THE AAP DOES IT AGAIN
The latest effluvia disgorged by the American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization vigorously striving to supplant, or at least acquire veto power over, parental authority, is a disturbing reminder and indictment of its own member’s practices.
In this greasy ooze, these solons offer guidance on selecting which children are sufficiently wearisome to their parents (both the custodial and the in loco variety) to need drugging with Soma... I mean Ritalin..., in a left-handed acknowledgement that their members have wallowed in a completely promiscuous abandon in this matter in the past. They’re saying, in effect, that maybe, just maybe, a few of their millions of misdiagnoses made thus far have been poorly founded and excessive, while hastening to add that there are also undoubtedly some poor victims of this mythical ADD/ADHD syndrome tragically left unmedicated.
If the practice were not so pernicious, one would have to smile, contemptuous but entertained, at these dealers pompously trying to spin their previous malpractice into mere over-earnestness. But of course, it is that pernicious. One can only recoil in horror at the thought of the beautiful little children whose vivaciousness and precocity have been made the excuse for utter betrayal by the adults upon whom they rely for protection and nurturing.
Frankly, any doctor who prescribes this or any other psychoactive agent to a child not engaging in chronic physically endangering behavior ought to be stripped of their license and imprisoned for child abuse, along with most of the parents who permitted it and all of the teachers or social workers who encouraged it.
My inclination is to classify parents who are a party to this practice into two groups: Those who would have slain their babies in the womb if they had had any idea that raising them actually required effort and occasional inconvenience, and, having missed that chance are seizing upon the next best thing; and those who have been misled by a combination of ignorance and foul influences into this abomination.
This latter group consists of those who naively put their faith in voices speaking from alleged positions of authority in the education and medical industries, thus making the error of equating the authority attendant upon a position of power with the authority of expertise and worth. Unfortunately, these are two very different things. The fact that someone has power and/or prestige in the community does not mean that they are deserving of either. But that disconnect won’t stop such persons from advising an anxious parent. Such a parent, facing a tag-team approach from teachers and doctors (both of whose professions are shamelessly promoted by their own members and other symbiotic beneficiaries of institutional authority as knowledgeable and selfless), can be afforded some forgiveness for their errors.
The involvement of ‘educators’ in this tragedy is particularly ugly. Much of the time the impetus for this loathsome practice first arises when little Johnny is seen to be doing poorly in school, or is categorized as ‘disruptive’ in class. An objective observer would perceive that the problem is either curricula so utterly dumbed-down that little Johnny is bored out of his mind, or teachers so slothful and dull that they are unwilling or unable to creatively engage the bubbling exuberance and raw energy of healthy, curious, and alert young spirits. But rather than critically examine their own performance and/or fitness for their profession, the Procrustean ‘education establishment’ recommends that Johnny be drugged into a more manageable state.
Happily, there is now a growing revulsion to this crime which offers some promise of stemming its proliferation, and this American Academy of Pediatrics declaration is a bow, however reluctant and dissembling, to the trend. It is also a firebreak attempt, by which this group of scoundrels hopes to defuse a backlash that might threaten its ambitions to secure a firmer and broader position as an entrenched authority overseeing the general situation of children and child-rearing in the United States. (SeeThe Perils of Pediatrics for more on this issue).
There might be a bright side to this tragic expression of cultural degeneracy if reaction to its excesses helps teach us some lessons with which we can regain our footing. Such as that unionized schools are the worst places in the country for children; that the medical and teaching professions are just industries and not sainthood apprenticeship programs; and that a child needs and deserves (and will reward) time and attention and sacrifice and patience..., things that only parents, not pills and not "the village", can give.
Perhaps it’s time to end the welfare state that encourages single-parent families. Maybe we should forego some pet government programs so that spending, and consequently taxes, can be lowered enough that one of a kid's parents can afford to stay home and raise the kids. Our children are watching and learning from our examples. Let’s show them the right way to go.
When I wrote the above piece, it was with some trepidation, knowing that some kids out there really do have a need for treatment, and their parents, upon reading this, would be hurt by it. I am sorry to say that this did indeed happen, and I regret that pain. But I do not repudiate the article. Rather, I offer some clarification, which follows, in the form of a reply to one such parent who wrote me in response to the original piece.
You are most gracious in your measured response to what I can readily imagine seemed a most offensive and heartless assault. I was reluctant to make that posting for fear that good people like yourself might be hurt, and I sincerely regret any such effect.
As one intimately affected, I imagine you are thoroughly familiar with the rapidly growing scholarship on this subject, addressing the issue of the mysterious proliferation of previously unknown syndromes suddenly afflicting those societies wealthy enough to pay for treatment, which fail to meet traditional standards of diagnosis or classification. While ADD/ADHD is by no means the sole object of these studies and writings, it is a prominent one. These syndromes tend to be characterized by either a lumping together of many unexplainable conditions under one title and/or the lowering of the bar to reclassify a previously "normal" behavior or condition into one requiring treatment.
Legitimate conditions truly needing treatment are usually and understandably the launching point for this sort of 'pop' medicine, and, as you are by my judgment a careful, intelligent, and discerning man, I am confident that your son was indeed in need of and is benefiting from, his treatment, as are others also brought under the umbrella of what may be for all the rest an over- and carelessly diagnosed condition. I simply feel that either he, and the others legitimately in need, should not be classified as ADD sufferers, or those falling in the other class of the more casually diagnosed should not be.
Typically in these cases, the cure tends to be the driving force seeking a condition to address, particularly when it is a drug. I was stimulated to write the ADD piece after seeing advertising for a new 'treatment' for a new 'malady' called "Social Anxiety Disorder", which is to say (as the ad makes clear), normal fear of public speaking, or even simple introversion. This, combined with the AAP's issuing of it's protective clarifications, acknowledging in the process a history of over-diagnosis, demanded a response.
I fear that for many children, Ritalin is being used as a baby-sitter, and for many others, it is supplanting more finely-tuned therapies. Particularly, I fear medical diagnosis and treatment which is driven by perverse incentives. I have pasted below one of many articles dealing with this subject.
I am by nature very conservative, and I find it much
easier to believe
that a sudden eruption of 7 million cases of a completely subjectively
defined malady pouring large amounts of money into the pockets of those
making the diagnosis, or contributing to their place in society, represents
a self-serving manipulation of the facts rather than a dramatic and
I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this with
you, and must say
that I hold you in ever-higher regard the more that we have corresponded.
Diagnosis: Money-Making Opportunity
by: F.R. Duplantier
DeWeese contends that Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are "frauds. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to prove either exists. Yet today," he notes, "almost seven million children have been diagnosed as having ADD or ADHD. And most have been placed on a behavior-altering drug called Ritalin, which is supposed to be the miracle answer to a nonexistent problem."
DeWeese emphasizes that "there has never been issued a single peer-reviewed scientific paper officially claiming to prove that ADD or ADHD exists. So-called experts on the subject have refused to answer the simple question, 'Is ADD or ADHD a real disease?' Medical researchers," he adds, "charge that ADHD does not meet the medical definition of a disease or syndrome or anything organic or biologic."
ADD and ADHD do meet the financial definition of a disease or syndrome, however! "Since ADD was invented by the American Psychiatric Association, psychiatric hospitalizations to private hospitals have tripled," DeWeese observes. "Insurance healthcare fraud is a $60 to $80 billion-a-year business," he reports. "But it's only the tip of the iceberg. . . . The greatest source of new profits for the psychiatric industry is the schools," DeWeese charges. "As education restructuring grew into a full-blown behavior-modification assault designed to change the attitudes, values, and beliefs of the children, a key element in the process was to turn healthy children into 'patients.' By diagnosing a child to have a mental disorder like ADD or ADHD," he explains, "the school could gain federal funds."
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 "changed education forever," recalls DeWeese. "It was," he says, "psychology's crowning moment." DeWeese notes that the Act "allocated massive federal funds and opened school doors to a flood of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and the psychiatric programs and testing needed to validate them. The number of educational psychologists in the U.S.," he reports, "increased from 455 in 1969 to 16,146 in 1992."
DeWeese points out that a 1991 change in eligibility requirements provided schools with $400 in annual federal education grant money for each child diagnosed with ADHD. "That same year," he continues, "the Department of Education formally recognized ADHD as a handicap and directed all state education officers to establish procedures to screen and identify ADHD children and provide them with special education and psychological services. As a result," says DeWeese, "the number of cases soared."