“We Didn’t Have Them (Kids with ADHD) in My Day” Myth #1

Having a child with ADHD has greatly altered how I work with children.  Lots of what I will share I wished I had known while my child was younger so I could have been a better advocate for him.  It is amazing how people form opinions and judgments based on little or no factual data.  When we received the diagnosis of ADHD, we had many of his teachers tell us they did not believe it really existed, as if it was an act of defiance or apathy rather than a true disorder.  We convinced them otherwise (another story for later).  So I begin this series of myth busting on behalf of all those persons who live with ADHD.  Statistics and/or data will be shared to enlighten those who still believe that ADHD does not exist.

I hear this comment quite a bit –We Didn’t Have Them (people with ADHD)in My Day!  Actually that is incorrect!  Symptoms of ADHD were described as early as 1798 by a physician named Sir Alexander Crichton.  He preceded to write three books on this topic.  The following section gives insight into what exactly he said in those books.

**The second chapter of book II “On Attention and its Diseases” is of special interest to the present subject (ADHD). Crichton begins this chapter with a definition of attention: “When any object of external sense, or of thought, occupies the mind in such a degree that a person does not receive a clear perception from any other one, he is said to attend to it” (Crichton 1798, reprint p. 200). Crichton emphasizes that the intensity of healthy attention varies within a normal range both between individuals and even within a person at different times (Crichton 1798). A distraction of attention does not necessarily have to be pathological, e.g. mental stimuli, volition, or education can have a great impact on healthy attention (Crichton 1798). Crichton distinguishes two possibilities of abnormal inattention as the oppositional poles of pathologically increased or decreased “sensibility of the nerves” (Crichton 1798):

The morbid alterations to which attention is subject, may all be reduced under the two following heads:

First. The incapacity of attending with a necessary degree of constancy to any one object.

Second. A total suspension of its effects on the brain.

The incapacity of attending with a necessary degree of constancy to any one object, almost always arises from an unnatural or morbid sensibility of the nerves, by which means this faculty is incessantly withdrawn from one impression to another. It may be either born with a person, or it may be the effect of accidental diseases.

When born with a person it becomes evident at a very early period of life, and has a very bad effect, inasmuch as it renders him incapable of attending with constancy to any one object of education. But it seldom is in so great a degree as totally to impede all instruction; and what is very fortunate, it is generally diminished with age. (Crichton, 1798, reprint p. 203) **Taken from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3000907

So, as we can see, ADHD has been around quite some time.  One term I believe we need to understand is prevalence.  “Prevalence” measures how common a condition is in a given population at a certain point in time or over a period of time.  No one would disagree that ADHD is more common now.

For example, one survey, the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), gathers data from tens of thousands of U.S. households on a variety of children’s health issues. Comparison of data from 2003 to 2007 shows a increase in the prevalence of ADHD as reported by parents. Here are some findings:

  • Parent-reported rates of ADHD increased 22%, and by 2007, 7.2% of all school-aged children had a diagnosis of ADHD.
  • Diagnosis rates varied by geographical region.
  • Higher rates were generally found in the Southeastern U.S. , with North Carolina and Louisiana having the highest rates.
  •  Lower rates were generally found in the Western and Southwestern U.S. with Nevada and New Mexico having the lowest rate.

Possible explanations for this are:  more screening by doctors and other primary caregivers, improved awareness among the medical community and parents, decreased stigma, and availability of better treatment options (this data is  prepared by the National Resource Center on ADHD: A Program of CHADD (NRC). The NRC is supported through Cooperative Agreement Number CDC-RFA-DD13-1302 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This myth has now been BUSTED!!!!

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