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I’ve spent the entire month of December commenting on ADD.  I neither think it’s a disorder nor do I see the current medical treatment for this non-disorder as being on track in any capacity.  So what would be my solution?  Well, I always say that ADD is just another way of saying “genius”.  Inside every person lies a genius–the secret is to find and nurture what that genius is.

Studies have shown that highly creative people have a greater propensity for mental illness in their families.  No surprises there, as many have the perception that creative genius and mental disorders go hand-in-hand–think Vincent van GoghA recent Swedish study, however, has shown that highly creative healthy people have similar brain chemistry features as schizophrenics.

The similarities are in the levels of dopamine receptor activity in the thalamus (the area responsible for sorting information before it reaches conscious thought).  People in the study that had the lowest dopamine receptor activity also had the greatest ability for divergent thinking (e.g. finding many solutions to a problem).  Previous studies have also shown that schizophrenics have lower dopamine activity in the thalamus.  But more importantly, who sees the connection to ADD?

If the current thought on the pathophysiology of ADD is correct, then the brain of an affected individual also has diminished dopamine levels.

Disorder?…or genius?

I’m not making a statement on whether the current thought on dopamine levels in ADD is right or wrong.  I am simply making the point that we do not yet know every working detail of the brain.  Treating what is seen today as a brain disorder with very powerful drugs has to have ramifications.  And when we consider that this pharmaceutical treatment is being tested on our children (you better believe the kids are guinea pigs—read my previous posts…and here….and here), it makes anyone wonder how this must be affecting and shaping the developing brain.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t advocate this kind of experimentation on children.

I contend that having an attention deficit is common to all people at one time or another—no health professional or serious thinker will dispute this fact.  The question, then, is whether the ADD-labeled child actually has a “disorder” that is disrupting his or her life.

Answering this question really takes thinking outside the box. Consider that we are all, to one degree or another, subordinate to societal norms and parameters.  But norms change. Case in point: Fifty years ago it would have been unheard of for cursing to be a viable part of mainstream communication. To do so repeatedly might have led the cursor to be branded with his own diagnosis of mental illness. Today, however, cursing is not only “in”, it appears to be making great strides within the mainstream, inserting itself into the common language.

My point is this: Yesterday’s norm is today’s old-fashioned behavior. Staying focused in a 19th-century classroom setting is hardly a virtue today. Education is bound to change as we have seen gross inadequacies of our educational system. Perhaps then we will see that children who are currently considered problems in the classroom simply have a different way of learning. Perhaps they are inspired by things not taught in the classroom—that was most definitely my experience up until college.

albert-einstein-62931_640 (Copy)Perhaps your ADD-labeled child is a genius musician, or welding artist, or skateboarder, or party promoter, or social networker, or computer programmer, or business person, or something else we don’t even know exists yet. How will we freakin’ know if we numb and shape our children’s brains with hard-core drugs?

I’ve avoided attacking parents in these posts because I understand how difficult it must be to make decisions when the cultural health authority dictates how it is. But, now, I must say: Parents, why would you even consider giving any mind-altering drug to your child when you don’t know how it might affect their brains in the long-term? Why would this even be a consideration? Is it because you don’t know what else to do? I’ll accept that. But you’re reading this now; and if you haven’t read the previous posts, then please do so. If it comes down to the choice between tampering with your child’s brain or doing everything you can to tap into his or her hidden genius, then c’mon…is this really a difficult choice?

student-315029_640 (Copy)Every child has a genius inside waiting to be expressed. Some know it from day one, but most of us have to find ours. It can be a godawful labor trying to focus on something that…is…just…as…interesting…as…a bag of rocks (which is certainly interesting to a geologist!). Help your child find his or her genius—it’s there! Then relate all academic material to their inspiration, their loves. I guarantee that your child will be able to focus when seeing how it relates to what he or she loves. Just as every person has trouble focusing at one time or another, every ADD-labeled kid has things that they do that present no attention problems whatsoever—this is also an indisputable fact.

I hope these posts have given you adequate information to make good decisions. Remember that ADD is just another term for “untapped genius”. Next post, we’ll see some people that have done something with their lives despite being labeled ADD. Your ADD-labeled kid may just be the next one on that list.

I keep talking of a better way to view and understand ADD, but what exactly do I mean by that?  I’m going to discuss the idea here that classifying ADD as a “disorder” in need of treatment is erroneous.  I propose that by looking at the brain state currently labeled ADD in a different light, one of uniqueness and not dysfunction at all, we should be better able to help people who express this trait to find inspiration in their lives and thrive, academically and functionally.

I discussed in last post the numerous theories that have attempted to explain the cause of ADD, but so far they have all come up short.  From genetics to environment to evolutionary theories, no explanation has been sufficient to account for what they have found (or not found) regarding ADD.  I have also explained how the parameters for the disorder have grown throughout history–the wider they become, the more people that get the diagnosis.  Although this practice has identified many different similarities among people suspected of having an attention disorder, it has also increased the number of similar differences; in other words, too many symptoms blur the already fuzzy lines.

Further, I have pointed out that there are no clear-cut markers to be found in people diagnosed with ADD, unlike those found in other diseases like AIDS (HIV+), hepatitis (elevated liver enzymes), and prostate cancer (elevated PSA) to name a few.  Brain changes have been noted in some studies, but they are complicated by the fact that they have never been able to be reproduced in further studies.  One study did find that the brains of 50% of subjects labeled ADHD have slower maturation of their frontal cortices relative to “normal” controls, but I contend that it presupposes ADD to be an actual disorder, which I emphatically reject (aside from the possibility of the brain changes resulting from stimulant drug treatments).

I am certain that the neurological irregularity we currently classify as ADD is a normal variant to the mental attentive function we all exhibit.  Everybody, including those labeled ADD, has the ability to focus their attention at various moments in their consciousness.  The person labeled ADD, however, has difficulty focusing attention at preset moments defined by current cultural norms, most notably during classroom time.  Because we are all expected to learn which moment requires which behavior, this inability to focus is naturally considered a malfunction.  But is it?

It is my opinion that people exhibiting this normal variation of attention, this inability to concentrate at will, is more a reflection of an uninspired mind toward the subject matter–conventional academics primarily.  This is not news to anybody keeping up with these posts: I’ve made it abundantly clear that I believe the problem lies with teachers having an inability to inspire these normal variant minds.  But let me focus even more: People labeled ADD–we’ll say children primarily, because adults have usually learned to adapt to circumstances (as any successful organism does)–do lose their attention more quickly than the so-called “normals”.  I will not dispute this fact, but it doesn’t mean they are somehow dysfunctional; they are simply unique in their needs.

OK, so far I haven’t said anything that goes against today’s conventional wisdom on ADD.*  But here is the difference: By perceiving this unique variation in attention span as a disorder, it opens the door for a particular kind of fix–primarily stimulant drugs.  This has not only had a minimal effectiveness, but it is likely causing more harm than good both to individuals and to the society at large.

By seeing the unique challenges faced by some children (3-5% worldwide according to the latest figures) as a normal variation of a ubiquitous brain state allows the possibility to help these children wide open.  Seeing how the brain state labeled ADD is merely a different similarity to what we all experience when uninspired allows parents and educators to find out exactly what these children are inspired by.  When accomplished, the task will be to then relate all other subject matter back to the areas of inspiration.  Whew.

I know it sounds simple, but that’s because it is.  It’s universal.  Trying to find the fragmented parts that separate some human beings from others in order to account for a perceived abnormality is futile–we all operate under specific laws.  It’s not that I think the entire historical course of this non-disorder was unnecessary.  It served a sort of ruling out process.  But the evidence has been piling up–there is no there there.  Isn’t it wiser to see how people labeled ADD are similar to us and nurture that?

I do not for a second believe that the hunt for a fragmented cause of ADD, and its subsequent pharmacological solution, will end anytime soon.  But if you are a parent with a child that has trouble conforming to the social norms of focusing in the classroom on subjects that are maddeningly uninspiring, then think twice before attaching the label ADD to that child.  I am certain that the drug solution associated with that life-label will never provide anything more than reliance on drugs; at worst it might even harm your child, physically and/or mentally.

I will touch even further on the current treatment solutions for people labeled ADD in upcoming posts.  Until then, rethink conventional wisdom.

*It has recently come to my attention that my thoughts on this subject are similar to those put forth by the Church of Scientology.  I am NOT a Scientologist.  While I have nothing against Scientology, per se, as I know next to nothing of its philosophical teachings, I merely wish to separate my thoughts from that of any organized group or religion.  I respect all peoples’ choices to believe and worship as they choose fit.

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