There's no denying that A.D.H.D is a strong and overwhelming disorder (read: a real disturbance in the affected's lives). But, there's also no ignoring the fact that over the past few years its diagnosis in America has been on a sharp incline. So, we were struck upon reading BoingBoing science editor Maggie Koerth-Baker's article in The New York Times Magazine . Koerth-Baker, who herself is affected by the disorder, draws a connection between the numbers of diagnoses and the pressure for students to compete at high levels on standardized tests under the No Child Left Behind Act.
You see, the act links federal funding to a given school's test performance, thereby also linking the given district's desire for a child to score as well as possible — even if that means an A.D.H.D diagnosis and medication to make it happen. (And even though some children with A.D.H.D's scores may not even count toward the final school averages.) While this sounds cynical and maybe even paranoid, a study conducted by University of California, Berkeley psychology professor, Stephen Hinshaw, suggests that "sociological influences," specifically "educational policies," are to blame for the staggering difference in A.D.H.D numbers between California and North Carolina. North Carolina, one of the first states to link finances to test performance found "15.6 percent of kids between the ages of four and 17" to have the disorder, while California, one of the last states to adopt the act had a much different number of just 6.2 percent that same year.
As Koerth-Baker herself admits, "Those are correlations, not causal links. But A.D.H.D., education policies, disability protections, and advertising freedoms all appear to wink suggestively at one another." Indeed, with less recess time, more work, and the pressure to get good grades (in order to get into a good college, in order to compete in the suffering job market), "It’s easy to look at that situation and speculate how 'A.D.H.D.' might have become a convenient societal catchall for what happens when kids are expected to be miniature adults." And, even adults can have trouble focusing and also need to absorb information at their own speeds, in their own uniquely tailored ways.
Photo: Via New York Times Magazine.