ADHD Hall Of Shame: A Sociological Perspective Misses the Mark.

I’m done with the narrow-minded and sometimes just plain wrong ADHD “experts” out there who clearly don’t know their subject matter well-enough, and the reporters who edit and enable them. So I’m taking a page out of the Puritan playbook and shaming them now, in my blog. Just a blog, right? No tarring and feathering. Just verbal lashes. I realize that even giving this stuff attention might be bad…but I’m taking the gamble that pointing out how bad these types of pieces are, maybe people will stop writing them. Because they’re AWFUL. And who wants to be known for AWFUL.

Alrighty then…let’s take a look at this stellar piece from the Brandeis University Community Newspaper, the Brandeis Hoot. Yes, I’m picking on a student writer and her student paper, but more importantly, their expert interviewee, Peter Conrad, Professor of…Sociology? Sociology? Not neurobiology. Not special education. Not a subgenre of psychiatry…sociology. The study of groups of people and how they interrelate. Okay…well I guess I don’t have a degree either…of course I don’t claim to be an “expert” in ADHD, just a blogger who reads a lot. Alright, I won’t pick on the paper and the writer…just the interviewee. Because, as a man of learning, and a teacher of learners, he should know better.

This expert in sociology says, and I quote:

“My concern is about the medicalization of society. It’s turning all differences, and in this case, behavioral and cognitive differences, into some kind of pathology that needs to be treated,” Conrad said. He continued, “Anytime somebody is underperforming in school or not doing as well on standardized tests, or not doing as well in their behavior in paying attention in classrooms, well, they may have ADHD.”
Talk about a fermented mash of apples and oranges, folks.
1) Ah yes, I see, he IS a sociologist, he’s concerned about medicalization of society. So he thinks that scientifically documented medical issues shouldn’t exist, because he doesn’t like them? That’s what I’m taking away there…and that doesn’t make sense. Maybe my whole problem with this article can be solved by my impending decision that sociologists don’t exist.
2) He does touch on the possibility that overdiagnosis may be an issue. Hmmm. Well that’s a hot topic right now, funny he should mention it. Some populations experience underdiagnosis, professor. This literature review might give him a starting point for understanding this aspect of the issue…the work is out there… Of course, many clinicians are about as well-informed as this sociologist apparently is. And they should be better information. Patients are being misidentified, turned away, and yes, in SOME cases overidentified, because these people don’t stay current in the literature of the field in which they are diagnosing. That IS a real problem. But that’s not what this “expert” is talking about. He’s talking about his own bias, and apparent belief that areas of study outside of his field don’t exist. That’s hardly rigorous academic practice and in the case of a medical issue, his bias is contributing to a body of ignorance that is harming patients through its perpetuation.
3) He clearly lacks the depth of knowledge to even begin to address the fact that ADHD impacts many areas of life aside from academics. Emotional lability, relationship impairment, parenting difficulty, risk of development of addiction, divorce, and many other negative outcomes seem to be completely outside the scope of his knowledge, and he doesn’t seem to be aware of it – oh, I mean unless the paper edited that out. Here’s a fact sheet that again, may give someone like the professor a place to begin to understand what he clearly doesn’t understand…were he inclined to read it. Of course my guess is that if this brand of skeptic were so inclined, the reading would have already happened. It’s not just tests, professor. It’s not just classroom convenience that is at issue here.

“There are a lot of people who believe this is a real disorder. But, when you talk about 11 percent of some school age population—that’s a whole lot of people—you begin to wonder if it’s a disorder or just a variant.” As Conrad continues to research ADHD and the medicalization of disease, he wonders if in 30 or 40 years from now, we are going to look back on giving stimulant medications to kids with this so-called disorder, ADHD, and ask, “Why were we drugging those kids?”

It is a real disorder, professor, with a long history of documentation (at least in the male population, but that’s another issue).

This information IS OUT THERE. It’s readily available. Do “experts” that say these things (still not picking on the student reporter or student paper, because after all, even the NYT publishes pieces that feature this much misinformation)…do they even read the literature of the field? Or do they just flatly deny it? And if they are that resistant to the academic process of learning, then aren’t they, by default, denying the validity of their own claims?

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