ADHD 'Epidemic' is Actually a Byproduct Of Modern Life

RSA Animate video Changing Education Paradigms vividly illustrates what's happening in a larger context that's lending itelf to the ADHD pandemic that's plaguing classrooms across the country. Adapted from a talk given by Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert, the video addresses this mental and neurobehavioral “disorder” in a way that the psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries won’t. Experts describe ADHD as resulting from abnormal chemical levels in the brain. Robinson puts it a little differently. From another angle, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder may be more or less a symptom of our technologically advancing society that's driving people to think differently or unconventionally and form new perspectives. Robinson says the disease as we know it is as misplaced as it is fictitious.

Characterized by either significant difficulties of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness, or what was once better known as being a kid, ADHD is casting waves of stragglers in school today. In the U.S., an estimated 6.4 million children ages four through 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, and in the past decade the rate's increased by 41%. Diagnoses and the prescriptions to treat them have risen in conjunction with the growth of standardized testing, and also the widespread use of new communication technologies. Robinson suggests this is no coincidence.

“Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the Earth,” he said. “They are being besieged with information and parse their attention from every platform–computers, from iPhones, from advertising holdings from hundreds of television channels. And we are penalizing them for getting distracted. From what? Boring stuff.”

 

According to the New York Times, the American Psychiatric Association plans to change the definition of ADHD to allow even more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment, as if the behavior is an outbreak of some sudden evolutionary change in our biological makeup that can be adjusted from within. ADHD medication does in fact benefit many children in the learning process, but technology is no doubt influencing the way we operate. As our brains strive to keep up with our time, the education system will have to as well.

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Kiki Van Son

Kiki is a student at New York University and a contributing writer at NAKED Mag and iVillage.

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