"We are pathologizing boyhood," says Ned Hallo-well, a psychiatrist who has been diagnosed with ADHD himself and has cowritten two books about it, Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction. "God bless the women's movement—we needed it—but what's happened is, particularly in schools where most of the teachers are women, there's been a general girlification of elementary school, where any kind of disruptive behavior is sinful. What I call the 'moral diagnosis' gets made: You're bad. Now go get a doctor and get on medication so you'll be good. And that's a real perversion of what ought to happen. Most boys are naturally more restless than most girls, and I would say that's good. But schools want these little goody-goodies who sit still and do what they're told—these robots—and that's just not who boys are."
You don't say?
48% OF SUBJECTS OF ONE STUDY WHO TOOK ADHD MEDICATIONS EXPERIENCED SIDE EFFECTS LIKE SLEEP PROBLEMS AND "MOOD DISTURBANCES." IN ANOTHER, 6% OF CHILDREN SUFFERED PSYCHOTIC SYMPTOMS, INCLUDING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE.
Source: Psychiatry, April 2010; The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, October 1999.
Years ago, my step-son was diagnosed with a "learning disability". He couldn't read. The teachers said he was "slow". This kid was one of the smartest boys I knew and yet he couldn't read. So the Mrs. started reading to him at night. Not any of the boring bullshit forced down kids throats these days, but Harry Potter.
By the time we got to book two, he was reading on his own. He had no problem reading. He had no problem learning. He was BORED STIFF IN SCHOOL.
One man believes that drugging children's brains is too risky. That until we get a lot closer to achieving a foolproof diagnosis for ADHD, we need to think twice about giving a single pill to a single child. He believes that what is called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder might in fact be a boy's greatest gift, the gift of energy. And that the best way to treat it is to first teach the boy to control the energy all by himself, because by learning to control it all by himself, a boy can channel that energy to help him succeed. That the responsible thing to do is first to see if there is some problem with the boy's heart—not with the way it pumps blood, but with its ability to show and accept love. The man's name is Howard Glasser, and he is one of those countercultural clinicians who, as American society has become inured to giving psychotropic drugs to kids, has built a practice predicated on opposing the very idea.
If he were a child today, Glasser would be given a prescription for a stimulant in about five minutes. Little Howie was a wired kid. Obstreperous. But good. A good kid. And when he grew up and became a family therapist—he has applied to earn his doctorate in education from Harvard starting this fall—he created a way of dealing with wired, obstreperous, uncontrollable kids who are, beneath all that, good. And he believes all of them are good.
He calls the method the Nurtured Heart Approach, and it seems simple on the surface: You nurture the child's heart. If a child is hyperactive and defiant and has trouble listening and concentrating, Glasser feels it is our responsibility as a society—as grown-ups—to do everything we can for a child's heart before we start adding chemicals to his brain, because what if his brain is fine? What if the diagnosis isn't right? And even if it is, what if something else works?If ADHD had been a thing when I was growing up, I'd be doped up to the gills by the school system to ensure that I would be a "good boy". I hated school. Never paid attention, other than in my various music classes. Tore-assed through the countryside of North Idaho whenever I could. I guarantee that if my teachers could have doped me up on some ADHD drug, they'd have done so in a red-hot minute. Thank God that didn't happen. But it's happening to boys all over this country. And it's a load of horse shit. You want to talk school shootings? What in the hell do you think is going to happen when you're doping boys up with Schedule II drugs from the time they enter the school system to the time they leave it? What in the HELL do you think is going to happen when you have a kid on drugs that affect dopamine for over a decade, and then turn them loose?
I'm of the opinion that the biggest problem kids have these days is the public school system. The one-size-fits-all, mediocrity-shall-be-enforced, publik skool sistim that has ruined learning for generations of children in this country. And I'm willing to bet that if we stopped shoving our kids into this meat grinder of misery, we might be able to treat a huge number of ADHD cases without drugs.
But what do I know. I'm just a guy who hates sitting still.