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for Weak Parenting
'Inconvenient' Children? Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D.
Conservative Rx: McMedicate
May 6, 2002
"There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure."
- Mark Twain
"We need to raise our sons more like our daughters, with empathy, flexibility, patience and compassion."There is polar opposition between traditional gender biology that accepts the axiom "boys will be boys" and gender behaviorism that believes we can decondition biological imperatives. Indeed, were the latter true, we may have never known the prolific, irreverent humor and crisp insights of the remarkable Samuel Clemens had he been born to a Gloria Steinem. Can you imagine him saying of mother Steinem: "My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."
- Gloria Steinem
By now, outside of collegiate women's study courses, it is well known that boys and girls, men and women, have different biological behavior markers - for the better. We have become conditioned, however, to accept that the liberal, gender iconoclast will still attempt to sell the Steinem model - boys need to be made to be more like girls - as has been the case in our government school systems. Conservatives, on the other hand, are thought to represent a more traditional view of biological outcomes.
Thus it was perturbing to encounter Steinem-esque psychobabble in the reputedly conservative Washington Times. The surprisingly perplexed source of this twaddle was "Kerri Houston, national field director for the American Conservative Union."
Ms Houston opined:
"While media attention has recently heightened awareness of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a few of my conservative brethren have focused their attention on the wrong details and unfortunately chosen to characterize this disorder as a 'myth.' " She goes on: "Being a responsible parent includes doing what is medically necessary for the health and success of a child. When conservatives criticize parents for seeking treatment for ADHD, they bolster the arguments of trial lawyers that it is somehow nothing but a big scam, and are then in danger of propping up those self-appointed busybodies we normally tend to ridicule. Instead we should work to ensure that this group of children is also not left behind."Left behind!? My goodness, madam, how in the world can you fear such an outcome when we already rival McDonalds' old slogan "More Than 6 Billion Served?"
According to the respected and renowned Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D., "In 1975, roughly 150,000 American children were taking Ritalin. By 1988, that number had increased over 500 percent, to just about 1 million children. This year (2000 a.d.) about 6 million (school-age) American children--roughly one child out of every eight--will take Ritalin." And that number of children served does not begin to take into account the numbers who are prescribed anti-depressants (Prozac), anti-psychotics, and anti-insomniacs (clonidine).
How old, or rather, how young are some of these 'McMedicated' kids? In one Associated Press report, based on 1995 data surveying 150,000 medicated kids, "That year, 60 percent of the youngsters on drugs were age 4, 30 percent were 3 and 10 percent were 2-year-olds."
So much for children being "left behind."
Ms Houston advises, however, we have proof that ADHD "can be accurately diagnosed and scientific evidence proves it exists." For example, says she, "studies show the brains of these children are smaller than those of healthy kids, and size variations in the right hemisphere of an ADHD brain also create an abnormal symmetry."
Not so, says the eminent neurologist Fred A. Baughman Jr. "The disease, Baughman tells Insight Magazine, 'is a total 100 percent fraud,' and he has made it his personal 'crusade' to bring an end to the ADHD diagnosis." As to the example of scientific proof provided by Ms Houston, he says, "that all the patients in the slides whose brains showed atrophy also had been on stimulant therapy, so there was no way to know that the atrophy was not, in fact, caused by the drugs rather than the alleged brain disorder ADHD."
Ritalin has been called, "Kiddie Cocaine." And that, it seems, is cause for the real underlying fright in the alarming growth of McMedicating "inconvenient" children.
According to Dr. Peter R. Breggin:
So why, with all the scientific proof that we are endangering our children rather than protecting them, and that ADHD and other so-called disorders are more mythology than medical science, do we continue on this reckless course?
If you consult the search engine at the DA*DI site, and type in the words "Attention Deficit Disorder", you will be rewarded with at least 45 articles that discuss it. And only one even begins to address the root "why" for the epidemic of McMedicating our kids.
For one, Dr. Leonard Sax has a theory: " It's hard to resist the conclusion that American culture, particularly as seen in school systems, has played a role in increasing Ritalin usage over the past twenty years. Twenty years ago, it was OK to wait until first grade to teach Johnny how to read. Now he has to learn to read in kindergarten. We are in a hurry, and we have no time to waste--or so we believe."
Shades of Mark Twain:
"We are always too busy for our children; we never give them the time or interest they deserve. We lavish gifts upon them; but the most precious gift--our personal association, which means so much to them--we give grudgingly."Why is Ms Houston apparently so anxious to convince us that she really is a good mom, and parents should not be held personally responsible for this potential pandemic of iatrogenic brain-shrinking? Well, says she, there are so many kids to worry about, but: "Fortunately for my children and 20 million others like them, there are treatments available — including medications, when needed — that allow them to cope with the symptoms of ADHD so as not to be labeled by their teachers or peers as weird or stupid."
Twenty Million!? There are about 80 million kids age 18 or under in the U.S.; 1 in 4 have ADHD!?
Tellingly, boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with this disorder. So Ms Houston is actually diagnosing about 16 million boys as having ADHD. Given that boys constitute about half, or about 40 million of the total kid population, 16 million is 40%, or 1 in 2.5. Now that's weird! Maybe even stupid.
Perhaps Ms Houston is just a bit inattentive, or unable to focus, or fidgety, because at another point she says, "Approximately 5 percent of school-age children suffer from ADHD." Well, that is much different than 20 million. Since about 61 million of our children are of school age, that means that only about 3 million or so are afflicted. Whew, that's a relief.
But why is it then that as Dr. Sax reports, 6 million children are actually being McRitalined, even if there was such a thing as ADHD? And how come the AP reports so many pre-schoolers, as young as age 2, are being similarly medicated? The absolute value of these numbers, and the intemperance with which they are tossed about, is enough to make one pathologically fidgety, especially if one is a male.
Perhaps there is something else operating here, more akin to the notions advanced by Mr. Twain and Dr. Sax.
Methinks Ms Houston may have revealed a different agenda when she said,
"This (parents who recognize and seek treatment for their child's consistent, detrimental — and make no mistake, painful — inattentive and impulsive behaviors.) is no more evident than in my own house, where both of my children have ADHD — my daughter being more affected than my son — and my own self-awareness tells me that I will have to get up from my chair at least three times to do something else in order to focus on this opinion piece."Gee, mom, that inconvenient "something else" couldn't be to give your kids a hug, or send them outside to play and work off some of that energy instead of watching 6 hours of television a day, could it? Fixing lunches, making beds, helping with studies, attending to kiddy questions and kiddy crises, monitoring friends and places they go, and attending school meetings are part of the attentive parent's full plate. But when you add to that the career priorities of the pretentious parent, well, kids - especially non-girls - are just so darned inconvenient.
There is an Attention Deficit Disorder epidemic in the United States, and it has grown markedly since Mark Twain cannily observed it. Can you guess the population involved?
Hint: It ain't the kids, or the subset that is non-girls.
Need another hint? Since Mark Twain's time, more than three quarters of mothers with school-age kids have moved into the workforce and more than 40% of kids 18 or under (32 million) have been divorced from at least one parent. Those are some actual numbers that should make us reasonably fidgety.
Yes, there is an epidemic Attention Deficit Disorder, but the wrong patient is being diagnosed, and psychostimulants won't mitigate this condition.
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