Girls are all the rage in parenting discussions today. Recently, Parents magazine devoted a cover story to the challenges girls face today, including a concurrent rise in STEM opportunities and increased rates of anxiety and depression diagnoses at relatively young ages. A new study released shows that girls are also being diagnosed with ADHD at higher rates than ever before. Apparently, having “it all” means pursuing a career in the sciences and embracing mental and emotional agony. Who could ask for anything more?
One woman writing for HuffPo Parenting praises the idea of more girls being diagnosed with ADHD. An ADHD’er herself, she sees value in the hyperactivity that drives some people (usually teachers) absolutely insane. While her article isn’t much more than a “rah-rah we all have intrinsic value” piece, the ironic double standard it upholds is enlightening. Aren’t boys being diagnosed with ADHD in leaps and bounds because they aren’t learning like girls?
The notion of education currently proffered favors a “feminine” learning style — quiet, contemplative sit-at-your-desk-for-hours-on-end as if we’re all the intellectual equivalent of the Sex and the City coffee klatch. You mean there are girls out there who don’t want to sit at their desks all day and study? There are girls who actually want to get outside and run around, or bounce rambunctiously through a classroom curriculum? You mean it’s not just boys anymore? Girls, too, don’t just want to sit and do as they are told?
Critics of ADHD point out the alarming rates at which children are being medicated with brain-changing drugs for the sake of behavior control. Dr. Gabor Mate, who has been diagnosed with ADHD himself, speaks extensively on the idea that we medicate rather than address the underlying issues that manifest into ADHD. These issues include a lack of parent-child bonding time, the stress of overscheduled lifestyles and a heavy reliance on peers as role models instead of adults. Perhaps instead of praising a rise in ADHD rates, we should be questioning how our attitudes and behaviors are resulting in our children being diagnosed as mentally distressed at such young ages. A diagnosis, mind you, that is rendered during a 15-minute doctor appointment that relies on parent and teacher testimony as its primary resource.
That, however, would mean questioning our entire approach to education. Prescribing medication and enforcing disciplinary action are a lot easier than changing an established cultural norm. What better way to teach our kids the hardest lesson we had to learn as adults — that they’re just going to have to live with what they don’t like — than to medicate away their frustration? Plus, we get to turn them into a special interest group to boot! (Next trending hashtag: “ADHD LIVES MATTER.”)
Perhaps that’s why homeschooling rates have skyrocketed over the past decade. Not because ADHD lives matter, but because kids’ lives matter and, perhaps, because most of them don’t have ADHD at all. Some might just want more time with their parents. Others might just want less time with playdates and extracurricular activities. And most might just want to be kids.