The diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has been troubling me ever since my two younger brothers were diagnosed years ago. First, it was my brother Tyson (15 years old) when he was a young child. The only word I can think of to describe him back then was rambunctious (though that hasn’t really changed). In fact, he practically redefined the term “misbehaving child” to an extent where his presence determined whether or not we would go on a family outing. I can recall a time at IHOP when my brother stood on the chairs, while we were waiting to be seated, and screamed out “ladies and gentleman!” Not too bad you might say, but no, it got worse with all the running around and acting out. The icing on the cake was after we were seated and he pulled off a man’s toupee in a neighboring booth. It was just a mess, yet familiar when family outings were concerned.
When he started going to school, the behavior continued there as well. I was recently told a story (that both my brother and mom remembered quite clearly) about a time when my mom came to the school to find him strapped to a chair, screaming. Apparently, he was trying to throw his chair through a window in the front office so they strapped him down.
I was both amused and appalled by the story. I’d heard and seen plenty of things Tyson had done, but this definitely took the cake! Plus, I thought it was crazy that they could basically tie a kid down at school (my friend’s explanation was that maybe he was seen as both a danger to himself and those around him).
Eventually, Tyson was diagnosed with ADHD and started taking Ritalin. Since he mostly took it at school, I had no idea how it affected him. Plus I was only about 10 years old when he started taking it, so I didn’t truly grasp what was going on.
However, he told me a couple days ago that the medicine helped him focus in school, but on the wrong things. He said, “I would just sit there and stare at things, like the door in class, for an hour.” He doesn’t take the medicine anymore, but I wonder how much it truly helped him when he did.
Now, let’s move on to my other brother, Miles (9 years old). With him, I got to see how he was affected by the medicine firsthand and I didn’t like what I saw. He was like a zombie; like a shell of his former self. He would…just sit there with a blank expression on his face (which is how I’d imagine Tyson was with his medicine, though Miles takes something different).
“Milesy, are you alright?” I’d ask.
“Yes,” he’d reply simply with no change in his expression.
I’d follow up with other questions all of which would be answered with few words or change in facial expression. One day we went to an art festival with my best friend and her sisters. It looked like he was absolutely miserable until the medicine started to wear off.
Is it really worth having him on the medicine if it’s going to change his whole demeanor into that of a zombie? It’s something I’ve asked my mom many times, which is partly why he doesn’t take it all the time now. He just takes it at school.
After seeing Miles like that, I started to question the diagnosis of ADHD and the medication given to children for it. It seemed like there had been a dramatic rise within the last ten years in the amount of children diagnosis. It raises the question of whether or not the disorder is being over diagnosed or even misdiagnosed to “calm down” children who might simply be rambunctious (as most kids are) or misbehave.
With Miles, for example, I don’t think he has ADHD. Based on his actions, I honestly believe he might have a mild autism. He talks to his self a lot, has problems socializing at times, and has a hard time holding a conversation (instead blurting out random things that has nothing to do with the subject). However, though he sometimes has trouble focusing, if he really likes something he can focus on it. He likes building Lego ships and can sit for hours building them without making a peep. He also loves Batman and we can watch the movies together with him completely engrossed in the screen.
Like I touched on above, I think that this diagnosis has become a quick fix for kids who misbehave at school. It’s much easier to give someone a pill then try to find other, more natural alternatives to the problem because it takes more energy and patience to do so. It’s also hard to believe that every child diagnosed with ADHD has to take medicine in order to combat the symptoms. I think one thing parents can do to help with some of these symptoms is to change their diet.
As we all know, a lot of foods are processed, artificial, and that even “fresh” foods are sprayed with pesticides. I wouldn’t be exactly surprised if these types of foods had an effect on kids who have ADHD. I mean, these foods are responsible for childhood obesity, among other things, so I’m sure it can affect kids in other ways as well. I’ve actually read that dyes like Red 40 (usually found in candy and certain drinks) can cause some of the symptoms of ADHD.
For all we know, the recent increase in children diagnosed with this disorder could be directly linked to the increase in processed foods given at such a young age. The food and drinks available to us are just becoming more and more unhealthy.
My main reason for sharing all of this is because I don’t want people to rush into giving their kids medication when they’re diagnosed with ADHD. I want them to at least try other alternatives before going straight for the quick fix. I also think parents should do some research of their own about the disorder and even get a second opinion from another doctor. I just don’t want there to be any more children than necessary taking medicine that can possible change their whole demeanor. I was so upset to see Miles in that zombified state; I wouldn’t want other children to go through the same thing.