Thanks to Zareh Demirdji, a teacher at The YMCA Academy, I read a recent article on the relative “incidence” of ADHD in the USA and France — “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD”.  The article cites some very interesting statistics about the prevalence of ADHD in those two countries:

“In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%. How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France?”

Of course, the description of the author (Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., is a family therapist and the author of Suffer the Children: The Case Against Labeling and Medicating and an Effective Alternative) must cause one to question the objectivity of her judgments.  Still, the piece is provocative.  In her view, the correct intervention is to “treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling”, not drugs.

Sir Ken Robinson makes a similar observation about the frequency of ADHD diagnoses within the United States — basically very infrequent in the west, and very frequent in the east.  His point, too, is that ADHD is being overdiagnosed in the east, and the use of such medications as Ritalin and Adderall is problematical.

However, we know from experience at The Academy, and from conversations with our students and their parents/guardians, that both therapeutic and pharmaceutical interventions, together and separately, have helped a large variety of students with respect to their ADHD symptoms and behaviours.

And that, it seems to me, points to a real concern with the article in question.  It attempts to polarize by citing competing responses to ADHD:

“Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the United States.”

Well, actually, it doesn’t depend on where you live!  The required “yes” or “no” answer to the question “Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder?” must be independent of the location.  It either is, or is not, a biological-neurological disorder” everywhere.  The force of this article is that the French view of ADHD as a “medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes” is correct.  The answer to the question is therefore “no”.  So according to the author the American model of causation and treatment is incorrect.

And yet I wonder…the comments following the article in question are numerous, and many speak to the successful treatment of ADHD symptoms with psycho stimulant medications.  So where does that leave us?  It suggests to me that a variety of biological and behavioural issues are lumped together under the convenient acronym ADHD.

Don Adams, Head of School

June 7th, 2013 – Another ADHD Controversy