A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Conclusion (Personal): ADHD Medication Debate

Conclusion (Personal): ADHD Medication Debate

            According to the Center for Disease Control, “[r]ates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007.  (CDC, 2010) Facing mounting pressure because of a national 30% dropout rate (Thornburgh, 2006), stressed school systems may be driving the spike in ADHD diagnoses. Given the high stakes climate, there is a tendency for educators to seek ways to fight irritating symptoms like an inability to focus, impulsiveness, and disruptive classroom behaviors, (Berger, 297) even when the root causes are uncertain. Citing the disproportionality of ADHD diagnoses, O’Connor featured Lefever’s observation that “two Virginia school districts alone revealed that the rate of ADHD drug treatment was two to three times higher than the national estimates for the disorder.” (O’Connor, 2001) Inconsistencies suggest that more study is needed.
Given the reliance on survey forms completed by teachers and parents, the diagnostic process seems dangerously subjective. Attention is shifted away from inappropriate instructional practices when students are labeled with a learning disability. A medical diagnosis of ADHD becomes written into an Individualized Education Plan as an Other Health Impairment, which protects the school system, the school, and the student from punitive aspects of education legislation.
Berger argues that “medication plus psychotherapy” is the “most effective treatment.” (Berger, 297) Given the recent spike in ADHD diagnoses, I would argue on the other hand, for primary prevention and the national adoption of Universal Design for Learning principles to make learning more accessible. (CAST, 2011) If instruction were redesigned to make learning more accessible, a primary prevention, the need for medication should go down.
My position is evolving, and my skepticism about the use of medication has only grown as a result of the debate. Currently, in my graduate studies, I am researching ADD without hyperactivity and other comorbid conditions and what teachers can do to make learning more accessible for children with ADD. While Berger notes that the use of medication plus treatment is supported by numerous studies, I wonder about the effectiveness of treating symptoms without addressing root causes. If the cause is systemic, a tertiary treatment option is only a band aid on a much bigger problem.
Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). (2011). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retreived from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the lifespan. New York: Worth.
O’Connor, E. (2001). Medicating ADHD: Too much? Too soon? American Psychological Institute. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/dec01/medicating.aspx
Thornburgh, N. (2006). Dropout nation. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1181646,00.html
What is Universal Design for Learning? (2011). National Center for Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html