ADHD over-diagnosis?

Jim Stergios writes a good blog post about ADHD over-diagnosis. He writes:

ADHD is a frequently diagnosed behavioral disorder among American students. As the PreventDisease.com folks note, "currently there are no neurological markers for ADHD." (An excerpt from a great Frontline investigation can be found here.) The website summarizes the findings in this way:

"There could be something wrong with the way ADHD is diagnosed in young children in the US, one found that nearly 1 million kids are potentially misdiagnosed just because they are the youngest in their kindergarten year, with the youngest in class twice as likely to be on stimulant medication, while the other study confirmed that whether children were born just before or just after the kindergarten cutoff date significantly affected their chances of being diagnosed with ADHD."

I asked a friend about what she sees in her school. She replied:

I don't think the issue is an over-diagnosis of kids, but an over-diagnosis of boys. School culturally caters to females, if you really think about it. Sitting still, waiting patiently, writing stories about non-violent, realistic, domestic topics are all things we teach little girls to do and then reward them for when they get to school. On the other hand, we teach little boys to play pretend, run around, get into fantasy superhero and play-violence roles and video games, then punish them for it at school.

She recommends the PBS show Raising Cain. She adds:

Students with other diagnoses are often double-labeled with ADHD because of the available medications. Right now, we have a teenager with PDD-NOS being treated with Ritalin and another one with an Emotional Impairment (depression) being treated with Concerta. (Note: both those medications are generally used to treat hyperactivity disorder).

Onee girl has a learning disability and zero history of behavioral problems; she mentioned to her doctor this summer that she has trouble concentrating sometimes, and (boom) is now also on Concerta.

I get so many calls from doctors and parents asking for my observations for medicated kid. But they never asked us for our assessment of what’s going on in school before giving our a prescription for a serious drug. Crazy!

Related: Dan Willingham explains sugar does not make kids hyper.

But sugar does make moms think their kids are hyper. I suspect this holds for teachers, too.

This reminds me of some challenges facing rookie teachers: how to handle the "wisdom" that comes their way.

They will hear, in the faculty lounge, from various veteran teachers, that: it's hard to teach period 1 kids (sleepy), period 3 kids (before lunch, hungry and distracted), period 4 kids (after lunch, full and sugar high), period 5 and 6 kids (sugar is low), period 7 kids (late in day, everyone wants to go home), etc.

If you follow the logic, only period 2 is "good" for teaching.