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Boys…diagnosed with ADHD, but are they really? Dr. Mohler Jr.

Posted by Scott on February 27, 2008

OK, So What Kid Doesn’t Fit this Description?

When thinking of signs of our times, consider this advertisement from a Nebraska newspaper. The ad was brought to my attention by a helpful listener to the radio program.

Now, let’s think carefully about this. Can’t sit still? Can’t play quietly? Loses things? Does not seem to listen? Has difficulty paying attention? Is fidgety? Honestly, do you know any 6 to 12-year-old children who do not fit this description?

The number of children — especially boys — diagnosed with ADHD has skyrocketed in recent years. While some boys may well have some kind of genuine problem, the vast majority appear to be diagnosed as, well . . . boys. As physician Leonard Sax, author of Boys Adrift, explains, a diagnosis of ADHD lets everyone off the hook, so to speak. The boy is told he is not responsible for his behavioral problems, the parents are relieved of anxiety over inadequate parenting, teachers and bureaucrats have a new pathological slot into which boys can be filed, and drug companies get to sell pills. Everybody wins.

But, as Dr. Sax argues, the diagnosis and the drugs can have far-reaching consequences for the boy. I am not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a pharmacologist, or a medical professional of any sort. I am a former boy, however, and I know very well that every boy I have ever known would fit the categories described in this advertisement.

I would write more about this, but I just can’t sit still. Now, what were we talking about?

Dr. Albert Mohler Jr. (February 27th, 2008)


11 Responses to “Boys…diagnosed with ADHD, but are they really? Dr. Mohler Jr.”

  1. maryrobb64 said

    Dr. Mohler Jr.
    I have a lot of difficulty with this generalizations and disregard for diagnosis of ADHD. A lot of children suffer with ADHD, and it’s not the symptoms that are the biggest problem, it’s the consequence of not being treated for the symptoms. There is a lot of research supporting that, children not treated, turn to drugs to self-medicate their symptoms. Beyond that, it’s the irreversible damage to their self-esteem that is the worst consequences. Articles and opinions like this have parents doubting the diagnosis, and not finding appropriate treatment for their children. Many of the children I have treated have said things like, “I’m so much happier, I’m not getting yelled at all the time!” after taking the prescribed medications. Children with ADHD can’t physically sit, listen and pay attention like other children (brain imaging confirms the issue), but teachers and parents expect them to be still anyway. These children are in “no win” situations, powerless to do anything about it. They rely on the responsible adults to help navigate them safely through these tough issues. But instead, children untreated with ADHD are reprimanded and given a lot of consequences – more so than other children. They recognize they are in trouble all the time, and feel bad about themselves…even though they were born with the disorder and are not creating it for themselves. Opinions like this blame the victim and undermine therapists, and hurt children and adults alike. The increase in the number of children having the ADHD diagnosis could be as simple, as people are better at identifying it sooner or at all. In the past, it was not identified as much and therefore not treated. I know if you ask any adult who has this disorder and wasn’t treated, they will tell you their life would have been much different and in some ways better, if they had been identified and treated.

  2. qbaileys said

    Thanks for addressing this to Dr. Mohler….however, I am not Dr. Mohler, just passing on the information. However, I agree that too many kids are slapped with these diagnoses falsely….the medical and psychology professions are both in great suspect on my end these days.

    Dr. Mohler, on the other hand is greatly respected among his peirs and although you may find his article to be general, that was exactly what it was suppose to be. You cannot go that deeply into the topic within a blog. So, lighten up somewhat and try to understand what he is saying, please.

    The problem I have with the first part of what you have said is the use of the word “drug”. I think an even bigger problem over the coming years will be the side effects of the drugs used on these “ADHD” kids. I personally have two in my household. We do not use drugs at all….we use alternative natural means to control this and it has worked beautifully for over 8 years now.

    Further comment is that you need to give these kids credit as they are extremely intelligent. Society is treating them as though they have a vicious disease that is out of control, when that is not the case. The problem is for the most part with the school system itself, parents not taking time to understand the kids issues, and doctors and administrators far to eager to administer drugs.


  3. jenellep said

    If brain imaging confirms the issue of ADHD, then why isn’t imaging, lab work- something used in diagnosing ADHD other than some assessment form? I personally know hundreds of parents with children, including myself, diagnosed with ADHD. Not one had any brain imaging,or lab work of any kind done.I have not heard of such thing, and find this disturbing. I think when prescribing medication, and even making a diagnosis ESPECIALLY on children one would want to do everything possible to to make a proper diagnosis. Not just settle on a bubblesheet assessment of varying characteristics that anyone could carry at any moment in time that is presented to a specialist! I have never heard of any other way to diagnose a child with ADHD, and would love to hear about other ways. We need to be very careful accepting a diagnosis of any kind, and question doctors thoroughly about how and why they go about making a diagnosis the way they do. If it doesn’t make sense we need to see another doctor before medicating. My approach was similar to Scotts although,I tried the adderall for a few month. I stopped when the doctor could not explain why he did not need to do anything else to be sure that my child was ADHD. The adderall just made him sleepy, and slow. I love the life in my child! Four years later with some homeschooling, no medication, and new ways of disliplining, and teaching some valueable interpersonal skill skills…my son is a totally different boy. He is not impulsive, sooo much more focused and responsible, on task, and able to manage hiself well. He is 15. I believe a change in my life, and attitude, as well as devoting more time and attention to him was the key…not medicine! I sacraficed alot. We did change diet, and he had to learn new ways to deal with his energy. It was not easy. Medicating is, and I believe some doctors prey on the fact that sometimes we parents are just so eager to fix “it”. I just encorage parents to move with extreme caution…if you think you are, then give it some more caution, and be resourceful. Medicating is not always the answer…if even.

  4. qbaileys said

    This is a great comment. My oldest son is 14 that has ADHD and we homeschool him, watch his diet carefully, try to stay on top of his energ levels as well, and we did not want to create a “zomby” with medications like the Adderall or similiar drugs. The energetic life in these boys is so important to life and especially their life. I am glad to hear you were successful in many of the same actions we took. My wife and I could not accept that our son needed medication and the public schools were quickly putting nearly 50% of their classes on Adderall or a similiar drug. Not for us….our children are all too precious to us to see them twarted by medication. God gave us these kids to deal with not doctors and teachers. Since He gave them too us, He will then give us the wisdom to help us train them up and deal with that extra energy….someday the plan God has for these ADHD kids could require that extra energy and ambition.

    Pressing on,

  5. maryrobb64 said

    Hey All,
    I applaud you for homeschooling your children. And that is in-part my point – especially in this issue. Society has a “cookie cutter” view of the way all children should behave. Institutions like schools for instance can have unrealistic expectations for children with ADHD. And at the very least not cater to their learning needs without an act of congress! You are fortunate to be able to home school your children. That is not the case with a lot of the children I work with in the inner city who suffer from ADHD. They don’t have the luxury – or a parent that has the “time”, education or finances to stay home or energy to learn new ways to parent. They spend a lot of their time keeping DCF off their stoop, and trying to pay the rent. It’s hard for me to “lighten up” on a subject I feel passionately about..I too have a child that has ADHD..I know how this is for parents. I have worked with countless children and their families dealing with this issue in all socio-economic levels…and no matter what – it’s tough. And it’s a tough enough to “hear” your child isn’t what is considered “perfect” (although I think all children are perfect!), but articles like this create even more discomfort for parents when making the decision to put their child on medication- that’s even a tougher pill to swallow (no pun intended). As far as having brain imaging – you would have to ask the insurance companies “why” they won’t pay for brain imaging. Insurance companies won’t pay for PET scans for people who smoke as a preventative measure to fight lung cancer. And lung cancer is highly treatable if caught prior to seeing the symptoms. But I digress…..Kids with ADHD are brilliant…beyond what people understand. They are able to (what I call) “hyper” focus on the things they do love, fully digesting then showing an ability to complete loved tasks better than anyone in a brief period of time. Testing for ADHD is a check list of symptoms and a trial of medication. In my field (mental health), it’s not like diagnosing strep and being able to know that a course of antibiotics will cure the problems. Therapy and psychotropic medications are trial and error…because it’s not an illness or disease we looking to cure, but we are trying to make a difference in either brain chemistry or brain function. This is all in an effort to make children perform and feel the best they can feel in their social and work (school) settings. As far as medication and the developing brain of children…you are totally correct – there is little to no research about psychotropic medications and the growing brain..in part because it’s not ethical to conduct research on children. But the “stimulants” like Adderall and Concerta (which is time release Ritalin) have been around for long enough that there is research now. The latest research supports the idea that these stimulants actual cure the issue in the brain. However, I have also seen reports as the brain matures – they may grow out of issue of ADHD. But again, the research about the stimulants and based on adults treated as children with meds vs. adults that were not treated as children showed a change in the brain imaging. I’m waiting to hear more..to really discuss this idea. Sorry if I seemed “not light enough” but when you work with this day in and day out like I do…I just find it important to support the parents of children that have made these tough medication decisions. This support is not always very popular in today’s society. I would like to hear more about the natural cure that was mentioned.

    Not so light…but getting there….

  6. jenellep said

    I am one of the parents that you are talking about who does not have the education or finances, or time. I do not have a husband, mother or father-no not one bit of family support because of my very dysfunctional family. To work is a horror-I have feared many a day because of DCF, but by the grace of God he showed me a way to do something different. It took time. It was uncomfortable, and extremely hard. It meant sacrafice…and alot of other things that are quite humiliating…like having no car and many other luxuries, being self employed so I can control when I work and how much I make, and I was not making good money-eventually living in low income housing, and thank God for child support. If you knew my income you would not understand how I made it. Sacrafice meant buying alot of things at the good will, and learning how to really enjoy the beach, parks, free play at chucky cheese for my little ones and trips to the free wild life santuary, going to the dollar movies at the mall….you know things that did not cost a dime or that cost very little! These are just a few examples. My “ADHD” child awoke me up to how I really needed to put them first above all the materials I try to gain, and my pride, what people think, keeping up my comfy lifestyle and alot more issues general and very personal. I had to learn a new way to be content in life-as well as my children. A lesson well worth it in society of depending on technology, material extravagence and the latest new this or that. I understand everyone must live according to how they see fit and can. I do respect the variety of choices and decisions made. I thought the best thing to do is to give up alot of what really did not matter and focus on what did …not just my son-my children period. Anyone can do it-someone will do it better than I if they choose this route in the slightest. It takes alot of thought, guts, sacrafice, and creativity, resourcefulness, and God for sure.I am not fortunate…just willing to gie up alot so that my child can thrive. I just simply found a way to make things work. Besides-homeschooling is the way I choose to deal with “ADHD”. If one can not do that for whatever reason-finances, lack of education, etc…all is not lost! There are many effective ways other than homeschooling to deal with…”ADHD”. I encourage parent to seek this information out and try it-if you can try medication you can try other things less risky.
    It is absolutely true that parents who choose to medicate should be supported. Support can mean educating the parent as to other alternatives though. It is a good thing to make parents uncomfortable about making a decision to put their children on medication-they should naturally be uncomfortable any way! We usually are. Also, that discomfort will help a parent to seriously weigh options.
    I was told when my child was 3 that he may be ADHD. By third grade….the first time I decided to homeschool him to see what the teachers were experiencing, he was diagnosed. I tried many things before homeschooling him from 5th-8th grade! It was nuts, and I learned what worked easily. The hard part was maintaining these new habits-for him and I, improving my parenting skills and adhering to them, educating my son as to how to organize, think thoroughly before he acts…in short. We had execises as to what he can do to satisfy his need to move…what he can do when the teacher is talking and he feels that feeling that comes right before she starts sounding like…the teacher in snoopy (wuh wuh wuh wuh wuh wuh wuh)…and we SOMETIMES had fun. There are all kinds of support we can offer parents who choose to medicate-none of them are easy solutions and they work-so why medicate?

    Maryrobb64 provided a few interesting research facts expressing that the latest research supports the IDEA that these stimulants actually cure the issue in the brain. How is that when it is #1. unethical to conduct research on children- which means to me the medical community have absolutely no FACTS to draw from as concerning effects of stimulants on children-good, or bad…just ideas, and #2. as children’s brain mature they may out grow ADHD-to me this fact means the medical community would not know if these stimulants CURED the issue in the brain, or if a child simply outgrew the issue as the brain matured.How could they tell? Now what about research done on adults who were not treated as children and outgrew ADHD? Are they included in the brain images that did NOT show change, or do their brain images look like the adults treated as children? If there is no difference in brain imaging of an adult medicated as a child, and an adult not medicated that has outgrown ADHD-then how can researchers know for sure if medication is the cause of changes or the cure of in the issue in the brain, or one simply out grew ADHD?

  7. Dana said

    I can hear your passion to make a difference in the lives of these kids & their parents. I admire you for that. I cannot imagine the difficult circumstances that you have to work in. These parents need to be informed of all their choices when raising children who have been diagnosed with ADHD. Many times when a parent hears that their child is ADHD, medication is their first thought towards treatment. In my opinion, most of the time(not all) it is the easy fix. It has immediate results. It makes the child able to relax in an already stressed atmosphere. I understand what you are saying that it helps the parents & teachers better deal with the child, because they are just trying to deal with the child.

    I have talked with numerous moms who pulled their kids out of public school because the school insisted that there was something wrong & the child needed psychological testing. In EVERY case, the child was a normal child who was simply stressed out by the teachers. Most of these were boys. This became obvious when after months of being at home in a natural environment where they could learn at their pace & on their level all of their ADHD symptons disappeared. Some of these moms paid careful attention to their diet. This is one thing that we have done, we eliminated high fructose corn syrup from our son’s diet. He had multiple food allergies & we eliminated those foods as much as possible. We watched for dyes in food or drinks & stayed away from them, yellow 5 & red is a big trigger.
    After doing this, we saw a drastic improvement in his behaviour. He could concentrate longer & we soon realized how brillant he was. When he was younger I did allow him to do his lessons standing up so that he could move hislegs if he needed to. He will still stand at the kitchen counter to do math or whatever needs the most brain power. I had to learn to be flexible with him…not easy to do. There were days when I really wanted to give him a pill to calm him down. But we never did. And I have never regretted it.
    Another of our sons’, I think would be diagnosed with ADD if he was in PS. But his problem is that he gets bored so quickly when he is not challenged in his school work. I think there are a lot of boys who are sitting in a classroom, bored because they are finished with their work or don’t care because it isn’t hard enough for them. The teacher begins to see them as trouble makers, distracted & thus say that they are ADD. A parent hears this & they freak out. Now their child is not “normal” whatever that is.
    Our oldest child has dyslexia & ADD. School is very hard for her, but never have we told her that anything is wrong with her. Her brain is wired different that is all. She has abilities that we don’t because of this. Just like those with AdHd or ADD kids, those who have dyslexia are gifted and brillant and it will work in their favor when they become adults if they let it. It is all about God’s plan for these kids. I don’t know what my son will do when he grows up but I can tell you that he will not be sitting in a desk in a cubicle. He isn’t that type, he will be doing something very active.

    I applaud you for the many sacrifces that you have made for your son. Parenting is not easy anyway, and then to tack on the difficult circumstances that you have makes it even more difficult. You will never look back and regret the decision that you have made. You son will thank you and as Prov. 31 says, “he will rise up and call you blessed.”

  8. maryrobb64 said

    Dear All,

    I really like hearing all these stories..they all seem so much more successful than a lot of the children I meet with. It’s nice to hear that there are people who able to put so much effort and change into the things they can do with their children and famalies. I know all these children are brighter than the average child!! I still would like to hear about the alternative medications… Another alterantive is neuro-biofeedback…living in CT – I only know the CES school in Middletown that offers neuro-biofeedback for ADHD and ADD. To answer the question about how medication has been found to have corrected the issues in the brain – has to do with studies conducted on adults only (not children) who had been diagnosed with ADHD – group A had been given meds as children, and group B had not been given meds as children. When performing the brain imaging while they were adults – the brain image in group A showed a change, but there was no change in the adult brains in group b. Therefore one can assume that if children grow out of the disorder (I hate that word…because again I think children are perfect as is)there would be evidence of brain changes in the group b too – but they didn’t get the medications, and they grew older, and had no changes. I’m not sure if that makes sense. I beleive that is how it is… If I can find the research – I will try to place it on this site.

    Good luck to you parents out there dealing with this among all the other issues parenting brings!


  9. Lee said

    I think the ADD or ADHD diagnosis of adults is a lot more useful than that of kids. I have several adult friends (both male and female) who have significantly improved the quality of their lives by applying organizational techniques and the like which are taught as methods of coping with ADD. I also have one adult male friend who has benefited enormously from medication (in terms of his own experience of his ability to perform the way he wants to in his career). On the other hand, I have seen no such “good” side to the diagnosis when it has been applied to kids.

    I am an inventor. One of my inventions is a device that helps people eliminate nighttime tooth grinding. I get a lot of calls from parents asking me if the SleepGuard biofeedback headband can help their child stop grinding his or her teeth at night. I tell them to wait. Kids grow out of that phase, and it is almost never a long-term-damaging problem for kids.

    Label something as a problem too early and start treating it as a problem, and it becomes a problem.

  10. I should also mention that many of the kids who grind their teeth at night are labeled as ADD or ADHD as well, when parents have tried the biofeedback headband to threat the tooth grinding “problem”, it just frustrates the kids, and they fight it. I think the media trains parents to look for problems where they don’t exist. It sells newspapers.

  11. Lisa said

    I’m alarmed at the number of cases of add/adhd for boys. We’ve feminized our schools and tests to favor girls–is it any wonder that boy’s have acted out in response?

    Many boys with these labels come from homes with divorces, new parents, new siblings–is it any wonder they’re acting the way they do from their worlds being turned upside down?

    What I find most complelling is that the rest of the world doesn’t drug and label their kids as we do in the U.S. They don’t drug their kids like we do. The US consumes 90% of ritalin. The big drug companies learned that they’ll have life long consumers if they start em in pre-school.

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