Friday, September 9, 2011

Parents, Teachers, and ADHD

First off, I believe in ADHD. I also believe there is such a thing as mental illness. Yes, I am a trained and licensed counselor who operates solely from a biblical perspective. Yet I've never understood that small portion within the biblical counseling world that will accept that our kidneys can go bad but insist that any problem with our brain must somehow really be a spiritual problem. Over the years I've counseled people who truly had PSTD, ADHD, Bi-polar, Histronic personality disorder, Antisocial personality disorder, Obsesive-compulsive anxiety, Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform, and Schizoaffective disorder (yes, those last three are different)...among many other issues.

Yes, some of these are clearly related to environment (the family system, personal history, etc). But others cannot be explained away so easily. ADHD and depression can stem from physical factors (such as a chemical problem in the brain) just like they can stem from spiritual or environmental factors.  There are real people who need real medicine to deal effectively with real emotional, psychological, and mental issues. I say all that to simply emphasize I am not anti-medicine.

However, I would be first in line to protest the culture of overdiagnosis. I've seen far too many people get a highly questionable label slapped on them or their child and view it as a "get-out-of-personal-responsibility card". Perhaps the worst offender is the educational system. Though many public teachers inappropriately push for a diagnosis, the problem is more with the broader educational and social service oligarchy (after all, the teacher is just trying to deal with an out-of-control kid). Caseworkers and mental-health professionals assume the problem must be medical. Of course, their bias refuses to allow a possible spiritual cause, and claiming it to be an environmental (e.g. family system) issue is to make a moral claim of superiority (e.g your not disciplining your child) which our current cultural commitment to relativism cannot endorse. So, instead we slap a label, assign a medication, and stupefy a kid needlessly.

With all of that in mind, I found the sad humor in the quote below, taken from a recent cnn.com article. A parent wrote:
"I have an active 6-year-old and so far our experience includes kindergarten and first grade. Both years the teachers kept pushing us to test for ADHD because our 5-, and then 6-year-old couldn't sit still for 45 minutes, said he prefers to play, wanted to talk, etc. Well, we finally gave in, spent our vacation money on three sessions with a behavioral therapist and our kid was 'diagnosed' with being a 6-year-old kid."

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