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The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, April 07, 2004


TV Linked to Attention Problems in Kids
CHICAGO — Researchers have found that every hour preschoolers watch television each day boosts their chances — by about 10 percent — of developing attention deficit (search) problems later in life.

The findings back up previous research showing that television can shorten attention spans and support American Academy of Pediatrics (search) recommendations that youngsters under age 2 not watch television.

"The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch television. Other studies have shown it to be associated with obesity and aggressiveness" too, said lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a researcher at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.

Just for the hell of it: I'm not sure how to feel about this story. I believe that TV watching - which is bad enough - is being blamed for a largely fictional problem.

Kids watch too much TV. Yes, as a parent, it is often tempting to throw the kids in front of the tube while you cook dinner, especially when it is cold and rainy outside. I'm as guilty of that as anyone, though I'm glad that regular TV watching is not a problem in this household (there are no regular shows that we watch).

So it would be great if parents would have their kids watching less TV, and more time reading and playing with crayons (though this isn't an option with the under two set).

That said, I'm a firm believer that 90% of ADHD is bullshit.

I probably would have been considered ADHD as a child, and I'm not alone in thinking that the disease is largely fictional.

In 1998, the NIH said ADHD was being improperly overdiagnosed. ADHD rates have increased further since then. Numerous books (among them: The Hyperactivity Hoax, Dr. Sydney Walker and Running On Ritalin, Dr. Lawrence Diller) argue most “ADHD” is a symptom of real underlying problems: broken homes, intellectual boredom, bad parents (the only "epidemic" America suffers from is one of bad parenting), sibling rivalries and even real physical illness. Hyperactivity alone is a symptom of a thousand diseases.

Pill crazy America has labeled the symptom “a disease.”

Not surprisingly, ADHD kids are predominantly rich, American, white and male. The same kids who can afford the visits to expensive therapists.

And the diagnosis has benefits, and not just for the therapists who rake the money from their patients. Rich white kids with ADHD are twice as likely as average kids, and many times more likely than poor kids, to get unlimited time on the SAT. They get special tutoring and classroom help. I believe these "accomodations" are helping to feel this "epidemic."

In affluent Greenwich, Conn., these benefits are a potent lure: nearly one student in five was classified as "learning disabled" in 1998 (most of that was ADHD), and they nearly bankrupted the district. Nationally, special education costs for this "disease" is staggering.

There’s no ADHD “outbreak” in leafy, peaceful Greenwich.

ADHD is, far too often, a “wastebasket diagnosis,” a quick exit for doctors who lack the time or inclination to investigate further. Nobody wants to tell parents that they are at fault, and the pill is a quick fix. HMO’s encourage such conveyer belt medicine, and frown on expensive tests for real health problems. A Georgia study found that only 2 (2!) of 102 Ritalin-dosed, grade school students even met the minimal requirements of the drug’s manufacturer.

It's no surprise: most Ritalin prescriptions are obtained after only a fifteen-minute consultation.

Parents demanding Ritalin simply intimidate psychiatrists. Told by a daycare worker or grade school teacher that their kids are disobedient brats, parents opt for the easy way out. Parents often prefer their drugged children because they are calmer.

Two million children on Ritalin is bad enough. American Ritalin consumption has increased 700% in the last decade, so the Swiss company that makes it, Novartis, is delighted that Americans have invented an epidemic for their pill. For a time, it even funded CHADD (CHildren and Adults with ADhD – even the acronym makes no sense) which pressures the government to pay for Ritalin. CHADD's mind-numbing magazine ADDitude tries to dissemiante the ridiculous idea that ADHD is some kind of special power.

Now all we need to do is find the cause of the "epidemic," and nobody is going to just come out and blame parents for their bratty children.

If I were a TV network executive, I'd be calling my lawyer.

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