Sometimes I find articles about ADHD totally offensive – arrogant, narrow minded interview subjects, and reporters with agendas are just two of the problems that you run into when you review articles about ADHD in “the media” (I know that some people in “the media” hate it when you refer to them that way but I’m not sure what other term to use for that collective body of work…suggestions welcome).
But sometimes…sometimes there are articles that consist of a jumble of writing that lacks nuance, and contains shallow knowledge and a potpourri of conflicting opinions (some of which are simply more informed that others). These types of articles require the general public to be very well-versed in the area of information being discussed in order for the article to provide the service that it seeks to provide. I mean…my assumption is that journalists are seeking to “inform” the public. But is it really “information” when it’s just a mish-mash and it’s not articulately presented?
Let’s take, for example, the article that had me thinking about it this morning.
I started reading about it because the title was interesting “Should Teachers Know A Child Takes ADHD Meds?” I think this is probably a question that many parents think about after making the choice to medicate their children.
The article begins with a personal portrait of an actual kid with ADHD, and the less conventional ways that he processes information when taking notes in class. I loved this part. It gave me the impression that the writer was going for a human portrait of ADHD, great approach. But then this:
“At age 6 he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a neurological condition that causes a person to be impulsive, overactive and have difficulty focusing.” Well…yeah, it can. But what type of impulsivity? What type of overactivity? What type of difficulty focusing? What are we really talking about here? And not everyone with ADHD, according to current understandings, is overactive…many experience sluggishness, and mental and physical underactivity. Or a person may be mentally overactive but physically still. And what does “focus” mean?
And this: “In the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” ADHD is the blanket term for all inattentiveness disorders including attention deficit disorder.” What? I’m not even sure what to do with that. I always say, purely as a lay person, that I think in 20 years we may split up what we currently call ADHD and redefine “it” as a few different distinct disorders, depending on what research may yield in that amount of time. I don’t know that this will happen…but it could. But…we aren’t really there yet, as far as I know. So I’m not sure what the writer was driving at here.
And then there’s this: “There is no concrete cause of ADHD.” Er…okay. Well there IS, we just don’t know exactly what it is, or if it may be multiple factors. There no SINGLE defined cause, right now. Researchers are still working on that. But we know enough to know that there are genes that may be involved in many folks. It is possible that some kids diagnosed with ADHD have been incorrectly diagnosed and who actually have an allergy of some kind. This kind of blanket statement just doesn’t make sense. It’s not nuanced enough to be informational.
“Girls tend to be diagnosed more frequently with ADD, while boys with ADHD.” Outdated statement alert. It’s all ADHD. Subtypes are used to define differences…those who used to be said to have ADD are now “inattentive type” ADHDers. Here’s a summary and explanation of the current DSM V criteria, information that is readily available online.
I understand that mainstream journalists are expected to write in ways that are accessible to a wide audience. I also understand that editors sometimes make better or worse decisions about how to modify content, even after a writer has done their work. But small omissions or inarticulate descriptions make a big impact on the way that the public comes to understand the information presented.
I started this article hopeful, as a reader, but disappointed, as a reader with ADHD. We need more articulate and informed coverage of this topic that impacts our daily lives so heavily.