Did I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a child?

I never thought so but looking down the list of symptoms I would saythat I probably did. As a child and teen I often had trouble organizingactivities, was easily distracted and forgetful, and frequently did notseem to listen when spoken to.

Also, I was often impulsive and hyperactive at a level that authority figures deemed disruptive and inappropriate.

Happily, I never received any medical or psychological category thatcould validate or give any level of social credence to my unacceptablebehaviour. Unacceptable or inappropriate behaviour was simply that whenI was growing up and if I failed to find a way to control or channel itappropriately then there were consequences. Ultimately I got themessage.

Today it would be an understatement to say that there has been a surge in the number of students diagnosed with ADHD.

In fact, according to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control andPrevention, ADHD and its close cousin attention-deficit disorder (ADD)is "one of the most common neurobehavioural disorders of childhood."

But are we really being confronted with a bona fide neurobehaviouralepidemic or are we simply using the ADHD stamp to legitimize ourfailure as a society to properly parent and control the behaviour ofour children?

In many cases, my answer to that would be yes.

Our permissive culture

Itshould not come as a surprise that as Canadian schools increasinglymove towards a culture of permissiveness — where we theorize aboutrather than react to unacceptable behaviour — that the number of ADHDcases should be on the rise.

And while I do not doubt that there may be some genuine cases outthere, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that ADHD is not anexcuse by many students and their parents to avoid taking fullownership of their problems.

From where I sit, behaviour once considered unacceptable,obstructive and inappropriate is increasingly being mollified andrationalized under the ADHD stamp, which ultimately allows these youngpeople and their parents to think that these attitudes are acceptableand explainable at some higher level.

But would the same recent surge in ADHD have happened if thetraditional patterns of family routines and expectations had notchanged?

What if children and teens suddenly sacrificed their freedom to surfthe net or play video games at all hours of the day for a morestructured regime and perhaps even the quiet contemplation of readingbooks (or being read to)?

Do you think that might not have some impact on the number of "diagnosed" cases of ADHD?

What clinches the debate for me is the fact that I have personallyencountered so few cases of ADHD among certain groups of immigrants whotend to have family rules and high academic expectations for theirchildren.

What should teachers do?

So how are teacherslike me to proceed in cases where we are expected to accommodate ADHDstudents who obstruct the class, are unfocused and can't followroutines?

The list of what to do is extensive and, of course, varies from caseto case. However, among the possible accommodations suggested by theCentre for ADD/ADHD Advocacy Canada are reduced homework and courseload, extended time limits, note-taking assistance, and "alternativetest formats," which often translate into less academically challengingtests for these individuals.

How then is a future university or employer supposed to judge fairlybetween competing candidates? Also, thanks in part to the growingpopularity of what's called progressive discipline, students who runamok in the schools can often have appropriate disciplinary actiondeferred or dispensed with altogether.

As a result, behaviour that in the not-so-distant past would haveresulted in suspension or detention will instead receive a warning orsome form of restitution (such as an apology).

Fortunately, the patterns of behaviour commonly associated with ADHDseem, in some cases at least, to diminish as teens approach adulthood.

In other cases the ADHD symptoms mysteriously seem to disappear when away from school property.

I cannot help, sometimes, being a little suspicious, when I am madeaware of some ADHD student I know who is working industriously at apart-time job, such as a cashier in a busy grocery store, anenvironment that would not seem to be very ADHD friendly.

Can the symptoms of ADHD, so vividly played out and oftenaccommodated in the school, suddenly disappear at the paid job, only toreappear at the ringing of the next school bell?

Why do I seem so callous here? Call me old-fashioned but experiencehas taught me that the most accommodating school system, one full ofexcuses, is not always the best for the student in the long run. Thereis a real world out there and it should begin in the classroom.

Source: CBC.ca, Canada – http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/02/24/f-vp-smol.html