Four Reasons Your Child Probably Doesn’t Need ADHD Meds


There is enormous pressure on parents to ensure that their children do well in school. I know; as a father, I was overwhelmed by the pressure to get my daughter into the “right” pre-school to give her the best opportunities to have a happy, successful life. Pre-school!


But as recess is diminished and children spend an increasing amount of time indoors and test-taking has replaced arts and physical education, parents are turning more and more to medical interventions to help their child stay focused. A recent article published by National Public Radio (NPR) suggests that we should begin to reexamine prevailing attitudes towards children’s attention capabilities, specifically the modern prevalence of ADHD diagnoses. Kids wiggle and lose attention as part of being kids, not always because something is wrong. This is compounded by the efforts to keep them in their seats for long periods instead of engaging them in learning that is mobile and active. Consider these four guides when trying to assess your own child’s difficulty in school.


  1. ADHD diagnoses have risen dramatically. Diagnosis of ADHD in children has risen 30% in the last 20 years. However, genetic researchers indicate that the rate of this increase is too swift to be the result of genetic evolution. The disconnect between medical support for an increased prevalence of ADHD and the sharp rise in diagnoses suggests that many children are being treated and medicated for a condition they do not have.


  1. Criteria for general diagnoses is subjective and inadequate. NPR reports that current standard practice allows for an ADHD diagnosis to be made by providing yes or no answers to a series of only nine questions. Dimitri Christakis, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, says this is an inadequate measuring tool for ADHD. Christakis’ research indicates that the ability to pay attention is more nuanced than any nine-question quiz.


  1. True diagnoses will likely be found in the brain. Despite the lack of genetic markers, neuroscientists at Yale University have found links between certain neural firing networks and individuals with severe diagnoses of ADHD. Researchers pointed out, though, that their techniques for identifying people with difficulty concentrating was not ready for use as a diagnostic tool. An additional challenge in utilizing brain imaging techniques to diagnose ADHD is that difficulty focusing is a symptom that’s not unique to ADHD, and presently there is no way to distinguish if a person’s inability to concentrate stems from ADHD, depression or a host of other causes. Even where evidence seems most promising, experts are still not confident in their ability to diagnose ADHD.


  1. The real problem can’t be treated with medication. It’s normal for both children and adults to occasionally have difficulty maintaining focus on mundane tasks. But before reaching for the medicine cabinet or calling your doctor, try this home remedy first: exercise. Incorporating movement and activity into your day can go a long way in helping your child, and you, to focus when you need it.


There’s no question that parents want the best for their children, but medicating your child from an early age may cause more harm than help, and you will all benefit from getting outside and getting active together.