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article imageResearch States Hyperactivity Label May Be Harmful

By Carol Forsloff     May 29, 2009 in Health
A Canadian researcher has determined that doctors,authors and educators may be looking at attention deficit disorder in the wrong way. He believes that hyperactivity is a fairly recent classification, derived from social not historical events.
A Canadian researcher has determined that doctors authors and educators may be looking at attention deficit disorder and hyperactive children in the wrong way. He believes that hyperactivity is a fairly recent classification, not historical.
Matthew Smith, completing his doctorate at the Center for medical history at the University of Exeter, says that the current notion about hyperactivity is all wrong. He maintains that it misleads patients their parents and the doctors. Contemporary belief is that the phenomena has always been around, but Smith states that prior to the 1950s it wasn't something cited in the literature and therefore was clinically and culturally not significant.
The concern is that hyperactivity is a very commonly -diagnosed childhood psychiatric problem for which medication is prescribed. Smith argues although prior to 1957 hyperactive behavior existed, at that time it was not considered a pathology requiring treatment. The diagnostic classification, Smith states, comes from social, cultural, political and economic changes that have occurred during the last half-century. In other words it is a matter of perception of what is aberrant behavior.
This leads to questions regarding why we think there is a problem with children that needs to be fixed and why it needs to be fixed with drugs like Ritalin. He further believes if one considers hyperactivity a disease that needs treatment, then one must examine the context of the definition and diagnosis. For example Smith uses the analogy of a child playing soccer where a high level of activity would be acceptable versus a child simply confined to a classroom, which is what often happens to many children these days.
Smith's premises fly in the face of many of the clinical arguments concerning ADHD. In fact one website states clearly that "most substantiated causes appear to fall in the category of biology and genetics. This is not to say that environmental factors may not influence the severity of the disorder, and especially the degree of impairment and suffering the child may experience, but that such factors do not seem to give rise to the condition by themselves." The experts go on to say that parents should be focused on looking for possible ways to help their child while scientists look for better ways to treat and prevent ADHD.
While some experts advocate drug therapy like Ritalin, still others observed that 20% of children don't respond to it well. So a non-medical approach is suggested like behavioral therapy or behavior management. This is a token-based, reinforcement- based way of managing behavior teaching children to behave in socially acceptable ways. What will it mean for this type of therapy if Smith's research is validated? It may mean a second look not only at medication but also at the types of psychological therapies used as well, at least that is what is implied by Smith's information.
More about Hyperactivity, Behavioral therapy, Drug treatment
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