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Cortney Amber Greenslet

ADHD Today (Essay)

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Cortney Greenslet

Educational Psychology

Robert Ponzio

Final Exam Essay



The Overmedicated Child of Today

            In America today, we are consistently medicating people in an attempt to cure them, only to find that we have created a person plagued by annoying side effects and new ailments to cure. Having too many people using medication in the place of therapy is the sign of an unhealthy process. What we get from this over-medicated society are people stricken with side effects, and essentially, long-term developmental disadvantages. When you think of how much our society has progressed in the last 50 years, it is as if we have jumped into overdrive overnight. Our bodies, minds and psychological “tools” need to be continually updated, educated and refreshed so that we have the vehicle to keep us adjusting to this new “overdrive.” Without a vehicle to move ahead, how will we get there? When we talk about using medication to “cure” our society’s ailments, we are speaking of medications such as Ritalin, Prozac, Lithium, and more. These drugs are prescribed to help us subdue the inner self to create a more manageable self. In essence, our creative inner self is just screaming to be taught how to deal with all of these changes and alterations. The developmental stages of a child, at the early part of their life, are so crucial that applying drugs to them would dull their learning bite, fiery energy and playful curiosity.


ADHD as an Example

            As an example, ADHD, a nervous condition, when correctly identified, shows force in the areas of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.  More than 2 million people in the US have ADHD. These people generally have trouble paying attention to details, they make careless mistakes in work or school, and these things affect them everyday in a way so strong that they are actually unable to operate in daily life situations. “When a child exhibits inattention, increased activity, or impulsivity, or any combination thereof, a clinician must consider these behaviors as symptoms of any number of disorders. In short, there symptoms are to neurobehavioral disorders as fever is to other illnesses. A person does not have fever disorder. Rather, the fever signifies that something is askew and the clinician must determine the cause of the fever.”[1]Like a fever, ADHD symptoms are clues to help us identify the cause of the disturbance in the behavior of a child.


The Imitators

Gifted students and students who have other types of disorders have similar, if not the same symptoms as someone with ADHD. How can we tell the difference? “The symptoms of ADHD may be present in more than 30 other disorders ranging from problems with sensory systems, mental illness, or scholastic, psycho social, and medical problems. It is very important to know the exact cause of their symptoms, since many of these disorders require different forms of medication.”[2]Gifted students are often finding themselves bored and daydreaming, or thoughtful and moving with impulsive actions and rapid speech. The boredom or over stimulation in gifted students displays the same characteristics as ADHD does and they could easily be misdiagnosed as such. The ideal difference between ADHD and gifted students is the idea that gifted students, although excited easily, can concentrate solely on one thing when they put their minds to it. Because of their intense concentration, you would be able to understand where their fit of discovery is so exciting and how it can be misconstrued as ADHD.


Diagnosing Methods

When diagnosing ADHD, a trained clinician should provide the child with an extensive evaluation ruling out other possible causes for the symptoms involved. This should be done through a physical exam and a series of interviews with the patient, and all supporting members of the family.  “It is common for diagnosticians to use behavior checklists when investigating the possibility of ADHD. When these checklists are replied upon, rather than one piece of evidence among other sources, the possibility of confusing ADHD for giftedness increases. Behavior checklists address only the expressions of behavior instead of the causes of behavior.”[3]What is often the reality is that teachers are unable to get children to sit and be quietly. They are taught to look for these characteristics and then are filling out these questionnaires which are intended to be aids, not conclusive diagnostic worksheets. These questionnaires are then sent to the child’s parents and pediatrician, and looked over once before diagnosing. The proper tests to eliminate other possibilities are not being done. The result is students, some gifted, and some depressed, some ADHD, all of them on Ritalin. 


Ritalin as a Teacher’s Aid?

What is shameful is the way we are misusing Ritalin to treat ADHD as a whole. “Although the Physicians Desk Reference specifically states Ritalin “should not be used in children under six years [of age],” should not be used in children under six years [of age],” that did not stop United States Physicians from writing 200,000 prescriptions for Ritalin and similar stimulants in 1993 for children ages five and younger. In the U.S. Ritalin has been prescribed to children as young as 18 months.”[4] This is a shocking statistic for sure, but it is the realistic example of the product of our eagerness to conform children to sit, be quiet, and listen when we want them to – regardless of their developmental quirks and flaws. Use of Ritalin with children who are too young is one of the many ways we are not respecting this method of treatment. This treatment is often used as a primary source of treatment, sometimes without therapy or counseling included. Proper treatment of true ADHD should include a healthy diet, therapy, family support, support of the school, and also medication. In my mind, some of these “proper” treatments are last resorts. We need to teach our children how to deal with the emotions they receive. Medicating them does not give them the tools they need to work through their frustrations and anxiety.


Natural Alternatives

Some alternative methods of treatment for ADHD include diet changes, exercise, schedules and structure, meditation and therapy. This provides a natural way for the truest self to come forth so that the mind can learn more about what is needed to survive. In a society where recreational drugs has gradually increased over the years, I think we should be more interested in teaching kids ways to feel, cope, think, and process thoughts and feelings. By doing so we would be eliminating the hypocritical nature of sending them to school in the morning after taking an emotion-subduing, mind-relaxant drug. “To children who happen to be sensitive, the three most troublesome chemicals – synthetic food dyes, artificial flavorings and preservatives – can cause a host of physical, emotional, and mental reactions, and lead to being diagnosed as ADHD.”[5]


A School Sitting Quietly

So where then do the schools come in? How do the schools identify students with ADHD? What does this mean for the student? “In 1996, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 5 percent of all elementary school children in the United States were on Ritalin.”[6]I have been very curious, especially since I work in a preschool, about how elementary and high schools determine these students are actually ADHD.  You will find some example questionnaires attached to this essay to illustrate the questions which are used in Vermont. These questionnaires are intended to be an aid to the regular assessment process. Although, too often they are used as the final word. One story I read, a mother was told by her child’s teachers and guidance counselor that they thought her son needed to be evaluated for ADHD. The teacher filled out a checklist, sent it to the family’s doctor, and sooner or later they recommended that he be put on Ritalin. He was much more manageable, yet his mother noticed that he was becoming gradually more unsocial, overemotional, and depressed. The doctor put him on anti-depressant medication and he then became unsafe and violent to his mother. After deciding to take her son off of these meds, the school called Social Services on her because they thought she was being neglectful for not giving him his medication. Needless to say, many parents are persuasively pushed and sold into positions where they feel uncomfortable. “There is some evidence that such medication can impair cognitive performance…In addition, stimulant medication can have negative side effects including appetite suppression, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, sadness, and nightmares.”[7]When they go for the alternative, more natural approach, they are harassed in some cases, mostly because the teacher does not want to go out of his/her way to provide alternative teaching methods. Sometimes their reluctance is simply that they are not educated enough on the topic of ADHD or other disorders and disabilities. Some parents are asked to put there students into special education classrooms where they are embarrassed, ridiculed, and further pressured. And to imagine that this same student could possibly be misdiagnosed altogether, and maybe he is on the genius level….bored by such mediocre information and assessment. Silently laughing at us in our inability to see the authentic self of his individuality. 


A Case of Authentic Self

Although I believe in natural ways of healing and the lack of knowledge on our part pertaining to ADHD and other medication-treated disorders, I also believe that there are people out there whose lives are seriously haunted by this disorder. Without proper treatment, their developmental stages are being invalidated because they cannot slow their minds down long enough to notice anything at all. “ADHD may have serious consequences, including school failure, depression, problems with relationships, substance abuse, and job failure. Early identification and treatment are extremely important.”[8]

I picked this topic because I want our children to grow up and contribute passionately to society by creating and expressing their inner selves wholeheartedly. How can we do this if we are all walking this earth full of medication and lacking an inner reflection and wisdom? Shouldn’t we encourage, take action, and provide an example of valor by returning to our authentic selves, embracing them as beautiful regardless of flaws and scratches in the paint? We then would be able to embrace what we know and what we are na´ve to, in order to fully evolve into greater beings.








1.)    Haber, Julian , M.D., FAAP (2000). ADHD: The Great Misdiagnosis. Dallas: Taylor Trade

2.)    DuPaul,G., & Stoner, G., (1994). ADHD In The Schools: Assessment and Intervention Strategies. New York: The Guilford Press

3.)    Roeper Review (2004). Gifted or ADHD? The Possibilities of Misdiagnosis: c/o (Full Text Article)

4.)    Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or ADDH and Ritalin.Retrieved August 8, 2005. Health Education Alliance for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (CSPP)

5.)    Lehman, Christine. Retrieved August 16, 2005. Congress Receives Biased Report on ADHD Treatment, APA Says.

6.)    National Institute of Mental Health (2003) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

7.)    APA Site (1-21-2000) Study Sheds Light on Best Treatments for ADHD.

8.)    Eggen, P., & Kauchak, D., (2004) ADHD : Columbus, Pearson

[1] Haber, Julian , M.D., FAAP (2000). ADHD: The Great Misdiagnosis (p.29)

[2] Haber, Julian , M.D., FAAP (2000). ADHD: The Great Misdiagnosis (p.29)

[3] Roeper Review (2004). Gifted or ADHD? The Possibilities of Misdiagnosis

[4] Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or ADDH and Ritalin.Retrieved

[5] Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or ADDH and Ritalin.Retrieved

[6] Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or ADDH and Ritalin.Retrieved

[7] Roeper Review (2004). Gifted or ADHD? The Possibilities of Misdiagnosis

[8] National Institute of Mental Health (2003) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(p.1)


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-Ropo Oguntimehin