Sceptical over the rise of ADHD

21st May 2010 at 01:00

It was refreshing to read an appropriately critical yet balanced discussion on so-called "ADHD" ("Doctors, leave them kids alone", TES Magazine, May 7). Many authorities do indeed believe that no such phenomenon as ADHD exists in the medical sense. And far from it being "a proven medical condition", as claimed by Andrea Bilbow of the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service, a wealth of literature has exposed the fundamental methodological and philosophical flaws in the "research" that claims to have discovered its neurological and genetic causes.

On this view, ADHD is far better understood as a culturally constructed and vested interest-driven diagnostic category, the alleged existence of which serves professional psychiatric and pharmaceutical interests. Why else would the incidence of ADHD have risen from just 5,000 children in 1990 to more than 200,000 just 13 years later?

There is a self-fulfilling circularity in such psycho-diagnostic frameworks, with pathologising language constructing the very "pathological phenomena" it claims to explain, and which it has from the outset metaphysically assumed to exist.

The disturbed symptoms that some children exhibit are far better understood as their understandable and, paradoxically, even healthy response to the routine violence that modern technocratic culture and schooling systems are often doing to them - not least the unbalanced over-intellectual distortions of early-years education and the ubiquity of televisual culture in most young children's lives.

Until we possess the insight to recognise, learn from and then respond appropriately to this malaise at a cultural level, children's behavioural difficulties will inevitably continue to escalate - Ritalin or no Ritalin.

Dr Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University, London.

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