The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that 5 percent of American children have ADHD. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the number at more than double the APA’s number. The CDC says that 11 percent of American children, ages 4 to 17, have the attention disorder.
~The A.D.D. Resource Center, Oct 11, 2017
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the use of drugs to control behavior has always been controversial. Now, a new medical device approved by the FDA called the eTNS System (TNS stands for Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation) has been approved by the FDA. It’s designed for 7 to 12 year-old children not on ADHD medication.
It once again raises questions about ADHD and whether today’s strict academic classroom rigor, time spent facing screens, and the loss of recess contributes to the problem.
According to the report,
The pocket-sized device is connected by wire to a small adhesive patch placed on the child’s forehead above the eyebrows. Designed to be used at home while sleeping, it delivers a “tingling” electrical stimulation to branches of the cranial nerve that delivers sensations from the face to the brain.
Authors of the clinical trial called for additional research to examine if the response to treatment will last over time, and its potential impact on brain development with prolonged use.
NeuroSigma makes them. They cost $900. Insurance doesn’t cover them yet. They are supposed to regulate behavior, emotions, and attention without the side effects of the drugs Ritalin or Adderall.
ADHD is validated by major health organizations. According to Web M.D., The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and National Institutes of Health recognize ADHD as real and treatable.
Since NCLB and before, classroom rigor, the loss of recess, and the push for children to work beyond their developmental age has been used by corporate school reformers to privatize public education. If students don’t score high on standardized tests, the school closes or is converted to a charter school.
High-stakes testing has hurt even the littlest learners!
It used to be unheard of that children would focus on academics all day. I remember four recess breaks as a child in Michigan where snow pants and boots for snowstorms was a challenge.
We had 15-30 minute recesses to play on the playground, on our own, as teachers watched us. We had recess:
- before school started;
- between the start of school and lunch;
- after lunch;
- and between lunch and school dismissal.
Today, parents fight for 20 minute breaks and they are often ignored by insensitive legislators who claim teachers need to accomplish more. Or principals will claim phys. ed. is sufficient, despite the fact that activities are controlled by the instructor.
- The inattentive disorder is where an individual zones out and finds it difficult to focus (ADD).
- Hyperactivity where the individual not only can’t focus but also can’t sit still (ADHD).
Teachers are familiar with the second kind. It’s often connected with learning disabilities. Hyperkinesis is another label for it. ADHD came from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) which was recognized in the 60s.
Some doctors disagree about ADHD. Richard Saul M.D. wrote a book: ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit Disorder. And Robert Berezin wrote “No, There Is No Such Thing as ADHD.” He describes poor eyesight, sleep deprivation, and boredom as causes. It could be more serious problems like depression and bipolar disorder.
Both doctors stress that children have different temperaments and ADHD is diagnosed much too frequently. Being active might be considered normal. Childhood trauma might also be behind why a child acts out.
Saul’s book lists 19 behaviors symptomatic of ADHD on the back. He questions the fact that five checks means you have ADHD.
- Fails to pay close attention to details
- Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Does not follow through on instructions
- Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
- Loses things necessary for specific tasks
- Easily distracted by external stimuli
- Forgetful in daily activities
- Fidgets with hands and feet
- Leaves seat in situations where remaining seated is expected
- Runs about when it is inappropriate to do so
- Has difficulty engaging in leisurely activities quietly
- Often on the go or acts as if driven by a motor
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out answers
- Has difficulty awaiting turns
- Interrupts or intrudes on others
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. ADHD also affects many adults. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).
When a child is faced with school work that is commensurate with their age, they get adequate breaks, and other difficulties are ruled out, ADHD might be the cause. There are ways to address ADHD involving setting priorities, and breaking tasks down so they are doable. Medication might be helpful if nothing else works and should be monitored carefully at home and in school. A doctor must ultimately diagnose the student and make the decision as to whether medication (or a medical device) would be helpful.
But if a child sits in a classroom all day constantly focused on academic tasks and they are diagnosed with ADHD ask questions.
Anthony D. Pelligrini who wrote Recess: Its Role in Education and Development expresses his concern with the new school structure that pushes even primary school children to learn more with less play.
He writes: I think its [ADHD’s] overdiagnosis may represent children being subjected to too many sustained hours of concentrated work. I argue that providing children with more breaks in the course of their school days may reduce ADHD symptoms among children, especially among boys.
Richard Saul, M.D.. ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit Disorder. (New York: Harper Collins, 2014).
Anthony D. Pellegrini. Recess: Its Role in Education and Development. (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2005), 164-174.