More than 10 percent of school-aged children in the U.S. — 6.4 million kids — have been medically diagnosed with ADHD. That’s more than a 40 percent increase from a decade ago. UC Berkeley professors Stephen Hinshaw and Richard Scheffler wonder whether diagnosis can be traced to our country’s push for academic achievement and school accountability. At the same time, they say kids from families with little access or trust in the health care system are often under-diagnosed with ADHD, and missing out on helpful treatment. We talk with Hinshaw and Scheffler about their new book, “The ADHD Explosion.”

What Lies Behind ‘The ADHD Explosion’ 29 April,2014forum

Richard Scheffler, professor of health economics and public policy at UC Berkeley and co-author of "The ADHD Explosion"
Stephen Hinshaw, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, vice chair for psychology at UCSF and co-author of "The ADHD Explosion"

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    When in France, Sweden, Israel we just never heard of children having ADHD. Why?
    My mother who is a retired teacher, expressed concern at the reduction of recess for an hour daily and then physical education three days per week and how more and more male students especially, were hyper and unable to stay focused and she felt it was because they were not burning off all that excess energy.

    • If you listen to the program, one of the first things the researchers say is that ADHD is a global phenomenon (with the exception of subsistence economies), although rates in the U.S. tend to be higher.

    • Louis Stephenson

      Children in these countries do have ADHD, but the culture in these places views medicating children in a very negative way. They diagnose it less often, and when they do, their conceptualization of it is entirely psychosocial rather than neurobiological, and the result is that they have very high rates of tobacco use and kids in prison.

      • thucy

        “and the result is that they have very high rates of tobacco use and kids in prison.”

        Actually, you’re way off. The US has the highest per capita prison population.

        • And a significant proportion of the prison population has ADHD.

        • Louis Stephenson

          No one is more concerned than me regarding the high rate of incarceration in the U.S., not to mention the atrocities that are tolerated in the U.S. prison system. However, you are the one who is way off. You are trying to change the subject and it comes of rather troll-like. The fact remains that ADHD is a global, proven behavioral phenomenon with solid neurophysiological and neuropsychological underpinnings, whether French and Swedes choose to acknowledge it or not. A child undiagnosed and untreated is a child who is being denied resources such as those that helped me to succeed where I would have failed without them.

  • Michael

    Any tie with mother’s smoking during pregnancy? I have adult ADHD and my kid has ADHD and both our mothers smoked during pregnancy.

    • Barbara Mackay-Smith

      It’s not the smoking, but the “smoking gun” of heredity: since I have started looking into the affects of ADD in my life, I’ve uncovered symptoms in my own family going back at least three generations. Those with (undiagnosed) symptoms who found active, stimulating professions and/or assistants to help them regulate and maintain their schedules have been high-achievers; those in sedentary positions or without good support systems have suffered from disorganization and labeled “under-achievers.”

  • Cindy Bloch

    There is a strong association of ADHD and sleep-related breathing disorders. (I will try to call in about this to support the authors if they mention it, or suggest it if they don’t.) Congestion (which could cause disrupted sleep) is exacerbated by second hand smoke.
    (I have researched this extensively with a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a neurologist.)

    • Michael

      That’s fascinating. Both my son and I who both have AHDH have sleep related breathing problems.

  • Michelle

    Can you please discuss the link between ADD/ADHD and diet? I have studied this and know that diet can greatly affect many brain issues, including ADD.

  • Lisa Woolf

    Diagnosis of this condition is out of control in our college aged kids as well. My son, influenced by his friends to a great extent, was convinced he had ADHD. I on the other hand thought he was just a typical college freshman — who had a 4.0 GPA by the way. We finally gave in and let him see a doctor in the area where he is in college and, About $2,500 later and 15 minutes in the doctor’s office, he walked away with a prescription. The doctor told him if he wanted to he could just take the medication prior to exams and it would help. In the end he took the pills for about 2 weeks and decided on his own that it was pointless. I think many of these doctors (and this one came HIGHLY recommended) are little more than pill mills.

    • Haw Haw

      Gee Lisa, isn’t your son just soooooooo precious?

      • Lisa Woolf

        Yes, he is. Thanks for your ignorant reply. Posting replies at midnight shows me what a full, happy life you have. Go back to your lonely existence.

        • Haw Haw

          Actually the time stamp on my comment is “Thursday, May 1, 9:59pm”

          So you’re either a chronic liar or incredibly inept at understanding time.

          Which is it?

          In either event, the fudging of facts probably is how you always operate.

          • Lisa Woolf

            OhSay CanuSee

            Gee Lisa, isn’t your son just soooooooo precious?

            12:59 a.m., Friday May 2

            Copy of your original message — please do not call me a liar. If you’ll notice the time stamp is 12:59 a.m. I could go on but I feel sorry for you. You are obviously lonely and unfulfilled. Please try to find something more valuable to do with your life than stalking random folks online.

  • Mark

    The comment that people with ADHD cannot focus is not accurate. Many people with ADHD can focus well–and hyperfocus–when they are engaged in an activity that they are interested in. This is well documented.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Aren’t teen boys medicated in much higher numbers than teen girls?

    Active teens who dont want to sit still are pretty normal, really, aren’t they?

  • shac

    My brother was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. Yet he made it through school fine without drugs etc and is a successfull PhD scientist. I think his ADHD has contributed to his success an creativity. ADHD must have some positive impact in society? should we not accept them and teach to their strengths insteatd of just medicating?

    • Michael

      If only! YES we could teach to people with ADHD. But it’s a COMPLETELY different system. I too made it through college but it was MUCH more difficult than it would have been. And, frankly, I would have opted to major in pre-med or pre-law (instead of DRAMA !!!) because the amount of reading and workload was far, far more than I could have handled … un-medicated. Now that I’m medicated, man do I have regrets!!!!!!!!

    • Elizabeth R.

      I don’t know if you were the one that called in to ask this question, but the interviewees addressed this question on the show (essentially saying that ADHD DOES come with some positive traits but that in the extreme it becomes problematic.)


    How about lax parenting.??
    I teach music and have to deal with a lot of kids who dont listen, have no respect for adults whatsoever, lots of talking back, not following instructions, and seem to have no discipline in their lives. I put up with them, and I dont advocate yelling at or hitting kids, but for better or worse, if when I was young,if I wasn’t on my best behavior for my lessons… as my mother put it “I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week”.
    Distractions are everywhere, kids have to be trained not to act on every impulse.

    • ADHD is not caused by a lack of discipline, as the research—and the researchers on this program—clearly show. If people could simply be “trained” to curb their impulses, ADHD would not be such a devastating condition for so many. Most of us who parent a child with ADHD put significant time and effort into improving our children’s behavior. People who teach children should, IMO, have a stronger and more accurate understanding of conditions they encounter such as ADHD.

    • Barbara Mackay-Smith

      This is so sad to hear from someone in the teaching profession. Perhaps you need to research the symptoms and occupational therapies for ADD, and use a more inter-active approach to teaching to maintain your students’ attention.

    • Michael

      Yeah, no, it’s not a discipline problem. My dad was quite … uh … insistent that I “toe the line” and regularly yelled at me and disciplined me for poor grades and misplacing my jacket about once every 10 minutes. I WANTED to do well, but I absolutely could not until I was medicated. I was labeled a “problem child” by teachers at school. HOWEVER “talking back” and “no respect for adults” are NOT ADHD symptoms. That’s something else (teenagers???). But not following instructions is a symptom. Remember – it’s a SYMPTOM, not a CHOICE.

    • Steven

      goodness, that’s an unfortunate response. how about teachers engage students and look to themselves if they want to blame?

    • SFreader

      ADHD is not equal to “no respect for adults whatsoever”, “talking back”, etc. Please educate yourself about this condition. ESPECIALLY if you are a teacher.

  • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

    I hope the pediatricians who are guests will mention that fact that it is not they who should be doing the diagnoses for ADHD, but rather the educational/school psychologists who have spent years in graduate school and practice, studying and giving the detailed, researched tests designed to diagnose ADHD and other learning disabilities. While pediatricians are able to prescribe medications when needed, and may have had some experience in recognizing ADHD, the 10-15 minute exams they give cannot compare with the professional testing given by trained educational psychologists–who are, by federal law, available to all children of school age, through the school district.

  • Scott Hess

    Is there any correlation with reduced physical activity (both in school and out) and reduced breadth of curriculum (emphasis on 3 Rs, deemphasis on arts and music)?

    • Barbara Mackay-Smith

      “Active” learning situations are a god-send for me (and I suspect for many with ADD). While I can concentrate well– sometimes to the exclusion of everything outside of my focus– when interested in a topic, I need to be actively involved (whether physically or with verbal interaction) in order to maintain focus on areas of less interest to me. Reading a science textbook can be physically difficult for me, but working in a science lab is infinitely fascinating and exciting.

  • HeatherGC

    How do the factors of culture and ethnicity play into ADHD diagnosis? At my 6 year old daughter’s public school here in the South Bay (where she is a minority), she has been singled out a few times for her hand writing and typical 6 year old excitable and chatty behavior. Her teachers have suggested I have her evaluated for occupational therapy and see a psychologist. I have done both and these providers have verified my daughter does not have ADHD or a fine motor delay. These providers have suggested it is the culture of our public school that has created this illusion and that just because your temperament and culture are different, there is often an assumption that you have a learning difference or mental health diagnosis. I find this incredibly disturbing.

    • Fay Nissenbaum

      What have they said about her hand-writing? You may wish to read about Steve Jobs and how calligraphy, and carefully drawing of letters, helped calm him and stimulate his creativity.

      • HeatherGC

        My daughter had “sloppy handwriting” for 5-6 year old. There was some concern that she had slight fine motor delay, which was dismissed by an occupational therapist during the first visit. I will look into calligraphy for her. She is pretty interested in learning cursive as well. I believe being a minority in our district has been a factor in these assertions that my daughter has learning differences. I do think culture can play a role in expectations of students’ abilities.

        • Elizabeth R.

          HeatherGC I think you called in, right? I am SO curious – can you elaborate more on what they meant by “culture of the public school that created this illusion”? Just a general non-acceptance of someone who is different or actually that it’s pushing students to be more excitable, etc?

        • Fay Nissenbaum

          Besides calligraphy, look at a book by Tony Buzan called ‘Use Both Sides of Your Brain’. He suggests drawing “mind maps” rather than strict note-taking often encouraged by teachers. She’s to young to take notes, but it is a way to clear the mind and focus on what’s being said in a fun, engaging way. Here’s a little more about calligraphy and its influence on Jobs:

      • Barbara Mackay-Smith

        I have seen the same thing in my son’s schoolwork: he has the ability to write beautifully, but more often is intent on speed and getting his thoughts down on paper! Another side effect of the active and bright mind of someone with ADD.

    • SFreader

      My 9-yr-old son, who has a formal ADHD diagnosis, finds it incredibly useful to write in cursive, as it slows him down enough to put his complete thoughts down on paper and make fewer grammatical mistakes. He’s been using this technique since he was about 7.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    I have a dear friend who’s 48 years old, and uses prescribed adderall – 10milligrams in the morning, and a second dose at noon. She feels embarrassed that she gets a bit jumpy, and can be irritable on the drug. She reports that she doesnt take it on the weekend, but mostly uses it to keep alert at work, that if she doesnt take her adderall, so terribly lethargic in the morning, she has trouble doing her job – she stays on the adderall just to have enough energy to keep her job. It’s all legal, but that doesnt make it healthy. How many folks uses these meds just to keep a stinkin’ nine-to-five job?

  • Johanna Haag

    As a mother to a child with ADHD I am appalled that anyone would imply that “fidgeting” is what ADHD is about. My daughter could barely read in 3rd grade, her handwriting was comparable to a 1st grader, she could not focus, she could not make or keep friends, and had impulsive behavior she could not control. After being diagnosed and being on medication and behavior therapy as well, her social and academic ability has changed dramatically for the better.

    By the way if you have ADHD and take the stimulants – it just makes you normal – children who do not have ADHD and want theses drugs to do well on tests – well that is an entirely different problem.

    By the way girls are under diagnosed and can tend to have dire consequences if not discovered and treated, the comments on your show that spoke of combination therapy like medication, therapy and creating IEP for these children at school certainly worked for my daughter.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    It doesnt sound like there is a drug – a magic bullet- that removes distracting thoughts from the ADHD sufferer. Please discuss the different types of ADHD – some folks are hyper, while some are lethargic – these opposite symptoms are both called ADHD. Please discuss how people can be totally different, yet have the same label.

  • Steven

    How about discussion on benefits (which often alleviate symptoms) of “GFCF?” — gluten free casein free There are lots of drug free solutions which happen to also be healthful.

  • Ben Rawner

    Does a gluten free diet seem to help?

    • Steven

      Yes, gluten (and casein) are excitory. Check out Stephanie Seneff; she has a lecture on YouTube. Can also look at some of the writings from Russel Blaylock and Amy Yasko. Too bad Michael Krasny did not have experts with more than an Adderall answer. Typical though.

  • Martha Gregg

    There will be a wonderful event at AT&T Park this Saturday that will bring lots of experts and information surrounding ADHD and other LD’s. It’s called EdRev and it will be a celebration as well as a resource event. Teachers, students, families welcome.

  • Jennifer Larson – Simmons

    My daughter was diagnosed with the ADHD 3 years ago. We
    found a good intervention school in Marin but found it did not offer everything
    we wanted for her – focusing on the ‘whole child’. So another parent and I started a middle
    school in SF for bright students with ADD/AHDH/Dyslexia and Auditory Processing
    deficits. Some students are on prx medicine and do well, others take supplements
    and control ADHD with diet. We have teachers that teach kinesthetically and the
    4 students are now thriving. We have everything in the classroom that supports
    the need to stimulate the brain – such as sitting on yoga balls, to hand fidgets,
    brain breaks etc. and do learning through direct experience for all subjects. Our school is My City School we would love for
    your guests to visit!

    thanks so much for your show!

  • Debarm

    Many in my family have ADHD and other learning disabilities. I was reading that having preschoolers play memory games can help with memories. The games also included delayed gratification. Can this help instead of drugs?

  • Could the guests please discuss the boom in ADHD of late? What were kids in earlier generations, 1940s, 50s etc, diagnosed with if anything? Was this disease in existence? Were there studies? If this disease is increasing does that suggest correlation to environmental toxins having an effect? Or is it more of a social thing?

    • Steven

      It’s inflammation, especially in the brain. Look at the differences between now and then. If I say it, the moderators will delete my response. What do we do now to children, from day 1, that we did not do in earlier generations?

  • Margaret

    ADHD is not a “gift” to those of us who live with affected adults and children. There is tremendous hardship that we encounter in dealing with and accommodating our loved ones difficulties. The idea that ADHD is a phantom disorder is deeply upsetting to those of us whose lives are touched EVERY day by very real behaviors that we experience first hand.

    • Michael

      God bless you and my wife and my kids (and my parents!!!) and everyone who has to put up with ADHD family members. It can be very trying. I am recently back on medication (could not afford it for a long while) and my family is GRATEFUL.

  • Barbara Mackay-Smith

    I am so frustrated by the mis-conceptions this program is promoting: the first being the (medically promoted) mis-nomer AD*H*D– not all ADD people are hyper-active, particularly as adults– and that fewer women have problems with ADD– more women and girls suffer from the effects of in-attentive ADD, and are therefor under-diagnosed. You are also ignoring the benefits of the hyper-focussing abilities of those with ADD, particularly under stress, which makes them excellent surgeons, ER docs and emergency service workers.

  • Linda Leigh

    I was diagnosed with ADD as an adult. I was a “wall-flower” as a child and remember staring out the school window a lot. I learned to self-medicate by drinking a lot of coffee, my stomach was really hurting. I was told at high school graduation by a guidance counselor who had never seen me before to not go to college, I would never get good grades. I was a straight A student for the 1st 2 years w/ a major in science and graduated w/ a high grade point, and eventually earned a Ph. D.
    But I still struggled with the self-medication, and once I started taking “Adderall” or Concerta for ADD, I find I wake up and am focused much quicker, and am on task and focused all day. It’s a huge difference and no more using caffeine to “wake up” my brain and stay “awake”! ..and no more stomach problems.

  • Renee

    My son gets in trouble for fidgeting in class. He likes to bend paper clips. His 3rd grade teacher wanted him to get tested and medicated. I refused. We have found that he retains information that is being talked about best when he can do something with his hands and now he is in 5th grade and it frustrates me that the teacher will not lit him doodle because we have learned it really helps him learn, listen, and focus on what is being lecture. It is something that he is free to do in Sunday school and comes home sharing what is being taught. But in regular school he says he is bored and can’t focus. I as a child found doodling helped me greatly but was not able to be free to do it until high school. I could go back and look at my doodle and remember what the teacher was talking about. So why can’t my son have the same freedom to do this…teacher says it would not be fair to the other students. So he can’t use a tool that helps him learn because of other children!? I find it frustrating.

    • Michael

      I encourage you to get him formally diagnosed (but not necessarily medicated unless his problem is really debilitating) and then go to the school and get an IEP (individualized educational program ??) in place that explicitly includes things like permission to doodle. I am working with my kid’s school and the teachers are supportive once they know what’s going on. But it is insanely time consuming and every year you have to re-educate a whole new set of teachers!

    • east_bay_sailor

      Ditto to what Michael said. It is better to have your kid labelled ADHD and have accomodations than to have the teacher assume he has some moral or mental defect. Some teachers will hold it against him anyhow, but in my experience most are willing to work with a kid if they know what the issue is.

      • Indian

        It is sad that people are suggesting to label the kid with ADHD. I would rather home school the kid rather than allow someone to label him with something that has a potential of putting all his failures to that label rather than teaching him that failures are a part of the game of learning and he needs to push little bit harder.

        • east_bay_sailor

          Indian: The suggestion is that the child be tested for ADHD, the results would determine what the next steps would be. If a kid really has ADHD, it is not simply a matter of needing “to push a little bit harder.” … Edit: I just saw your note about your son being labelled as ADHD, when he may not have been. I can see why that would cause you to be suspicious of the diagnosis. Believe me, when a kid really has ADHD, it is very clear that there is a real issue, it is not just normal childhood energy.

        • Janny

          I hear what you are saying about labels – but I’ve lived it. I must absolutely endorse what Michael suggests. Get the child tested as soon as possible!

          ADHD IS real. ADHD kids do react to the world differently and they need supports that other kids may not. Renee’s question regarding doodling is the exact point. ADHD kids need to be allowed to fidget and doodle — In a constructive way.

          Renee, please read my post. My son was in third grade when every thing “hit the fan.” He was constantly spinning coins, bending paperclips, fidgeting with his schools supplies, etc. He was becoming a distraction and that’s just a fact. Further, he was constantly losing every piece of paper he touched. His backpack was a mess. It was getting worse and worse.

          It took until fifth grade before my son was finally tested and diagnosed ADHD. Oh, how I hated that label in all the years before I went out and fought to get my son labeled. My mind changed and I realized I needed him to be “labeled” after his miserable third grade year.

          The sad fact is without a diagnosis, your son’s ADHD behaviors and disorganization WILL be treated as a behavior problem. My son lost recess for nearly a year before he was diagnosed: all due to lost papers.

          That third grade year I watched him transform from a bubbly, sweet, happy, social, high achieving child into a mess of sadness, depression and off the charts anxiety.

          Your son will be protected ONLY with a diagnosis of ADHD. At the point that he is diagnosed, please also realize: Your fight has only just begun. You will then have to be your child’s advocate to make sure proper interventions are included in the IEP. Then you are going to battle on behalf of your son to make sure the IEP is actually implemented. For example: I requested someone spend 10 minutes a day with my son helping him to organize his papers and reviewing his agenda with him. You would have thought I was asking for diamonds and gold by the reaction of the school. The teacher’s actual suggestion was that I should come up to the school at the end of the day and organize his papers for him. They would not give him even ten minutes a day of individualized attention to do the most basic task he needed: teach him how to be organized. That was in New Mexico.

          Now, that said, we moved to a different school system in California. Here, my son’s diagnosis has been his ticket to success. At the new school he gets help with his binder and agenda several times a week. Teachers are firm about missing papers, but they do not penalize him. Instead he is sent to the resource room as needed to finish missing work (or find it). He is allowed to doodle and fidget. He gets a seat assignment on the front row that does not ostracize him to better focus. He gets a lot of project based work too – which is very good for a busy kid. He now makes very high grades.

          To India: If ONLY it were SO EASY to pull your kid out of school and home school. Actually, before we moved to our new school district, I was going to do exactly that. I enrolled him in an online school and was prepping myself to be his teacher. The only problem with the idea of homeschooling is that not every parent is a natural born teacher. Not every parent is prepared emotionally to teach there child at home. Not every parent has the financial support to stay at home and home school Finally, not every kid is suited for home school. My son was dreading the idea. He LOVES school and he loves to be around his friends. He thrives in a social environment, does better, is less moody and more creative. Homeschool is no simple solution.

          Also, private school might have been a great idea except they are costly and still, not all private schools are prepared to deal with ADHD any better than the public school.

          Renee, please remember that a diagnosis of ADHD will help you advocate for your child and protect your child. Unfortunately, unless you are prepared to send your child to private school or homeschool, you need it. Also, it’s ok to embrace the truth: ADHD is not the end of the world AT ALL. Diagnosing it only opens up the discussion to better meet your child’s needs.

          Finally, I used to judge people who medicated their kids. (See my post above). Then I saw what was happening to my son, his sadness, his in ability to meet the demands of society were causing him to develop severe anxiety. Medication was a long a bumpy road that I hated. We did find a combination of Tenex (to control impulsivity) and Buspar (anti-anxiety). This combination has worked miracles for my son. He doesn’t act different or seem drugged. He can sit still for a few minutes and focus on his work. He isn’t so driven to fidget that he can not hear what is being said. He has voluntarily started keeping an agenda. For him, medication has been a blessing. Also, stimulants are not the only game in town. Strattera, Tenex and a few other meds help kids with ADHD without stimulant properties.

          • east_bay_sailor

            Jennifer: Great post. For the most part, we’ve found our sons’ teachers to be helpful with their IEPs, though there were a couple that seemed to hold it against the older one. We made a point to not let our younger son be put in their classes. In middle school my younger son had a resource session the first semester, but is taking an elective this semester and holding his own. The resource teacher was great, but encouraged him to move on when he was ready.
            It’s quite possible Renee’s son won’t be found to have ADHD or another learning disability, or it may be mild enough that he won’t need an IEP. Better to find out and then figure out the best approach.

  • Sarah Parker

    I’m a middle-aged woman and mother who lived with undiagnosed ADD (not much H, combined type) and am raising 2 little boys. It’s clear in me: very small working memory, executive function problems, and a scholastic history of high intelligence and frustrated teachers in the 70’s and 80’s. My older son is 5, an energetic and very bright and so far his preschool teachers say no issues but I observe the climate around school age children turning to a rush to diagnose kids and put them in treatment.
    With numbers like 10% or 1 in 9 children being “diagnosed”, plus bei g a person living this life for nearly 40 yrs, I have to say I really question how this is called a “disorder” instead of a TYPE of person among various other types with their strengths and weaknesses. An argument was made in the beginning that this “type of brain” was not a problem in human history until the widespread educational model of modern times came into play. Countries/cultures that haven’t implemented this system yet DON’T have this “ADD problem”. So is it a problem with people that needs to be treated with strong drugs and stigma, or is it a SYSTEM issue that really doesn’t work for a significant chunk of humanity? Is it fair to tell a thpe of person they have a disorder and ne

    • Elizabeth R.

      Maybe your ADD is mild, but anyone living with someone with severe ADD/ADHD can attest that it is a disorder and not just a type! However, I do think there is a good deal of merit to acknowledging the systems (particularly education systems) that make it more difficult for someone with ADD/ADHD to thrive…I would love to hear more of a discussion around this.

  • Janny

    My son has ADHD. He is exceptionally bright – gifted in fact. Yet, he can’t keep a binder full of papers organized. It has also been suggested that my son has very high functioning autism. This suggestion came because he also resists change and has some sensory sensitivities and significant anxiety. Still, he isn’t diagnosed with autism because he is very friendly and very social.

    I think the explosion in diagnosis comes from a better ability to diagnose these kids. I also think doctors really don’t have all the answers yet. I think ADHD is a label of a set of behaviors: disorganization, hyperactivity but I think these are symptoms that may be masking another deeper issue. ADHD is only our best guess at this point in time.

    I also want to say: I used to be one of those people who scoffed at ADHD diagnosis. I used to say, “They just need to give those kids longer recess!” “They just need to stimulate those kids!” “They just need to have a more active classroom!”

    Well, my son has it and he’s gifted, special, talented and amazing. He’s also different from his peers: He’s relentlessly disorganized, rushes through everything, loses everything he touches, forgets what he’s going to do on the way to go do it.

    My son needs a different set of interventions than other kids do, he needs to be taught executive functioning skills, he needs cues and reminders. And yes, he needs medication. For him it is Tenex and Buspirone. Stimulants didn’t work.

    I started actively seeking help for my son after he was tortured his third grade yet – kept in for every recess because of disorganization. It was always lost or misplaced papers. Never a lack of quality work or a refusal to do work. He became a very, very sad, very very anxious little boy that year. It was heartbreaking.

    Yes, one day he may be a brilliant scientist, engineer, architect, lawyer, or even teacher but without the right support system my son could just as easily become a wasted drop out, up able to get his act together and angry at the world because despite his brilliance, he was unable to succeed.

    I welcome the “over diagnosis” of ADHD, but I welcome it with caution. Yes, those kids who actually have ADHD need medication. I don’t want to see over medication though. On the bright side: if schools began to cater more to those kids with ADHD, I think ALL would benefit. Who would be harmed by adding another recess or “movement” break? Who would be harmed by spending more time learning how to organize a binder or learning how to use an agenda or calendar? Who would be harmed by a classroom that is designed to allow movement?

    I think medication is only 50% of the solution. It must go hand in hand with other sorts of training and intervention. The general population will not suffer if those tracings and interventions become commonplace.

    • Michael

      “relentlessly disorganized…” I LOVE that!! I think ADHD should be renamed RDD – Relentlessly Disorganized Disease!

  • DN

    I wonder how society relates to incidence of ADHD. If countries that take better care of their citizens with more egalitarian social programs have less ADHD, we could solve this problem along with many others by lifting everybody up.

  • Louis Stephenson

    I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5. I have been on stimulant medication since then, I am now 33 years old, and I am one year away from completing my PhD in clinical psychology. I consider my history to be an ADHD success story. In the course of my graduate studies, I have spent four years doing neuropsychological assessment and cognitive rehabilitation with individuals who have various neurological disorders at VA Palo Alto Health Care System. I would like to comment that the authors of “The ADHD Explosion” are offering some helpful information, but they are overemphasizing the role of emotional regulation in ADHD. At its core, this is a cognitive disorder- a disorder of thought -much more than it is a disorder of emotions. More specifically, the consensus in the field of neuropsychology is that ADHD is essentially a disorder of executive function. This means that ADHD is the result of COGNITIVE deficits in inhibition, multitasking, strategizing, planning, complex sequential tasks, etc. This means that straightforward behavioral interventions, compensatory strategies (calendars, organizational habits, time management, the use of routine), and medication should be more effective than emotional skills training or mindfulness exercises. In my personal experience, these are the only things that have helped. This is NOT a personality disorder. It is NOT a disease of emotional dysregulation. Meditation may be helpful in the immediate present, but it does not help people to become independent, to function at a high level, and to contribute to society the way that more practical interventions do.

    • Elizabeth R.

      Fascinating and I’m interested in learning more about what you have stated…can you cite some research or other materials?

  • Julie Traun

    It’s a fascinating and complicated subject. There is a group of students in the Bay Area (all identified with learning disabilities, including ADHD) who are very outspoken and passionate about this. Come hear from the real experts (the students) at AT&T this Saturday and It’s free for students and educators, with sliding scale for parents. There are many workshops and exhibitors…there is almost no issue related to variability in learning that will not be addressed at this amazing event. This is my 6th year attending as a parent of a student with learning disabilities and I always learn something new, important. And even better, you hear from the students themselves. They are creating their own learning revolution. Sign up! And continue this important conversation at AT&T. The student group is called SAFE (Student Advisors for Education) and they are the student branch of the Parents Education Network (

  • SFreader

    As a parent of a child who was formally diagnosed with ADHD twice (once through Kaiser and once through an independent child behavior specialist) I can attest to the fact that neither a tremendous amount of energy burning activities, nor stellar diet since birth was enough to change the way his mind operates. It took us three years after the initial diagnosis to find the courage to try medication. In that three-year period we: (1) switched from a public school to a private one hoping that more flexibility in teaching instructions would be helpful (it wasn’t); and (2) one parent put the career on hold in order to be there for him full time. Unfortunately, none of these steps were enough to turn him into a “convenient” student in the classroom, despite the fact that he is average to above-average academically, depending on the subject. After he started using the medication he mentioned that he now has maybe 2-3 simultaneous thoughts instead of 10-15, and he is able to finish his school tasks or switch from one task to another easily. By the way, I am not promoting medication as the only cure, I just wanted to offer one more glimpse into the life of a family with an ADHD kid.

  • east_bay_sailor

    I have two sons with ADHD, one is inattentive type and the other hyperactive. They need different medications and are very different in style, but their issues are real and biological. My older son is in college now, keeps track of his own meds and is thriving. He still loses stuff on a regular basis, but he deals with it. My younger one is hyperactive and works best with short acting meds, it is amazing how he goes from bouncing off the walls to sitting down and working through his homework on his own initiative as the meds kick in. We’ve had a lot of stress but I’m pretty optimistic about both of them long term.

  • Indian

    The main motivation to put so many kids on drugs is only Money, Why else would any one label a kid with ADHD because the kids wants to run around and not sit on a chair whole day. These drugs only make the kid less and less active. Need to find better fun filled methods of teaching rather than popping a pill in the mouth.

    • Sfedblog

      Indian, yours is a statement that can only be the product of lack of experience.

      • Indian

        No Sir, I am talking with experience. My son’s school teacher was very adamant in making sure my son was labelled as ADHD because he was naughty and did not understand what she was saying. We removed him from that school,put him in another school with a nice and caring teacher. Today my son is in 2nd year Engineering in UC Berkeley. Had we listened to his old teacher and given him drugs not sure if he would have been even able to complete his high school

        • Steven

          Best wishes to your son. Thanks for adding that part about your experience.
          This show was an Adderall infomercial.

          BTW, add/adhd are indicators of intelligence; lots of nerve receptors and thus able to think (the downside being there are lot more receptors so body can be more sensitive).

        • east_bay_sailor

          Sorry you went through that. It is one thing for a teacher to raise concerns, but they are NOT qualified to make a diagnosis. In our younger son’s case the teacher told us what she was observing, but diagnosis was made by a neuropsychologist. If we had not paid for it, the school district would have had to have him tested on their dime, but we wanted someone who was independent.

  • As a clinical neuropsychologist practicing in the East Bay (Pleasanton), I was sorely disappointed that despite the many excellent points highlit by Mr. Krasny and Drs. Scheffler and Hinshaw in this program, there was incorrect and devaluative information made of the non-pharmaceutical, direct psychophysiological treatment for AD/HD called EEG biofeedback that demonstrably strengthens capacities of the prefrontal cortex and normalizes attention performance. This has been available for a quarter of a century now and is a LEVEL 1 treatment according to the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011. Further, there was also NO MENTION of the critical rule out of entities with attention deficitis such as sensory processing & integration problems, toxin overload, correctable metabolic issues, trauma & anxiety, none of which improve with stimulants but beg for other treatments. See the books GETTING RID OF RITALIN (Eduardo Castro, M.D. and ADHD: the 24 HOUR SOLUTION by (Steinberg & Othmer). Grayce Stratton, Psy.D.

    • east_bay_sailor

      We tried biofeedback with our boys, it may have had some benefits but it did NOT get them off of medication.

  • Sfedblog

    As a parent of a 12 y.o. child who was diagnosed at age 7, I was disappointed by this program. Neither of these two experts are the kinds of practitioners I would look to for treatment given their constant negative characterization on ADHD as a way of being in the world. I heard almost nothing positive from them about the up side of the ADHD brain – yet another example of how Western medicine treats illness rather than promotes wellness. I don’t mean that in some new-agey way, but rather as a keen observer who has seen the dynamism of the personality that can be the rendering of the ADHD mind.

    Many physicians do more damage than good by promulgating the specious idea that people with ADHD are sick and the moderator bought into it hook line and sinker. I’m not saying that ADHD can’t be a major problem if it goes untreated, whatever effective that treatment may be, but this interview really focused on the the negatives of a set of behavioral symptoms that have many attributes as well. It just goes to show that focus, in and of itself, is not the end all to be all.

  • Haw Haw

    Oh we’ve been only poisoning the entire population for over 100 years now. Could be any # of reasons it’s on the rise.

    • Steven

      no, metals, glyphosate, foreign injected dna, radiation, and on and on, couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it. what are you thinking?

  • Michael G. Gingerich

    I hope KQED isn’t just jumping-on-the-bandwagon and using Hinshaw and Scheffler’s book to do a story. Their book is scholarly and well-done, but it is only one viewpoint on this issue. I also hope KQED is wise enough to either include some of the national experts on ADHD in this story or do a separate program with them.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Unfortunately there is an over diagnosis that takes away from these children, or lack of understanding. Along with that statements such as “we all have ADHD” or “I have ADHD once in a while”. In an ideal world ADHD demands certain education, learning mechanisms, room to explore and an enabling platform where its unparalleled strengths can blossom. Thanks for sharing.

    • There is also a population that is significantly under diagnosed – females, especially high achieving females. There are many women like me who are not diagnosed until their 30s, usually after a trigger that is the breaking point – often it’s the birth of a second child, as it was for me. I agree that ADHD demands am environment in which students are supported and nurtured, as ADHD does come with gifts.

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