more tolerant approach and classifying any child as ADHD should be only after a detailed study !!

  136. As a new first grade teacher, I notice that first grade now isn’t the first grade when I was in first grade (about 20 years ago). What are they doing? Having students listen to the teacher as s/he lectures about odd and even numbers. There’s no room for creativity and imagination anymore. Lesson plans must be 100% structured and scripted. Why? Because of high stakes testing. We’re creating a generation of test-takers, not a generation creating new ideas. I find it funny that while receiving my Master of Arts in Teaching, we were told to be creative with our lesson plans. How can teachers be creative when our lesson plans are already scripted?

    Try to have 27 first-graders sitting still during a 30 minute “lecture” about odd and even numbers…or how to count by 3s, etc. I think there are students who legitimately struggle with various skills/tasks but medication should be used as a last resort. Some students are simply defiant/restless because of the behavior learned in their home environment.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the education system that you are working within. I can imagine that teachers have more pressure than ever for their students to prove they have met “standards” (usually by taking a test). When put that way, it is easy to see why some teachers may feel exasperated by behaviour that could be considered disruptive.

    • You say that first grade isn’t the same as it was when you were in first grade. How so?

      You also say that there is no room for creativity and imagination anymore, that you are lecturing for 30 minutes to first graders, and that your lesson plans are already scripted. Scripted by who? Who is in control of your lesson plans?

      • In first grade, we wrote stories. The teacher would make little booklets and we could draw the pictures along with the story. We also made a rocket ship. We had a “control panel” in it. We also had to make “food” out of construction paper. I remember making a “ham sandwich”.

        I’m specifically an overage teacher.

        When I said “lecturing for 30 minutes” I meant in increments. I’m not doing the lecturing but that is how the lessons are set up. I was told in my graduate program studies that having students (at any age) to be expected to sit in their seats quietly more than their attention span is asking a lot. That’s why the program taught advanced instructional strategies.

        The state makes the curriculum that the counties follow. Thus, the publisher or “new system” for first graders is called Saxon Phonics and Saxon Math. The lessons are already made for the teachers and they have a certain script to follow. So you ask the students a question and you expect to get a certain answer. The lesson plans already tell you what materials you need and how to do the lesson. They have workbooks in which the students practice. There’s no time allowed for creativity when all these demands are given. It’s fluff. It may be “convenient” but it’s simply just fluff. The teacher’s independence is limited.

        That’s only part of the problem. The other problem is dealing with outside issues.

      • Your comment about lecturing for 30 minutes seemed to imply that first graders were being forced to sit in their chairs for 30 minutes straight while listening to a lecture. Most high schoolers can’t even do that.

        I’m still confused…you said you aren’t doing the lecturing, but that it is how the lessons are set up. If you aren’t doing lessons that way, then I’m not sure what your complaint is.

        If your school mandates that you can only do Saxon Phonics, and there is only time for Saxon Phonics, or Saxon Math, or whatever, then that indeed does stink. I looked it up, and they look like worksheets–and worksheets have a valuable place, of course, but they need to be combined with lots of other strategies for effective teaching.

  137. As the father of two boys, both of whom it was suggested get tested for ADD / ADHD, I have seen the lengths some educators and administrators will go to to try to get a diagnosis and prescriptions. While I do see that inattentativeness and hyperactivity are major disturbances to an individual’s education as well as to fellow classmates, I have also seen the effects the medications and the attitudes adults have towards the conditions create. I was told my oldest needed to be tested when he was only four, in preschool no less. when it was decided firmly that he had the undiagnosed condition, the eye fell to his younger brother, only two. My personal opinion was, and still is, some educators have a very biased world view and tend to think that ALL of the world’s problems stem from malecentric testosterone-laden behaviors. So of course the best course to change the world is to supress those behaviors as early as possible. The easiest way to do this is with medication. So much better than leaving it in the perview of the parents ( an obviously male father, if he’s even in the picture, and the just-as-obviously weak-willed mother, who allowed herself to become pregnant and “gasp” carry the unviable tissue mass to term in the first place ). I know this comment sounds bitter. I suppose this comes from years of dealing this “authority” figures claiming to know better than me how to raise my children and more often than not taking it upon themselves to “correct” situations with my approval or without.

  138. This isn’t about boys versus girls. It’s the small number of children who want to pay attention in class, versus the large number of children who have some unexamined reason not to. The child may have ODD, or legit ADHD, or Asperger syndrome, or they may dislike the teacher, or get bullied regularly, or be insecure about participating, or have restless feet, or have distractions outside of school, or be obsessed with some subject that isn’t covered. There are any number of reasons to want to tune out in class. The system isn’t geared to address the individual child; a one-size-fits-all diagnosis is the best it can do, even if it’s not good enough.

    • I agree that the system as a whole doesn’t excel at addressing the needs of the individual child. However, that doesn’t mean that many teachers and schools shy away from this approach. I was very fortunate, when I was a new teacher several years ago, to work in a district that heavily stressed differentiated instruction. I received lots of great training in differentiating, tiering lessons, intervention, addressing multiple intelligences, etc.

  139. Thank you for writing this post. It is heartening to see people thinking on these lines. As a teacher I’ve seen many children being ruined by ‘modern’ thinking, education and parenting. A kid needs (correction – a person of any age needs) some physical stimulation! How is it possible to reign in all the energy unless one lets it out?
    Not only have we taken a horrific course to savage our adult lives, we’ve let this ignorance trickle down to how we bring up our children.
    Keep writing and creating awareness!

  140. At the time I read this you have 239 comments. I cannot possibly read them all, so forgive me if I’m redundant. My gut response to your blog is…

    YES! YES! YES!!! From a mom who had a son on Ritalin for many years…I 100% agree. It was a huge mistake to subject my child to medication when all he needed was to be allowed to USE the energy. Both physical and intellectual!

    I am reading these blogs from the most recent back and have enjoyed each one so far. Thank you for saying what needs to be said!

  141. Howdy! As a doc on the inside of the educational field, I must salute you! ( I would never put down a teacher, but i have to point out that it is now the teachers who are pointing out that a child is “unruly” and that in itself is a problem). Getting a proper diagnosis from a physician for ADHD meds is almost impossible because the doc takes the word of the parents and that of the teacher’s note.
    The young mind is supposed to be inquisative! how else are they to learn the “rights and wrongs” of society, asking the right questions, asking the wrong questions, and knowing the difference?
    Great post!

  142. I agree that there is way too little parenting (it’s almost as if people have pet humans) and too much structure and demand on the school system. The latter is one reason so many choose to educate their child at home, away from the group-act. But if we step back, oh, let’s say 300 years or so, who were the people who settled this country to begin with? What kind of a person would get on a ship for weeks with no idea what the place they were going was like, little food or money, probably going to die on the ship, no place to live and huge debt waiting for them on the other side? Today, we would say it describes an adult with ADHD. The others were well-to-do, already had a good business back on the other side of the pond socialites. The modern day rich and poor. Even just the states themselves have their “personalities”: the get-rich-quick who moved way out west, the shop owners and factory moguls up north, the hard-core “i-ain’t budging-and-you-can’t-make-me” of the south. Since then, there has been a larger influx of “outsiders,” and more people moving away from family centers so it is a bit more spread out, but genetically, we are not all that far yet from where we were when the colonies were forming. There are so many factors that play into the “why,” but being an impatient society, we want the quick pill fix for EVERYTHING! So it isn’t just the ADHD who are impatient! Those around them are too impatient to deal with their differences. When ADHD is the majority, maybe we will get to medicate those who are just too sedentary and organized 🙂

  143. Oh NO!! This post will ruin everything. How will my company sell unnecessary drugs to disinterested parent to create our future generation of fat-lazy drug-needing super losers? /s

    We need some common sense pills. WE DO. We forgot to think for ourselves and instead put all our faith, belief and trust in “learned people’s” care. They say drugs are the way to fix everything. Not because they are a continuously profitable revenue source. Not because we’ve been convinced that following the herd makes you a good person. And not because it removes all burden of parenting from us because everyone told us it would be easy. Just ask every dead-beat dad.

    Seriously, it doesn’t take effort or attention. Just drug ’em /s

    There are several sides to every problem. So when we ignore all the things that worked and replace it with imaginary fix-alls, we’ve created new problems.
    Child-rearing is not easy. If someone argues, question they’re work ethic. Parents used to devote themselves to their invests, their futures, but now… hold my show’s back on.
    see ya.

    • This is ridiculous. Drugs to treat ADHD aren’t “unnecessary”. There are many people who do benefit from using them. Is it possible, or even probable, that some people don’t “need” them? Sure. It’s also possible that many people who take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds don’t “need” them, but there are many people whose lives improve as a result of taking meds like these.

      And who says that drugs are the way to “fix everything”? I’ve personally never heard, or read, any parent, teacher, psychologist, therapist, researcher, etc say that ADHD meds “fix everything”. As with most meds that deal with behavior or mood, they are best when used in conjunction with the appropriate therapy.

      You say there are several sides to every problem but then fail to address them. As my students would say…WTH? Or possibly…EPIC FAIL.

  144. Thank you for the excellent post!

    Are ADHD medications necessary in some instances? Absolutely.

    Are ADHD medications overprescribed? Without a shadow of a doubt.

    The problem with unattentive children, I suspect, is much more related to our absentee parent, over-sugared, over-caffeinated, children’s needs are an inconvenience, quality time is just as good as quantity time, I need my career, cater to my child’s every need, never refuse my child anything, I feel too much guilt to discipline, lowered expectations for my child, and blame all of my child’s shortcomings on the teacher instead of the parent society.

    Some children may require medication, *most* don’t. Exhaust every other avenue and look at your own shortcomings as a parent first before assuming it’s the child.

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  148. I think a lot of blame is being laid at the feet of teachers here. In my opinion some teachers could do a better job by having a more structured learning environment while being smart about ways to educate kids who are a bit antsy. However, I would suggest that the reason that ADHD diagnosis is out of control is because more parents are not raising their children responsibly these days. It leads to a search for answers. Educators generally want the best for the student (as do parents) and are searching for ways to help. Some suggest meds. I would suggest that it would take a very serious case before a teacher would suggest this. I’d like to think the teacher might suggest parenting classes…. This however, doesn’t usually go over very well. Not to mention that many times parents may be in complaining about how their child is being treated. Meanwhile, their child disrupts the learning process for a couple dozen other children who are in the class. Is it fair to the students who are working to do their part to be constantly disrupted by a misbehaving student? I DO believe that ADHD is real. I just believe it is grossly overdiagnosed. Sometimes parents go in searching for a diagnosis. Other times it is teachers. I guess the key word here is search. Adults are searching for answers to help educate this child. From there it is farily easy to get a diagnosis if you want one bad enough. But, in the cases of misdiagnosis, I believe it has more to do with poor parenting skills than anything else. We pamper them and don’t hold them responsible. Why aren’t kids playing outside today? Because their parents don’t make them!! They let video games consume their kids’ lives. Come on people. Wake up! I’m not saying being a parent is easy, but that’s my opinion.

  149. I hope someone will entertain the idea that just maybe the relative differences in activity by boys may not be Male problem but a stress problem. I feel the idea boys should be strong leads to much more aggressive, disciplinary treatment, social/emotional distance, lags in maturity, and yes, more activity for stress relief. I feel the activity is gotten honestly from the differential treatment they are receiving. I feel the Male crisis along with various differences in behavior, reading, writing, etc. need to be addressed from an environmental standpoint first. Yes, as a teacher, I have seen more intolerance and even much allowed catharsis of stress upon little boys by parents, peers, teachers, and other significant persons. I feel this begins as early as one year of age, while Female children are somewhat more protected from this treatment. I feel the Male crisis needs to be addressed from this viewpoint first or we risk losing equality and create a collective falling behind of Males. This “coming critical point ” needs to be addressed now. I feel it may already be too late given the some 20 years it will require to create a more equitable environment for Male children.

  150. I have always seen ADD ADHD as a part of higher average stress. When I say higher average stress, I am saying “not the misunderstood present concept” but the fact that we carry with us, layers of mental work that take up real mental energy. Young children cannot help but take in the anxieties of those around them. Since they are more vulnerable and not able to cognitively deal with much of it, it is internalized as layers of average stress that not only take up mental energy but also creates more a activity for stress relief. So children are not under the same circumstances, anxieties, treatment, etc. The belief boys should be strong not only allows the same anxieties passed on but more aggressive, less tolerant, more discipline, and just more allowed verbal and physical catharsis from family anxiety. This is not a difficult concept to understand.
    We need to trash our current definition of average stress and install this more correct definition. We need to begin teaching parents, students, society, the media that our average stress is made up of layers of mental frictions that not only create more need for stress relief but also take up real mental energy.
    Yes, we are not just naturally good at this and bad at that. Our abilities are hurt by layers of mental work (even mental/emotion work created from more aggressive agitation and other less than kind treatment from others. All of us carry layers of mental frictions that take up mental energy, which takes away that much our thinking, learning, motivation to learn (mental reward received for mental work expended), and can create psychological suffering if reaching high levels.
    Try to picture an upright rectangle representing our full ability or full mental energy. Then begin drawing from the bottom, narrowly spaced, horizontal lines to represent layers of small and some large layers of mental frictions our minds may be working on consciously and below the surface or subconsciously. The space we have left represents our leftover ability to think, learn, and grow mentally and emotionally. The length of this space also represents our length of reflection time or time to think more deeply to consider long-term rewards or consequences for a course of action. This shows just how our individual environments greatly affect our ability to think and learn. Persons with high layers of mental frictions will have to work harder to receive the same mental reward for mental work expended. Ask yourself, which makes more sense, are we just genetically more or less able or do our individual environments greatly affect our ability to think, learn, and develop skills. For our own good, we need to recognize how our individual environments greatly affect ability and how we can more permanently reduce mental frictions to continually improve thinking, learning, and mental/emotional health.
    This tool provides a way to permanently reduce layers of mental frictions. We need to do more than just solve a problem creating a mental friction. We need to look at the elements in our lives that create those mental frictions or problems and our values that may be creating those problems. Then, we can begin to understand a little more each day how the elements of our circumstances and problems are creating mental frictions as they come up. Then with a small change in a weight or value we are placing on something in our lives and developing a mental principle or rule in a certain area of our life we can then resolve and more permanently remove that layer of mental friction. By slowly understanding how layers of mental frictions are created, we can then learn to approach those elements in our lives more correctly to keep like mental frictions from occurring in the future. This enables “all of us” to more permanently reduce layers of mental frictions that hurt our ability to think and learn. The Savant is able to perform mathematical or musical feats because theoretically, the mind is dysfunctional in many areas and is delivering extra mental energy to other areas like math or music. Since we as so-called, normal human beings are affected adversely by layers of mental frictions in other areas of the mind, which function normally, our abilities in such areas are by comparison, impeded.
    With each more permanently removed layer of mental friction we will continually improve thinking, learning, and extend reflection time (think more deeply, with more complexity, and more correctly). Remember, to more permanently reduce layers of mental frictions we need to change the principle or value that created that mental friction, “not just solve that problem” to prevent similar mental frictions from occurring.
    You “cannot” use physical exercise, relaxation, or mediation to more permanently reduce average stress. It does not work. When you use physical exercise, you are temporarily removing the energy dealing with mental work and sending to perform a more physical task. Then when your body recovers, that energy is then re-fed back to your average stress, so nothing is accomplished.
    When you use Relaxation an attempt to reach greater ease or use various forms of meditation in an attempt to alter your state of consciousness, you are only temporarily removing the mental energy to your mind. Then when you attempt a new mental work, that energy is then re-fed back to your layers of mental work or average stress you were dealing with in the first place. It is kind of like turn off the faucet to a multi-prong hose or “layers of mental frictions”. This works good as long as the faucet is turned off. However, when you attempt a new mental work, it is like turning the faucet back on, so your mental energy is then re-fed not just to that one mental work but to all of the others also. As a result, nothing is accomplished from physical exercise, relaxation, or meditation.
    The space left shows our leftover ability for thinking, learning, and performing mental work. The more space we have, the more we are able to think with more complexity or improve abstract thinking. The top of the chart shows how high layers of mental frictions can create psychological suffering that may create escapes such as drug/alcohol abuse, violence, and suicide. The vertical line on the top left represents our length of reflection time. A shorter reflection time and psychological suffering can lead to many harmful escapes that would not occur had there been lower layers of mental frictions before that situational stress had occurred. By more permanently lowering layers of mental frictions, we can prevent many deadly forms of escape and increase our reflection time or time we take to think, plan, and make decisions.

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