By Dr. Kevin
Many of us in the U.S. are familiar with ADD, so bear with me while I break it down one more time—ADD, ADHD, or ADD/HD as I call it, is a disability that causes individuals to engage in hyperactive, impulsive behaviors, rendering them unable to focus. Or, as defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine:
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem of not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able control behavior, or a combination of these. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for a person's age and development.
According to “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” published by the American Psychiatric Association, ADHD is characterized by a pattern of behavior—present in multiple environments, such as school or in the home—that result in performance issues in social, educational, or work settings. These behaviors include failure to pay close attention to details, difficulty organizing tasks and activities, excessive talking, fidgeting, or an inability to remain seated in appropriate situations.
Basically, the box is: these kids and adults are disabled; they can't focus, can't function and need to be medicated in increasing quantities. Once again, America has been saved by tireless, selfless pharmaceutical companies that, out of the goodness of their hearts (they are nonprofits, right?), will save our children (and now adults) from this epidemic.
The last decade saw a 67% increase in diagnosis of children with ADHD, making it the second largest childhood diagnosis following asthma. Why the increase? Some claim it's due to “improved education and awareness.”
The National Institute of Health (NIH) rates the misdiagnosis at 20%, one of the highest out there. Why? Because it's an observational diagnosis, and too easy to label, disable, and continually medicate. Those who are diagnosed are never “cured;” instead, more labels are added. What is and is not ADHD becomes diluted and confusing. Some of this is the doctor's fault, but not all. School systems demand testing, and parents—struggling with their roles—research the issue and bring their child to the office with a diagnosis in hand, wanting confirmation. If the diagnosis is observational in nature, and the parent says all the right things, what is the doctor to do?
Solution in a Box (or Pill Bottle)
Labeling ADD/HD as a disability mentions nothing about a lack in parenting, or environment or diet as contributing factors, or the current condition of the nation's educational systems; apparently, none of the exterior factors are at fault here. Whatever they are fed, how they are raised or educated, has nothing to do with it. Once ADD/HD is labeled as a disability, we can pity the child and feel bad for the parents, but don't even think about seriously addressing educational issues or paying attention to the toxic poisoning of children through diet. The best and most convenient solution is to medicate. Yes, the inside the box solution is to label, disable and medicate, so everyone can continue their lives uninterrupted.
Let's Look Outside the Box, Shall We?
I refer to ADD as a gift, as part of the evolutionary process, and those individuals are the architects of our age. My first book Managing the Gift: Alternative Approaches for Attention Deficit Disorder stated that we should call it CIS—Cultural Inconvenience Syndrome—instead of ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder. That label, in and of itself, is a misnomer, because individuals with ADD can be hyper-focused and are able to multi-task. CIS was what the mad dash to label, disable and medicate children was really about—the need to herd free-thinking individuals back in with the rest of the sheep. When engaged in something of interest, they are scarily brilliant; when trying to fit them into an educational box that is the wrong shape, they flounder. You can't teach a fish to climb a tree. You're better off helping them into the right stream, river, lake, or ocean.
Each person has unique traits and talents. Our society, however, recognizes only those traits perceived as “normal,” which makes it difficult for children with ADD/HD to “fit in.” Regardless, unique traits can be utilized as opportunities to achieve great things.
An abbreviated list of the gifts of ADD/HD:
◦ Love to learn
◦ Highly energetic
◦ Outside-the-box thinking
◦ Non-linear thought patterns
◦ Ability to hyper focus
◦ Able to absorb a great deal of information in short time periods
◦ Child-like nature
◦ Naturally rebellious
Children with ADD/HD are often labeled as spoiled brats or troublemakers. The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests that long-term expectations of untreated ADHD may lead to “trouble with the law.” Sounds like we're doomed, right? Sadly, this deluded label has gained strength over the years through confirmation bias, leading many to consider ADD/HD as a parent or teacher's worst nightmare. How can parents and children cope with such a common misconception? Although it may be a difficult path, simply taking a look at those who now live (or have lived) successful, full lives with ADD/HD can give one hope. Many people haven't let a diagnosis stand in their way, and those with ADD/HD are not alone.
Of the many things that make people with ADD/HD stand out, the best gifts—when harnessed—are creativity, intuitiveness, artistic ability, inventive aptitude, visionary thinking and exuberant attitudes. Many famous people have used those traits to achieve their full potential, such as: Edgar Allan Poe, Leo Tolstoy, and Ernest Hemingway, whose written works stand the test of time; Steven Spielberg, who delights the eyes with flashy cinematography and effects; Beethoven and Mozart, whose melodious notes are still loved by many; John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and George Bush, whose lives grace history books across the globe; Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Galileo, who revolutionized the world with their observations and discoveries. Many of those mentioned were reportedly gifted with ADD/HD. And the list goes on. Amidst behaviors that are thought to lead to failure, individuals have achieved incredible feats.
ADD/HD: Gift or Curse?
Is ADD/HD a gift? Absolutely Can it be turned into a curse? Absolutely. There are people, companies, organizations, and politicians who don't care about a child's best interest, only about them as a cash cow.
Billions of dollars are spent by drug companies on advertisements, lobbying legislates, and funding (read: controlling) of the majority of research studies. Meanwhile, the number of things that exacerbate the gifted child's (and adult's) behaviors—which seemingly need medication—are on the rise: toxic diets, overstressed and underfunded schools, the mandatory testing in “every child left behind,” and less presence parenting coinciding with an inconsistent multitude of adults involved in shaping, molding and raising children at even younger ages. How can you have a series of paid adults of varying quality raise your child and then wonder how they turned out so poorly?
Why is the rate of misdiagnosis that I reviewed earlier important in understanding the gifts of ADD/HD? People struggle to see the gifts because of the dilution of the diagnosis and the misinformation provided by those who benefit from medicating and disabling children. Children who are gifted—highly intelligent, creative, outside the box thinkers and problem solvers, energetic, justice-oriented, natural born rebels, empathetic and intuitive. The degrees of these gifts vary, but if a child is truly ADD/HD, a majority of those positive labels will fit. I created a scale called the Dr Kevin Rainbow on my app, on which there are 64 unique shades to portray the multiple variations of how ADD/HD plays out.
Fact: The same criteria to identify ADD/HD individuals was passed around thirty years prior to identify gifted kids, in order to create special programs for them. When the government didn't want to pour money into these programs, the criteria was repurposed to identify ADD kids—which is a money maker.
Fact: The U.S. ranks 17th in education around the world, dropping 0.4% last year, according to the Pearson Report. The five highest ranking countries have much lower ADHD diagnosis and rarely medicate.
Fact: The U.S. spends more per student than most countries, but this does not translate to better performance. For example, the Slovak Republic spends around $53,000 USD per student and the U.S. spends over $115,000 per student. The countries rank the same on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) findings.
Fact: The overall message to parents with ADD/HD children is that they will only perform well if medicated.
Fact: Drug and pharmaceutical companies were the number one lobbyist industry in Washington DC last year, spending over $280 million ($100 million more than the number two industry, insurance) to ensure their agenda receives support from lawmakers. From 1998 to 2018, the industry spent over three billion dollars on lobbying, over a billion more than the insurance lobby.
Fact: Studies done outside the US—not funded or influenced by drug companies—have differing conclusions from US-based studies. First, studies focused on the fact that children on ADHD medications were better with memorization, while downplaying that there was no actual increase in comprehension. Then, studies that were largely ignored stated that comprehension may have even declined in students. Then, studies said that over a 2-3 year period, the non-medicated ADD/HD child catches up and performs as well, if not better than the medicated child. Then, a US-based study states that ADHD students perform better with medication (according to what criteria?). Then, the Quebec Study—conducted over eleven years with four thousand students, more than twice as long as almost all of the US studies and including a much larger number of participants—reveals that ADHD non-medicated boys perform better and medicated ADHD girls show more mental and emotional issues than their non-medicated counterparts.
Fact: The disability lies not in the child.
In the box:
Labeling ADD/HD as a disability mentions nothing about a lack in parenting, or environment or diet as contributing factors, or the current condition of the nation's educational systems; apparently, none of the exterior factors are at fault here. Whatever they are fed has nothing to do with it. Once ADD/HD is labeled as a disability, we can pity the child and feel bad for the parents, but don't even think about seriously addressing educational issues or pay attention to the toxic poisoning of children through diet. The best, most convenient solution is to medicate. Yes, the inside the box solution is to label, disable and medicate, so everyone can continue their lives uninterrupted.
Outside the box:
We must accept there are many players in the creation of ADD/HD as a curse, instead of the gift that some of the aforementioned individuals made it out to be. These factors are such things as:
◦ Inappropriate educational models
◦ Lack of engagement with critical thinking skills
◦ Lack of time to release energy
◦ Parenting performed by a variety of inconsistent adults
◦ Exposure to toxic environments
◦ Labeling as disabling; consistently telling someone they're disabled eventually disables them
◦ Focusing on what they're not, rather than what they are and need
◦ No Child Left Behind Act, aka “every child left behind”
Whether we like it or not, our educational system is mediocre at best—especially compared to the rest of the world. Whether we like it or not, our government is much more sensitive and responsive to the needs of those served by lobbyist dollars that run Washington—or to the big spenders that fund campaigns—than to an individual child or adult. Whether we like it or not, our children are being poisoned—negatively effected by the diet we feed them and the environment around them at increasing rates. Whether we like it or not, we can not trust information from authority figures who are directly or indirectly compensated, or profit off of what we do with that information. Whether we like it or not, our life is our responsibility, our children's life is our responsibility, and in this day and age being gifted or having a gifted child that doesn't fit inside the box is not easy. Whether we like it or not.
Dr. Kevin Ross Emery is a sought-after leader, innovator, author, teacher, synergetic catalyst, speaker, and an expert in the ADD/HD field. He has worked with American Express, Dartmouth College, Hilton, and Sheraton, and has been a driving force for the creation and implementation of training programs in banking, retail, food and financial service industries for decades. Dr. Kevin's approach to ADD/HD reveals it as a gift that, when properly managed, contains potential for formidable levels of creativity, innovation, multitasking and more. As an international speaker on the subject, Dr. Kevin was among the first to publicly acknowledge ADD as a step forward in the evolution of humanity, eventually allowing us to reach new feats of achievement. Join Dr. Kevin on his weekly live call-in radio show every Thursday night, 6 PM EST : "The Dr. Kevin Show" @ ipmNation.com/live2.
Book Dr. Kevin for a session at SessionsWithDrKevin.as.me.