When it comes to ADHD everyone has an opinion, and it’s usually uninformed. But when journalists write an opinion piece we assume that they have been informed by research and by consulting those who have lived experience. Not so with ADHD. Articles are written with little or no regard for the facts, creating a body of Alternative ADHD Facts.
And then there’s the unkindness, which is really stigma, and has no place in journalism.
One article in particular has caught my eye this week for its unkind and uninformed attack on a group parents who do it tough on a daily basis (ADHD: The cop-out diagnosis for lazy parents, by Kylie Lang, associate editor of the Courier Mail). You can find the link to this article at the end of this blog.
Parents, I hope this arms you with facts to address but a few of the Alternative ADHD Facts doing the rounds. Inspired by recent global events, I also encourage you to start an ADHD March. Not a physical march. Use your voices – add them to mine. At the end of this article I provide links where you can report stigmatising journalism. Be heard.
Alternative ADHD Fact 1: ADHD is not a real condition (it is a “meaningless label” that is confused with normal, if annoying, childhood behaviour.)
The Facts: What do scientific researchers say? ADHD is described by The Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) as a serious condition that causes significant problems for children in all areas: educational, social, emotional and behavioural. Without treatment, children are at risk of increased mental health problems, failure at school and university, employment difficulties, relationship issues and substance abuse. ADHD is recognised as a mental health condition in Australia.
Alternative ADHD Fact 2: ADHD is over-diagnosed in Australian children (the ‘ADHD Explosion’).
The Facts: In Western Australia, where these current Alternative ADHD Facts originated, we know that 1.9% of children are prescribed medication for ADHD. Let’s compare that figure to the prevalence rate of ADHD in children, which has been determined by scientific researchers. The NHMRC confirms that to be between 5% and 7%. When we examine the scientific facts, there is no evidence of over-diagnosis.
Alternative ADHD Fact 3: ADHD is diagnosed by uninformed adults. (‘Parents, often supported by teachers in their unqualified assessment, march in to a doctor’s room and demand a prescription’ and ‘some doctors are willing to treat with amphetamines what can be cured with tough love and patience while maturity kicks in’).
The Facts: ADHD can only be diagnosed and treated by a specialist paediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist. In order for a diagnosis to be made there needs to be evidence of impairment across more than one setting. Input is required from parents, teachers, and other professionals. Doctors who prescribe ADHD medication require a licence to do so, and are highly accountable for their prescription practices.
Alternative ADHD Fact 4: ADHD is caused by bad parenting.
The Facts: What do scientific researchers say? According to the NHMRC ADHD is a biological condition. This fact has been established by extensive research in the fields of neuro-imaging, genetics and neuro-psychology. Research also tells us that parenting children with ADHD is exceptionally challenging. Parents are more likely to develop depression and marriages are more likely to end in separation or divorce as a result of the challenges associated with parenting a child with ADHD.
Alternative ADHD Fact 5: Lazy parents (and teachers) opt for pills as a quick fix.
The Facts: Medication for ADHD is only a part of the treatment. And some parents choose not to use it at all. But it’s all we hear about in the media. The truth is that parents are investing a lot of time and money to treat their children’s ADHD. Behaviour management, therapy, tutoring, coaching, social skills training, occupational therapy, speech therapy all have a place, and a price tag.
How can you join the ADHD March?
Report this article to SANE StigmaWatch https://www.sane.org/changing-attitudes/report-a-media-item-to-stigmawatch
ADHD is recognised in Australia as a mental health condition. According to SANE:
Media reports are stigmatising if they represent mental illness in ways that are inaccurate or offensive. A stigmatising report may encourage people to fear or be unsympathetic towards people with a mental illness, to mock or invite ridicule of them, or give inaccurate or misleading facts about mental illness.
According to SANE, stigma discourages people from seeking help, makes recovery harder, and causes isolation. See their guide to reducing stigma here: https://www.sane.org/images/PDFs/SANE-Guide-to-Reducing-Stigma.pdf
You will need the link to the article for your report: http://www.couriermail.com.au/rendezview/adhd-the-copout-diagnosis-for-lazy-parents-and-teachers/news-story/fa54eb9a14b64b5f67682f5d5ecfc930