The word “disorder” conjures up images of illness, disease and serious disabilities. All parents want to see their child as the smartest, most capable and best liked boy or girl on the block. So why would they want to have a label attached to them that often coveys just the opposite–such as slow learner, under-achiever or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
What a difference one word can make. Suppose we changed the last D in ADHD from “disorder” to “difference.” We could then say that a child with ADHD has some significant differences in his cognitive ability, emotional sensitivity and activity level when compared to other children. This difference is probably inherited. His “skill set” is different from 95% of the children in his class.
Unfortunately, the environment in which he spends most of his time is geared toward the other 95%. However, we then could look at helping him to adapt successfully to this environment, using his own set of strengths rather than helping him to with this environment due to his weaknesses. We then might say that this child may need psychostimulants and/or psychological intervention to enable him to concentrate on boring tasks and control spontaneity in a highly regimented environment.
There is some new, fascinating cutting edge research that says that kids with ADHD have different brain patterns than those without. Pictures have been taken of the human brain that clearly demonstrate the difference in cortex thickening between those with ADHD and a control group, and significant differences were found.
Do kids with ADHD fully catch up in development as adults? The answer awaits further studies with older children and young adults. Should imaging be used in the diagnosis of ADHD? The answer is “no.” This should be used for research only, even though they are being promoted to concerned parents. Currently, imaging studies lack diagnostic precision and can lead to false positive as well as false negative results, which may cause improper— and potentially harmful—approaches to treatment. Continue reading →