Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Learning Continues, Even During Thanksgiving

My son Andrew, age 17, was home from school for eight days for Thanksgiving. This was a wonderful week. Andrew played with his longtime best buddy. He slept late. He enjoyed watching sports events and playing electronic games. He enjoyed visiting with various cousins for four days. We greeted at church. We caught up on his thoughts. He (and I) ate lots of goodies. And he had to prepare a two-page editorial commentary on a current news event. It dampened the holiday a little, but learning never ends.

When we think back on the most positive experiences in life, there are always the great teachers. When we think about the most miserable experiences that we survived, for many of us there are teachers. This is so evident and important that the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) operates a program titled, Parents and Teachers as Allies (PTasA). CHADD is in the process of translating our successful Educators' Manual on AD/HD into a six-hour, three-component in-service training program for teachers. A team of volunteers developed the manual and is developing the in-service program. Charitable organizations are so fortunate to have volunteers contributing their passion and knowledge without pay. We will be field testing the in-service program during 2008 and will officially launch it at our next annual conference, to be held in Anaheim, November 13-15, 2008.

Two weeks ago we held our annual conference outside Washington, DC, with 1,600 total attendees. We took roughly 600 attendees to Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress and they focused on the reality of living with AD/HD. We sold out our 20th anniversary gala dinner at 680 people; the event featured James Carville speaking about the need for a truly individualized education that respects the learning needs and style of every child, and talking about his AD/HD and his daughter's AD/HD. Saturday sessions focused on the needs of teachers to be successful in the classroom: “Behavioral Strategies for the Classroom,” “Using Evidence-Based Strategies to Teach the Student with AD/HD and Learning Disabilities,” “Teens Talk: A Training Program for Middle and High School Teachers,” and “Family-School Success,” among others. During the closing plenary session, Bob Brooks, PhD, spoke on “Discarding Myths, Nurturing Resilience” through a strengths-based approach to raising and educating children. Bob is always a wonderfully inspiring speaker. I told him in a thank-you note that I wish every teacher in America could hear his presentation and be personally tutored by him. Staying focused on what each child does well really builds self-esteem.

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving. I did.


Monday, November 19, 2007

AD/HD is Real and the Earth is Round

MSN UK News Editor Laura J. Snook recently wrote an opinion piece on AD/HD entitled “High on life: The biggest health care fraud in history.” Below is CHADD’s response to Ms. Snook’s misinformation, which we posted on the MSN UK Web site.

AD/HD is Real and the Earth is Round
Laura Snook’s piece is a prime example of the types of misinformation that can be disseminated on the Internet through what are otherwise reputable Web sites. Practically all of the assertions that she makes in this story about AD/HD are inaccurate and completely unscientific.

It is worth noting that Ms. Snook chose to reach back several thousand years to quote Hippocrates about AD/HD, when she could have highlighted the mountain of evidence in recent years from government and academic researchers that shows AD/HD is a real neurobiological disorder that can have devastating consequences if left untreated.

In fact, Ms. Snook did not reference one single researcher who has had his or her work on the subject published in a peer-reviewed journal. Instead, she relied on anecdotal information and urban legends (We’re drugging the Tom Sawyers again!) to make her point. It’s quite interesting that even she unwittingly provides numbers in her story that clearly show that a considerable number of people go untreated.

True, many children can at times demonstrate inattentiveness, restlessness, forgetfulness, and hyperactivity. That is not necessarily AD/HD. But for millions of children these symptoms can become so severe that they can lead to, among other things, school failure, car accidents and even incarceration. Later in life they can interfere with employment, relationships, and general well-being.

As the father of a 17-year-old son with AD/HD and co-occurring challenges, I know the disorder can make every day a struggle for happiness and success. Ms. Snook declares that she will never be a parent, but those of us with children want what is best for them. Professional, community, faith-based, family, and peer supports are helpful to us. Ideological declarations about Hippocrates, on the other hand, are not.

The best in scientific research, including recent study findings, shows us that a combination of medication, behavioral management, parent/child education about the disorder, educational adaptations, and parent training are all important to effectively treating the disorder.

Anyone interested in information that is more recent than vague comments from over 2,000 years ago, can visit the Web sites of the following U.S. organizations and government institutions: CHADD, the National Resource Center on AD/HD, a program of CHADD, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the meantime, it is our hope that Ms. Snook will refrain from relying on antiquated information, urban legends, and emotional arguments to address questions that have been answered by recent scientific studies. We’re afraid she will soon be quoting people from the Middle Ages about the shape of the earth!

E. Clarke Ross, DPA
Chief Executive Officer
Children & Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder www.chadd.org