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Shelby McAfee

Jamie McBeth-Smith
English 1010
April 28, 2016
The Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD
Have you ever felt like you couldnt focus during a test or even just
sitting down while watching a movie? Well that was me all the time as a
young girl. I always wanted to be up and moving around. I had a hard time
focusing in class, but I figured there were better things to be doing on a
warm day than being confined in a classroom learning about things that I
didnt necessarily find applicable to my life at that point. Many teachers or
parents of my friends would make subtle remarks or comments about me
possibly having ADHD, and thus my inability to focus. Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder in children is characterized into groups based off of
inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. According to the New York Times,
about 6.4 million children between the ages of four to seventeen have been
diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives. Attention deficit disorders
are being given out like candy some may argue, while others believe the
diagnosis is not taken seriously enough to be properly treated. So my
question is if we are over diagnosing our country with this disorder. Are we
looking for the easy answer to heal or fix our children or is this mental

disorder a bigger problem than we know? In other words, is the diagnosis of


ADHD helping or hurting our children?

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In the early 2000s ADHD was a very big topic that got many peoples
attention. People became more and more aware of this disorder and started
getting their children tested. Since ADHD is not a black and white, crystal
clear diagnosis, doctors did the best they could and would meet with parents
and/or teachers of the child to determine what characteristics they
demonstrated that might be corresponding with this disorder. When children
showed signs of hyperactivity or impulsivity, they were given the diagnosis
and medicine to help them. They had now been added to the increasing
statistics. And this is how it went for many years. People stopped talked
about what causes inattention and merely tried to mask it. As the years have
passed, more doctors have looked into this disorder, one of which is Dr.
Mitchell Clionsky, a certified board neuropsychologist with more than thirty
years of experience, who now specializes in ADHD at the ADD Center of
Western Massachusetts. He noticed some of these children were beginning to
be labeled as lazy, crazy or stupid but in fact, they were simply
misdiagnosed. I was shocked to find out that there are other medical
conditions that have similar symptoms as attention deficit disorders, such as
tonsillitis and sleep apnea. Once the tonsils were removed or taken care of,
the symptoms of ADHD were gone. For this reason, Dr. Clionsky always
recommends that children be given a test for sleep apnea before being
diagnosed and treated for ADHD. No one has ADHD until its been proven-

its a medical problem that requires a careful and detailed evaluation. When
it is correctly diagnosed and properly treated, children and adults can
perform so well that it seems miraculous. But the diagnostic process is
complex, and there is a lot of variability explains Dr. Clionsky (Mitchell).
These are my thoughts exactly! Why is it because I may have one
characteristic of ADHD, that I need a full blown dose of medicine to cure

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me? At the ADD Center of Western Massachusetts, a center opened up to


specialize in ADD/ADHD, they do not take the diagnosis of ADHD/ADD lightly.
Before somebody is diagnosed they have a two hour initial exam, followed by
many, many more hours of testing to even better pinpoint what aspect of
ADD or ADHD that specific patient needs more assistance with.
Clionsky is not the only one to feel that ADHD is being misdiagnosed.
However, Niall D. Hartnett, Jason M. Nelson and Anne N. Rinn co-wrote an
article discussing the possibilities of misdiagnosis of attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder not for another medical condition, but for giftedness,
or accelerated learning abilities. I found it interesting how they discussed
how gifted children demonstrate many of the same characteristics as
children with ADHD, such as hyperactivity, the inability to focus, and
overexcitabilities (Hartnett). For example students who learn easier than
others will become bored faster because they have to sit and wait for the
rest of the class to catch up to where they are, thus creating boredom and
possibilities for opportunities to distract themselves. I too, realized myself
getting bored and distracted in class until they put me in gifted and

talented classes in Jr. High. One of the main differences though however, is
that children with ADHD have a hard time focusing wherever they are,
whereas gifted children have a hard time focusing at school and not at home.
Gifted children are able to focus on things that they enjoy but children with
ADHD eventually become bored even with their favorite activities. Another
thing that complicates this issue is the perception of the doctor or physician
that the child sees. Since there is no way to test or scan the brain to be onehundred percent sure that a child has ADHD, many gifted children are being
misdiagnosed and being treated with medications that are counteracting
their intelligence.

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I find my situation relating more to possibility of giftedness than


ADHD. When I look at my cousin who is only a couple months older than me,
who has been diagnosed and given medicine for ADHD, I dont see myself in
the same position. If he doesnt take his medicine, he becomes very
energetic and almost out of control. So in this aspect I see the benefits of this
medicine, but what wouldve happened if they gave me medicine when I
didnt need it? Would it have helped me focus or slow me down? Medicine
can have different effects from person to person so would my good grades
have suffered from a pill a doctor decided to put me on because I was an
energetic 9 year old?
How do you decide what will help everyone? Or is there even a
medication that can treat all patients? Mandy Oaklander, a writer and editor

for Time Magazine says that breathing may be the best treatment for all
children, whether or not they have ADHD. She promotes the idea of using
meditation programs in schools. Mindfulness and meditation programs are
emerging as powerful ways to calm kids down, sharpen their brains and
make them kinder to their classmates.(Oaklander). One 2013 study eludes
that meditation may also lead to higher graduation rates: 15% higher. The
study and science also show that the students who participated in
mindfulness had better social behavior, less aggression and more liked than
those who didnt. Children also had fewer ADHD symptoms, and this lasted
for months after the program finished. Maybe we are too quick to prescribe
medications for every problem that comes up. Why dont we treat behavioral
issues using behavioral techniques instead? If we connect the ideas of
Oaklander, Clionsky, Hartness, Nelson and Rinn, we can start at the bottom
of this ladder of diagnosis, as an alternative to jumping straight to the top of
Mt. Assumption and Guesstimation.

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Medicine is too easy to access and seen as the cure for everything.
But could the medicine actually be adding to the problem? Kate Lunau, a
health and science writer for Macleans Magazine, points out some shocking
facts about ADHD statistics between two of the most different states in the
US: California and North Carolina. In 2007, a child living in California would
be two and a half times less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, than one
living in North Carolina. Rates of children being diagnosed with this disorder
are skyrocketing. There are about 3.5 million, more than one in every 10,

children in the U.S who have been diagnosed, most even as young as
preschool age. Lunau talked with psychologist Enrico Gnaulati who says,
ADHD is now as prevalent as the common cold. (Lunau). As psychologists
have been looking at these numbers and cases, the closest thing they can
relate these diagnoses to is school policy. Many schools now give initiatives
for children to perform better on their test, resulting in better overall test
scores for the school. Schools in North Carolina were among the first to start
using these accountability laws. Children diagnosed with ADHD either
receive extra help and one on one time to get better test scores, or their
scores are not even counted towards anything. I mean who doesnt want
their kids to be the smartest and best students? Teachers are even stating
that more and more children, especially young boys, are having a harder
time focusing in class, and therefore probably have ADHD. Every child is to
some extent impulsive, distractible, disorganized, and has trouble following
directions, argues Gnaulati (LUNAU). Once again, since there are no
definitive diagnoses from medical tests or brain scans to show the difference
in the brain of a child with ADHD as compared to one without, are we
overmedicating our children? Are they being medicated with prescription
stimulants, which are seen as being more ethical than an athlete using
steroids, to perform better on tests, even if they do not have this disorder,
and all for the fact that they will be more likely to get into Harvard, Berkeley
or Princeton? Isnt that a terrifying thought? Hence the reason Kate Lunau
asks, Is the ADHD epidemic really a mental health crisis, or a cultural one?

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Its clear that this isnt a contagious disease kids are swapping on the
playground. In many cases, were giving it to them. (Lunau).
ADHD used to be a topic that America cared about, but now it has been
swept under the rug and been treated as an easy diagnosis and easy fix with
the help of prescription medications. But some children who are gifted are
being misdiagnosed, while others are being over medicated instead of taking
a more natural method. I have come to the conclusion that there are many
people today with ADHD; however we cannot diagnose them based off of one
exam or behavioral trait. Since this is a complex disorder to diagnose, it
shouldnt be as easy as a snap of the fingers to treat. A team of doctors and
parents should meet together frequently with the child to be able to make
the best choice of action for them. In addition, parents should not be so
selfish to make the choice for their child as to whether or not they need to be
put on performance enhancers in school and maybe sit down and take more
time to study with them. I feel there are better ways to treat this issue that
are not being utilized and more light that needs to be shed on the subject.
After all, these are our children and our future, not some lab rats that we can
test our theories on.

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Works Cited
Hartnett, D. Niall, Jason M. Nelson, and Anne N. Rinn. Gifted or ADHD? The
Possibilities Of

Misdiagnosis. Roeper Review 26.2 (2003): 73. MasterFILE

Complete. Web. 1 April 2016.


Lunau, Kate. Giving Adhd A Rest. Macleans 127.8 (2014): 48. MasterFILE
Complete.

Web. 4 April 2016.

Mitchell, Kathleen. Cause and Effect. Businesswest 32.18 (2015): 50.


MasterFILE Complete.

Web. 1 April 2016.

Oaklander, Mandy. Mini Meditators. Time 185.5 (2015): 54. Academic


Search Premier.

Web. 30 Mar. 2016.