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Does ADHD Exist? A guest blog written by Katherine Allvey, Teacher


Foreword

A little while ago another teacher that I know who is adult diagnosed with ADHD themselves asked me join a closed special group on Facebook for successful people with ADHD. I don't have a degree so felt like I might be a bit of an imposter. However the fact is there are many adults with an ADHD diagnosis who do not fit the stereotype but do have a diagnosis. Many professional people. We don't hear so much about these people and we should be hearing about them, it's crucial to busting the myths and stereotypes.

I'm really proud to be able to publish the following from Katherine Allvey. Katherine was working in China as an ESOL specialist for 3 years, eventually running a school in Oxford when she returned. She worked as a classroom teacher for four years. She currently works with students in Alternate Provision, many of whom have SEN. Katherine was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD.

Does ADHD exist?

‘[A}fter 50 years of practising medicine and seeing thousands of patients demonstrating symptoms of ADHD, I have reached the conclusion there is no such thing as ADHD.’[1]

So writes Dr Richard Saul, the main advocate for the view that ADHD is a fictional condition, a catch-all diagnosis used by lazy doctors to treat the symptoms of a number of disorders without investigating their root cause. Other physicians agree:

‘There is no brain condition that generates some disease called ADHD, and none has ever been demonstrated. And no child should be given amphetamines.’[2]

So, if ADHD doesn’t exist, why do most doctors think that it does? According to the ADHD-deniers, we’ve all just fallen under the sway of social pressure to believe that anyone who thinks differently is ill. Most of those against the possibility of ADHD tend to offer another alternative for why symptoms present themselves.

Robert Berezin argues that the symptoms of ADHD are, in fact, just personality traits.

‘A typical child, often a boy, may have an active temperament. One can readily tell whether a child is active or passive. Active children sit and walk and climb early in childhood. They take off at the beach. The active child is naturally physical, physically expressive, and action-oriented. He is oriented to active, muscular, good aggression. In the context of good-enough loving, the active child, identifying with his active strength, operates as a take-charge doer.’[3]

Aside from his casually sexist assertion that ADHD is a male disorder, he seems to be slightly missing the point.

Brad* was twelve when I met him. He was basically a one-man reality show: an incredibly funny, caring and outgoing boy who excelled at Drama and was incredibly talented at Athletics, and seemed to behave like he was constantly on camera. This is what I would describe as his temperament.

Brad had severe ADHD. This manifested as being unable to keep track of time, homework, possessions…anything placed in his vicinity would immediately disappear. He also could not stop himself blurting things out. He would sit on his hands or put his hands over his mouth to stop himself shouting. He always told me that he wanted to make his mum proud, but he wasn’t able to stop himself in time. That’s not a temperament issue: that’s his ADHD presenting itself.

Other physicians blame a lack of love and acceptance as a factor in leading doctors to diagnose children with with ‘fictional’ ADHD.

‘Sami Timimi sees ADHD as a "cultural barometer" of society's attitudes towards children. We think of ourselves as being increasingly tolerant towards children, but the rise in medication for the young is an indication of the opposite trend. "In some cultures, children are loved unconditionally," he says, but in the West we have a more "performance-oriented approach, where children are valued primarily for their achievements. At the same time, educational demands on children are rising”.’[4]

I really wish he could meet Esther*. She was fifteen when I worked with her, and she struck me as being an intelligent and fiery young lady. I was warned to meet with her in a public place as she’d been known to attack or swear at other professionals. Somewhat of a rebel, with punky blonde hair and a grunge style, Esther loved dogs, skateboarding and crisps.

Esther’s ADHD was really severe. Her mood would change in an instant, and she said she needed to skate every hour or she felt angry. She told me she’d just find herself doing things and wouldn’t know why, and her sensory processing issues would make her irritable if our surroundings were too loud.

Her behaviour was not due to a lack of love but due to ADHD. Esther’s mum was a conscientious and caring lady. She asked me to change location to somewhere safer as she didn’t want her daughter going to a rough part of London. She asked me to text and confirm Esther arrived safely. She genuinely wanted Esther to do well and change her grades and behaviour, but she never wanted her to change who she was, and I think she liked her maverick spirit. There was no question that Esther was loved unconditionally, though she did tell me that she thought her mum preferred their dog since he got more snacks than her.

A further reason why some argue that ADHD doesn’t exist is that it’s just a way for parents to try to explain why their child is failing at school.

‘The more obsessed a culture becomes with attainment and success, the more afraid we are of the blame that will be apportioned to those children (and their parents) who fail to triumph. An ADHD diagnosis points the finger of blame away from diet, food additives, excessive screen time, emotional problems, distracted parenting, conformist and unimaginative schooling, peer pressures, social media-exacerbated friendship anxiety, lack of exercise, or any of the other multitude of factors that might be causing a child to become disruptive, aggressive, or uncooperative.’[5]

Of course, if it’s not society ‘making children have ADHD’, it must be their families!

‘Many families don’t like to hear this, but the attention deficit may mean that the parents are giving insufficient loving attention to the child.’[6]

I want to breathe a lengthy, frustrated sigh at this point.

Two years before writing this, almost to the day, I was diagnosed with ADHD aged thirty. I was top of the class in every single school subject, achieved thirteen GCSES and four A-Levels, and attended a Russell Group University for Bachelors and Masters. My parents have been married for 35 years and gave me as much love as it’s possible to give a child. My personality is alternately lively and funny, or introverted and bookish, and definitely never sporty.

Despite my temperament and the love I was given, my thoughts would be jumbled in my head. I’d lose anything I was given. I couldn’t keep anything tidy. I’d have five different songs playing in my head at once. Absolutely none of those symptoms were due to diet, as my mum always made sure we had healthy food, or parental pressure, or a lack of love. They were because I had ADHD.

ADHD is a real disorder. Of course, like any diagnosis, mistakes can be made and people can be misdiagnosed. But what if, instead of blaming parents, or social media, or societal pressure, we consider the possibility that maybe medical science has made enough strides to help people who in the past might have been ignored or caned? What if we realise that some of us benefit from medication to help us cope with the world around us? And, brace yourselves, what if we stopped worrying about some weird theory that the whole medical industry has concocted a disorder for some unspecified evil purpose and just gave our loved ones with ADHD a hug? That’d definitely be the start of something real.

References:

[1] Richard Saul, ‘ADHD doesn't exist and drugs do more harm than good: Doctor claims symptoms can have routine causes that are ignored due to knee-jerk diagnosis’, accessed 8/19

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2577814/The-eminent-doctor-convinced-ad-hd-doesnt-exist-In-fact-says-Dr-RICHARD-SAUL-symptoms-routine-causes-drugs-harm-good.html

[2] Robert Berezin, ‘No, There Is no Such Thing as ADHD’, accessed 8/19.https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-theater-the-brain/201503/no-there-is-no-such-thing-adhd

[3] Berezin, ‘No…’

[4] William Sutcliffe, 'ADHD: 'BEING DIFFERENT IS NOT AN ILLNESS’, accessed 8/19https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/adhd-being-different-isnot-an-illness-a6757276.html

[5] Sutcliffe, ‘ADHD…’

[6] Berlin, ‘No…’