Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be being diagnosed excessively and misrepresented in schools, education and medical experts said in a panel discussion held yesterday in Taipei.
During the discussion, titled “Lack of concentration is nobody’s fault: Children should not be canned as in a cannery,” the audience listened to teachers, doctors, experts and mothers talking about how children with ADHD are perceived and treated in school.
Taiwan Child Development Association managing supervisor Chang Ming-hui (張明慧), who has a daughter that has been diagnosed with ADHD, said that not a day goes by without her daughter turning her house into a mess or her son complaining about his little sister’s naughtiness, but her daughter “also teaches him new things, such as how to be adventurous and bold.”
Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭), executive director of the Humanistic Education Foundation, which hosted the discussion, said that children with ADHD are often labeled at school by teachers as troublemakers, while the positive effects of the disorder, such as courage and curiosity, are highly undervalued.
What makes the discrimination in educational settings more worrying is that ADHD is now being widely misused by schools to blame parents of disobedient children for not taking them to a child psychiatrist or making them take medication.
Lee Chia-yan (李佳燕), a family physician who has a son with ADHD, said that dozens of her child patients had been asked by teachers to see a psychiatrist because the teacher “suspected they had ADHD.”
However, Lee often found that many of the children suspected of having the disorder simply misbehaved or disrupted the class for reasons that were either not understood or overlooked by their teachers or parents.
“It’s ridiculous for a parent to take a preschooler to see me just because the teacher believes the kid’s desire to play outdoors is too strong. What else do you expect a preschooler to want to do?” Lee asked.
“I’ve also heard complaints about children’s psychiatrists prescribing ADHD medication after holding only a brief consultation with a patient,” she added.
Lee asked whether excessively diagnosing and misrepresenting the disease is a phenomenon stemming from adults’ impatience with restless children.
“What is ‘normal’ anyway? Medication might tame restless children, but it might also deprive them of their creativity and limit their potential. I believe that if we trust our children and refrain from controlling them too much, they will find their own way to balance themselves,” Lee said.