CD 469 – News Brief

“The ADHD Explosion: A new book explores factors that have fueled it”
by Melissa Healy
February 25, 2014

Brief Written By: Jennifer Van on March 6, 2014

Stephen P. Hinshaw and Richard M. Scheffler are the two authors who recently just published a book called “The A.D.H.D Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance.” In this interview, the authors provide us with an explanation on the relationship between the rapid rise of ADHD diagnosis and our nation’s education policy which heavily pushes for school accountability and close monitoring of standardized academic tests. So what role do these accountability laws have to do with this sudden increase of children diagnosed with ADHD? This interview explains that for schools that felt the pressure to produce better tests scores, diagnosing and medicating children with ADHD was seen as a way to improve test results. This all was done under the belief that children who were medicated would perform better in class and on the standardized tests, which will help the school keep their “accountability” status. Another incentive for the increase of ADHD diagnosis is that schools can make test-taking accommodations for children who have be diagnosed, such as providing them with more time during the test. In some cases, the diagnosed child’s test scores can even be exempt from being included in the measure. In the 1990’s, the authors found that a few years after 30 states had passed their own version of the accountability laws which provided schools incentives for gaining higher test scores, there was also a dramatic increase rates of ADHD diagnoses in the same states.

Their research has also shown that after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, the ADHD diagnoses of children from poor families jumped up 59%, whereas children from middle and high-income families had under 10% increase. Not surprisingly, private schools did not have any sudden rise in their numbers of diagnoses, since they were not subjected to the same regulations from NCLB. 

Other factors that play into the increasing rates of ADHD diagnoses in children from low SES is the expansion of state funded Medicaid programs that occurred in the 1990’s. This provided opportunities for families who could not have otherwise afforded it a chance to have their children be diagnosed. Qualified children were able to receive treatments through these coverage. Today, the rate of diagnosis for African American children is about the same for white children. 

Upon reading this interview, I was astonished to learn about the newly discovered impacts that our education policies have on young children. Whenever there is a discussion about the NCLB, I often only hear about its affect on the school curriculum, classroom instructions, quality of learning for students, etc. It is shocking to learn that because of the enormous stress teachers face in having to present high test scores in order to save their jobs and their schools, it can result in the overdiagnosis of ADHD, especially for children from low income families. This goes to show that we have to remain conscious and be up-to-date about policies that are in placed and its implications on the lives of children. Another thing that came to my mind as I read the interview is how much profit these policies must have brought in for the pharmaceutical companies. Will this lead to a new wave of skepticism for the diagnosis of ADHD? I am curious to see how this research and finding will impact the way society view ADHD and whether there will be any changes to the diagnosing process in the near future. 

Retrieved from The New York Times — http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-adhd-explosion-book-authors-20140225,0,806983,full.story

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2 Comments on “CD 469 – News Brief”

  1. amc1348 says:

    Jen,
    This is a very interesting source. I was interested to see how much of the diagnosis is political! It’s sad that the child’s success is not the most important thing- or even the goal- just the score on assessments. It’s things like this that make it so apparent that revaluation of the education system is necessary- concerning things like how they measure success, and how they treat their students.

  2. Nora Chavez says:

    Jennifer,

    Thank you for sharing this interview. I was very surprised to learn about the connection between the increase of ADHD diagnosis with school accountability! It is truly sad how teachers are judged according to how high the test scores measure. Standardized tests place unnecessary stress on teachers and students to preform high enough in order for the school to keep their funding. There needs to be something done to either improve the tests or eliminate them completely. I would have to agree with your question about the profit pharmaceutical companies have gained through the over diagnosis of ADHD. The questionable correlations and facts that continue to become uncovered should really have us question who is receiving the benefit or profit from the diagnosis. We need to protect our children and think twice before medicating.


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