Parenting Tips Newsletter
Letter from the author
Letter from Bob Collier, author of ADHD-Report.com
Writing the ADHD report was a rather surreal experience for me, to be honest. But for the internet, it would never have come about.
I'm just an ordinary bloke who lives in a small, quiet world of pleasant people - adults and children - where I happily go about parenting my own children successfully in my own idiosyncratic way and most other parents I socialise with don't even know that I publish a parenting newsletter.
I'm possibly the only person involved in the 'ADHD debate' that I know of who has no first-hand experience of the problem whatsoever. For me, the subject is entirely to do with ideas and beliefs and how they compare with my own experiences and whatever facts I'm able to discover.
When I started up my parenting newsletter, it wasn't to create a reputation for myself as a parenting expert - it was simply because I was facing a situation in my life where my son was about to start school and it was either make a go of something now or end up stacking shelves in a supermarket and, having spent most of the past 18 years as a stay-at-home dad, parenting was the only topic I felt I had anything remotely useful to write about.
I spotted the newspaper item about 'ADHD' a few months later because I'd become 'tuned in' to parenting matters. It made me suspicious. I noticed a few more articles about 'ADHD' on the internet. I discovered the 'diagnostic criteria' for 'ADHD'. When I read the list, my immediate thought was, "This is bullsh*t". I wanted to know what it was all about. Everything else has simply grown willy-nilly from there.
It transpires that I agree with Dr. Fred Baughman: 'ADHD' is a total 100% fraud. As far as I'm concerned, the so-called 'diagnostic criteria' for so-called 'ADHD' are entirely bogus. What they represent exists only in the imagination. There is NO 'disease', 'disorder', 'dysfunction', 'disability', 'deficiency', 'abnormality' or 'condition' to be 'treated' with drugs or anything else.
This is my best current explanation of why I believe what I do:
All behaviour originates in the brain. I don't think anybody would dispute that. Behaviour that gets repeated becomes habitual and ultimately a conditioned response - therefore something that is beyond conscious control.
As a profession, psychiatry has, it seems, long wanted to be viewed as a science in the same way as chemistry, physics and biology. But, you can't really be a scientist if you're constantly saying things like, "My educated guess is...", or "My experience suggests that..." or "I don't really know...", which, as I understand it, was pretty much the state of psychiatry's knowledge of how the brain produces behaviour (and still is, even if they won't admit it - have you ever noticed how many descriptions of 'mental illnesses' include the phrase "The cause of this illness is not known"?).
With advances in technology came a greater focus on the physiology of the brain and from that came 'biological' psychiatry - the idea that all behaviours can be 'tracked back', so to speak, to some kind of SPECIFIC physiological state or activity in the brain. At least, that's my current perception (I've worn out the pages of my dictionary this year trying to get my head around these things!).
Biological psychiatry now dominates the psychiatric profession and is all that's taught at psychiatry school these days, so I'm told.
Supposing you have a child who wants to run around the classroom instead of sitting at a desk. The teacher could spend all day returning them to their seat and they'll soon be running around the classroom again at every opportunity, because they are motivated by a conditioned response (which is outside their conscious control).
There could be any number of ways to trigger that response - the child is bored by the lessons, they hate being told what to do, they don't get enough playtime, they're agitated by being in the company of too many other children, they have a diet with too much sugar in it, or whatever, but the child's behaviour is essentially the way they have learned to respond automatically to a particular set of circumstances.
Because that kind of behaviour is in conflict with the organisational goals of the school system, it's perceived as a deviation from normal (expected) behaviour. In other words, it becomes an 'abnormality'. Even when that behavioural 'abnormality' is purely a matter of perception, as far as biological psychiatry is concerned, a behavourial 'abnormality', by definition, corresponds to an abnormality in the brain. That's their logic.
The observation that some children are habitually incapable of staying in their seats despite the best efforts of teachers to keep them there now becomes a symptom of a brain 'abnormality' - in this case, "has difficulty remaining seated when required to do so", one of the alleged 'symptoms' of 'ADHD'.
Somebody is way behind their classmates in reading. Is it because their parents never read to them at home? Is it because the 'whole word' reading system doesn't suit their learning style? Is it because they're not remotely interested in the stupid adventures of Spot the Dog? Is it because they have a nutritional deficiency? Is it because they're constantly precoccupied with thoughts of other problems they have to deal with?
Heck no, it HAS TO BE the result of an 'abnormality' in the brain. To the biological psychiatrist, what else could it be? The child has a 'Developmental Reading Disorder'!
And the observed manifestations of the child's internal struggle with reading now become that 'disorder's' 'diagnostic criteria'. And so it goes on, with biological psychiatrists perceiving 'abnormalities' everywhere they look. They can't help themselves. ANY behaviour that is at odds with the wishes of the majority in any social context is, by their definition, 'abnormal' - and a behavioural 'abnormality', of course, means an 'abnormality' in the brain.
This year a hundred 'disorders of childhood', next year two hundred as every kind of childhood behaviour is analysed and broken down into types and subtypes and variations and versions - with the only logical conclusion being that one day every child will have their own customised brain 'abnormality' and the DSM will be a mile thick.
Now we get to the perceptual difficulties encountered by parents such as my friends who can't spell. I'm not going to say this is exactly how it happens every time, but it may be a typical example, speaking from what I know about parents and what I've learned about biological psychiatry.
A child is being disruptive at school and at home. Maybe the child is a 'bit of a monster' because their parents have very little understanding of child development and they have problems of their own to deal with, and the difficulties are being exacerbated by an unsympathetic school environment - but, whatever, the teacher's had enough, the parents have had enough and somebody calls in the professionals.
The parents are then told that their child probably 'has ADHD'. "What's ADHD?" they ask. Most likely, the parents will be told something like "It's a brain abnormality that makes children overactive and unable to concentrate." The totally spurious 'chemical imbalance' idea will probably be chucked into the conversation for good measure. How does the professional know it's a brain abnormality? It's the official view. How did it get to be the official view? It's in the DSM. There in plain black and white in psychiatry's 'bible' are the 'diagnostic criteria' - the 'symptoms'.
Except they're not symptoms, are they? They're observations. It's only the members of the American Psychiatric Association who have decided that the observations are 'symptoms' and the relevant official bodies and organisations have dutifully accepted that and passed it on to a jungleful of parrots in the medical, educational and childcare professions and the media.
How do the members of the APA decide that observations are symptoms? They vote on it. "Okay, guys, here's a list of behaviours associated with the disgusting habit of nose picking (compulsive crooking of the arm, nostril fixation, etc). How many of you think nose picking is abnormal? Carried.
By definition, the behaviours associated with nose picking are hereby its symptoms. Nose picking is officially a mental disorder, and that's what we'll tell the world in the next edition of the DSM."
"But, you can't tell people nose picking is a mental disorder - they'd laugh at us." "Okay, what's the Greek for 'nose picking'? We'll add the word 'mania' to it and call it that. Nobody will notice." Another manufactured 'disorder of childhood' for the DSM.
Back to the parents of the 'little monster'. Now they're usually told that, to confirm the diagnosis of 'ADHD', the child will be given a psychostimulant drug for a trial period. A week later, the child is sitting quietly in his seat in the classroom and quietly in front of the TV at home. The diagnosis is duly 'confirmed'.
Since psychostimulant drugs will zonk just about any child, whether 'diagnosed' with 'ADHD' or not, the confirmation of the 'diagnosis' is a foregone conclusion. The parents, of course, aren't told that.
They're thinking, "Wow! The medication is really helping our child to calm down and get on much better at school." Now the drug companies have a long-term customer (hopefully a life-long customer now that 'adult ADD' has recently been invented as a belated afterthought), but the parents and the school are off the hook.
The child's emotional problems caused by crappy parenting? No way! Made worse by crappy schooling? Perish the thought! The child has a 'brain disease'. The parents don't even notice that their child has been 'diagnosed' with a 'brain disease' - a serious affliction to be sure - yet they didn't get a brain scan or even a blood test; it was decided by ticking boxes on a questionnaire. I'm told it's not unusual for 'ADHD' to be 'diagnosed' over the phone.
Then along comes some smart arse who's never even met an 'ADHD' kid and he tells you 'ADHD' isn't real.
"How can anyone say that ADHD isn't real? My child has all the symptoms. He was totally out of control. His behaviour matched the diagnostic criteria exactly. The behaviour is real, isn't it? So ADHD is real. And, ever since my child started taking medication to control his symptoms, he's been much easier for me to handle and his teacher says he's no trouble in the classroom now either. That proves it, doesn't it? What's that idiot talking about?"
IS 'ADHD' real? I'm tempted to say, "It depends on what you mean by 'real'." But, I'm going to have to go for: "No, it's not".
These people have been scammed, and, ironically, because of it the REAL reasons for their child's antisocial behaviour may never be discovered and dealt with. There is NO 'disease', 'disorder', 'dysfunction', 'disability', 'deficiency', 'abnormality' or 'condition' to be 'treated' with drugs or anything else.
What there IS is a range of behaviours of various origins that may or may not be a genuine problem but where they ARE a genuine problem do need to be responded to in some (hopefully positive) way.
If anything in my attempt to explain my position isn't clear, I'd be more than happy to go over it again - it would be just as helpful to me as it would be to anyone else.
Author of Parental Intelligence and ADHD-Report.com
You can read a response to Bob's letter from Dawn Rider of ASPIRE here.
ADHD-Report.com: The concerned parents' guide to childrens' attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD)