ADHD Deserves a National Dialogue

As the daughter, sibling, cousin, aunt and parent to children (now some are adults) with ADHD, I am outraged by the archaic diagnosis of this neurological brain disorder. I am normally bashing the New York Times for their reporting on psychiatric and find this paper quite biased in their articles.  This is one story that I am in full agreement with the NYT.

This nation needs an open and brutally honest dialogue on the diagnosis of children and adults. The way that children and adults are diagnosed through decades-old rating scales is barbaric. No child or adult should be diagnosed with ADHD without a comprehensive neuropsychological battery.  Diagnosing ADHD without an evaluation of “executive functions” (memory, initiation, planning, organization, cognitive flexibility, self monitoring and self regulating) is like diagnosing cancer without knowing where it is in the body. Putting  a child or adult on medication without a clear diagnosis is simply ridiculous.

What looks like ADHD can be Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a Sensory Processing Disorder, an iron deficiency, a visual processing/tracking/motor integration-convergence disorder. Only with careful evaluation and the ruling in or ruling out of other psychiatric, neurological, medical and learning disabilities should a diagnosis of ADHD be made.

As an educational advocate, children diagnosed with what is truly ADHD or ADHD that is comorbid with other psychiatric and neurological conditions are greatly underserved by our nation’s public schools.  A large majority of these children need an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan to reach their maximal success, and be prepared for Post-Secondary education and the global workforce.

Too often, I sit through evaluation reviews for eligibility and have to put on my boxing gloves in my fight for children with ADHD.  Then, once they are eligible, I have to sit through what I refer to as “ADHD Ground Hog Day,” talking about the kiddos’ needs for instruction in organizational skills, time management, keeping a binder (paper or electronic), writing essays and taking tests. How can we be in the year 2014 and so many school districts have not built capacity to provide the specialized instruction to students with ADHD?  This is just infuriatingly unacceptable.  The disproportionate suspensions and expulsions for students with ADHD has got to be stopped.

Read this New York Times article. Say thank you for doctors such as Ned Hallowell and Peter Jensen for raising national awareness and working to provide better training to the medical community.  I would only ask that they set up the same training for staff in our nation’s public schools.

Let’s open a national dialogue on children with ADHD.  It is decades overdue and too many children are suffering, and so misunderstood by their parents, schools and communities.

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