I worry a lot about children today. I worry that they have become subjects in experiments they have never consented to. I worry that we are stealing their childhoods. As a society we are continually pushing down curriculum and expectations upon children that are not appropriate and when children do not perform at higher levels we punish them for being children. I have witnessed far too many young children be punished and publicly shamed for doing exactly what young children are supposed to do. The levels and amount of medication prescribed to young children is appalling, and how much do we really know about the side effects of these drugs on children? Why are we so quick to medicate? And, why are we finding alarming rates of anxiety and depression in our young people?
If you have not yet had a chance to listen to any of the podcasts I am co-hosting with Dan Hodgins, the first episode we recorded was on “hyperactivity” and ADHD in young children. I am weeks behind with my goal of sharing a bit more on each topic we discuss with you in a blog post, but better late than never, right??? If you have not had a chance to listen to the podcast, you can find it here:
(Click where it says episodes, scroll down, and choose the one entitled Hyperactivity).
Although I am not a medical doctor or a practicing psychologist, I am very concerned when looking at the statistics for diagnosis and the labeling of children as hyperactive. In the podcast, Dan shared a bit of research from the Mayo Clinic. It was quite disturbing to me to see so many symptoms on the warning list that are really part of “normal” development. Dan indicated that you only need 3 of the behaviors in order to be diagnosed. Some of these behaviors that we discussed are:
- Fidgets frequently
- Distracted easily
- Likes to talk often
- Difficulty Sharing
- Ignores Rules
With some of these warning signs, Dan and I both decided that we both should have been medicated a long time ago! It is concerning to us that children as young as 3 years old are being diagnosed for behaviors that are really pieces of typical development. We are not saying that there are not instances of ADHD out there, but our concern is that children are being labelled and medicated for “normal” types of behavior at a very young age. (The research Dan was using came from the Mayo Clinic and can be found here. )
So, the question comes down to, when should I be concerned? First take a deep breath.
Are the expectations being placed upon your child appropriate?
Does your child have ample opportunities to run, jump, swing, spin, stand…. wrestle?
Are they given the freedom and power to make many of their own decisions?
Are they being asked to sit for too long?
Do they have the option to choose activities that are important to them?
Are they being given enough time to explore or are they forced through too many transitions or activities that are not of their own choosing?
Evaluate the children’s environment… Is it overstimulating? Is it under stimulating?
Are you asking them to do things that are not age appropriate? (Many adults still have trouble sharing…)
If after you have made adjustments to the child’s environment and your own expectations for your child, look towards what your child is eating, how is their nutrition? Are behaviors tied to certain times of day or after eating certain types of food?
When you have evaluated the expectations, environment, and your child’s diet and you are still concerned, Then I would recommend seeking further guidance and evaluation.
By no means am I saying that ADHD does not exist (although there are critics who will argue this), but I worry about labelling a child as hyperactive when in reality they are curious, active, and imaginative and being held to expectations well beyond the realm of typical development.
An article from 2012 in Psychogy Today brought out some clear cultural differences between the United States and France and highlighted the low percentage of children in France who have been diagnosed with ADHD. (The article can be found here.) I was very disturbed by some of the parenting techniques shared, but I think that we could learn a lot by investigating the social context and the environment rather than looking directly at medication. (I know.. I must have said environment at least a dozen times during that podcast!)
So… what does this all mean. Well… like everything, there is a lot of information out there to sift through and ponder. I implore you not to take this matter lightly and to avoid negatively labelling young children as being “hyperactive.”
I hope, at the very least my words and conversation with Dan have left you thinking more about this issue. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave me a comment or hop on over to my Facebook page and join/start a discussion!