A Rant: What Every Parent Should Learn From Children With ADD/ADHD

I was searching more and found this on the website of the Center For Disease Control, based here in Atlanta:  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5434a2.htm  You can click here to read the full report, and I think EVERY parent should read this whether their own children have ADD/ADHD or not.  This is part of what this report says:

Prevalence and national population estimates of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis were calculated and compared by selected sociodemographic characteristics (Table). In 2003, approximately 7.8% (4,418,000; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 4,234,000–4,602,000) of U.S. children aged 4–17 years had ever had ADHD diagnosed. ADHD diagnosis was reported approximately 2.5 times more frequently among males than females (Figure 1). Prevalence of reported ADHD increased with age and was significantly lower among children aged 4–8 years compared with children aged >9 years (Table). The greatest prevalence was noted among males aged 16 years (14.9%) and females aged 11 years (6.1%). The prevalence of reported ADHD diagnosis was significantly higher among non-Hispanic, primarily English-speaking, and insured children. Moreover, prevalence rates were significantly higher for children in families in which the most highly educated adult was a high school graduate (or had completed 12 years of education), compared with children in families in which the most highly educated adult had a higher or lower level of education. ADHD diagnosis among males was reported significantly more often in families with incomes below the poverty threshold (<100%) than in families with incomes at or above the poverty threshold. Rates of reported diagnosis among females were not significantly different across the three levels of poverty. Prevalence varied substantially by state, from a low of 5.0% in Colorado to a high of 11.1% in Alabama (Figure 2).

So let’s look at what we can gleam from above, maybe I am reading too much in between the lines, but you all can leave me a comment and tell me what you think!  So, from above it appears:

  • Being male is a risk factor.  I think this goes back directly to how our society handles raising boys, and how being boy almost is looked at as a liability by many in society  (not so consciously and consciously!) that I have written about before (but can’t seem to find the exact post in my almost 700 posts!  Bah!).  But here’s a post to start you off: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/27/boys-boys-boys/ . Also, here is an interesting article about the “rough and tumble play” boys engage in:  http://www.movementforchildhood.com/play.pdf
  • Children over the age of 9 are more frequently diagnosed….I wonder if this is related to lack of meaningful rites of passage, this whole metamorphosis of the children ages 9-12 being “tweens” and not children, the whole prolonged adolescence that occurs in our country.  I wrote a bit about that here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/30/rite-of-passage-parenting-four-essential-experiences-to-equip-your-kids-for-life-heading-up-to-the-nine-year-change-and-beyond/   and here is a good article regarding the phenomenon of “teening” from the Movement for Childhood website: http://www.movementforchildhood.com/teening.pdf
  • Greatest prevalence was among “non-Hispanic, primarily English-speaking, and insured children.”  So what does that mean?  The incidence would be higher if we included children that were not insured and could afford to “get diagnosed”?    Or does it mean there is something cultural in the way non-Hispanic, primarily English-speaking parents who have insurance look at childhood behaviors that cause them to seek a medical opinion?  Are there true differences according to ethnic background? Genetics? What do you all think? I don’t know the answers on this one.
  • Prevalence rate was related to a parent’s level of education.  See above.  Males were more often diagnosed amongst families who live below the poverty level.  Female rates of diagnosis were not different across different levels of poverty.  What is this caused by?
  • Prevalence varied by state.  Does this have to do with access to doctors who are knowledgeable, could this have to do with rates of obesity and amount of time spent in nature from state to state?  I remember reading Colorado has one of the most fit and outdoor, active populations in our country. Alabama does not.   Again, what do you all think? 

Obviously, ADD/ADHD has been around for a long time.  I think the etiology of something like this would obviously be multi- factorial.  No, I don’t think ADD/ADHD is anyone’s “fault” per say, although I do think a society that starts children so early in academics and expects children to sit still and write, a society that is taking away recess and children learning experientially, a society where children’s free play is disappearing, is headed for trouble.

So do I think parents, teachers, concerned neighbors and friends could do things to help?

Why yes, yes I do.

1. I think all concerned adults, whether we have children or not, should take a hard look at an educational system that pushes academics before age six and a half or seven.  In many countries around the world, including China and Japan and Finland and other countries whose children do much better in later testing than our children, school may “start” at any early age but no academics are touched.  Why do we have the model we have today?  When in the 1940’s first grade was a half day and six-year-olds napped, how did we get to where we are?

Here are some lecture notes from a lecture regarding boys that Kim John Payne gave:  http://www.thechildtoday.com/files/Boy_O_Boy_Calgary

A NY Times article on taking play seriously:  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/magazine/17play.html?_r=2&pagewanted=2&oref=slogin

Ideas for different difficulties with the twelve senses/movement: http://www.movementforchildhood.com/keys.pdf

We should be lobbying our lawmakers and policymakers to take a good look at this, and we should be supporting organizations that are looking at this such as Alliance for Childhood (http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/)

2.  I think we should be pushing our children to spend time in nature.  You can read Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder.”  Here is his website:  http://richardlouv.com/

3.  We should be helping parents make critical choices surrounding the usage of media and computers for small children.  Here is the “Media and Children” section from the Alliance for Childhood website:  http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/media

4.  We should be helping children eat a health diet with foods as close to a natural state as possible.

5.  We should be helping parents to not over-schedule and rush children with extra classes and lessons.  For those of you who have read “Simplicity Parenting”, you can join The Circle or find a group here:  http://www.simplicityparenting.com/forsimplicityparents.html

From a Waldorf perspective:

  • Marsha Johnson had a list recently on her Yahoo!Group:  waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com
  • Do try the FREE audio over at Christopherus regarding Waldorf as a therapeutic education:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/audio-downloads.html
  • Do look more into the “Movement for Childhood” website I listed so many times above.
  • Warmth!  Warmth for the chest area, hats, socks, warm clothing!
  • Rhythm!  Rhythm is very important.  There are so many articles on rhythm on this blog.  Here is one to start: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/01/cultivating-rhythm-the-inner-work-of-advent/
  • You, the adult,  being present and not over-loaded.  Inner work for you!
  • Be home together – cut out all the running around for forty days and see if that helps.  Run YOUR errands at night without your children. 
  • Get rid of all screens for forty days and see if there is a difference.
  • The things mentioned above – diet, sleep, spending hours each day in nature (I personally recommend at least three or more)
  • Cut down the amount of STUFF in your house dramatically and see if that doesn’t also help with sleep, rest and behavior. 
  • Sensory issues?  Other things that may be mistaken for ADD/ADHD but are really something else or something contributing to what is going on?  Sometimes in those cases, I do think a therapist (The RIGHT Therapist, if you can find one!) can be helpful. 

Just some ideas; please,please, take what resonates with you.  YOU are the expert on your own family!   I am sorry this has turned into a small novel!

Please leave me your comments below and help other mothers out!

Many blessings,



11 thoughts on “A Rant: What Every Parent Should Learn From Children With ADD/ADHD

  1. I am going to chime in on the TV/screen issue. Our daughter just started at a Waldorf nursery and in order to comply with the no media policy, two nights before school started we took down our TVs. We had been spending way too much time in front of the TV this summer – 1/2 program would quickly dissolve into two hours. My three year old became very fussy this summer, whining and throwing many tantrums. In the past two weeks, my husband and I have noticed a drastic change in her behavior. Her imaginative play has blossomed, she whines less, she is bored less, etc. I thought this would happen but would take a few months – it happened within three days…three days (that’s it). The other shocker…she has only commented twice about the mysterious disappearance. The really wonderful surprise for our family has been how my husband and I feel without the TV around – we both feel so much more peaceful inside. What was meant as a gift to our children is quickly turning into a gift to ourselves. We have both noticed we feel much calmer and less frenetic which has in turn helped us set an appropriate peace in our home.

  2. Carrie, as a mom of many 8, 7 of whom are boys and having years of interest in nutritional/natural healing healing I think of this alot. One big thing that I’ve been observing for the past 7 years is the absence of these various disorders, including aspergers/autism in the Conservative Mennonite community. I have yet to find it even though I ask frequently and have met many families from various parts of the country. They do have a few commonalities, no media, later school, starting at 1 st grade, generally a stable rhythmic patterned life, mostly homecooked meals are some that comer to mind. In fact in these communities they scoff at all these ADD/ADHD and all the various ones, they say it is simply poor parenting. I don’t have the answer but the lack of these disorders is saying something.
    As always thanks for your wonderful post.

  3. Oh – the perfect day to read this post for me! My boy W who is 4 1.2 has just had a FULL ON morning. THe kind that amidst my exhaustion makes me think – is he ADD or something? And then he lies down for his rest and read after inhaling two pieces of toast and a plate of spaghetti and veg and is peaceful and I put the bub to bed and reflect. Hmm. busy weekend. first hot days not enought water, not enough time out, too much excitement – no wonder morning playgroup was so over enthusiastic. Add to that the likelihood of a growth spurt given the amount of food that is getting eaten and possible testosterone surge and hey – he is normal. The fact is that NORMAL is HARD WORK! As we no longer parent as a community, we, as a community, no longer have an understanding of either how hard parenting is or what ‘normal’ and how wide ranging ‘normal’ is. I have written about testosterone surges and the need for outside in these posts.
    I also am a great fan of Sue Palmer and her books especially 21st century boys. Do you know her stuff?
    I agree wiiht so much of what you say – it is huge stuff. We have to be careful not to create a generation of children who do not know how to manage. Providing safe boundaries for especially boys to eat, drink, rest and play healthily within is so important. Wonderful post.

  4. Carrie,
    Thank you so much for this post and all your posts on ADHD. My 6 year old was given that diagnosis 2 years ago and it propelled us further on the no media, Waldorf route (we were already mostly there). While he is still a challenging kid, we have seen so much growth in him in the last two years.

  5. My son was in a large mainstream daycare for 1 year while we lived in the city and I attended school. The daycare he attended told me “He is destined for failure if you do not get him assessed and diagnosed.” They told me as big school was fast approaching he would be labeled ADD or ADHD by an overworked public school counsellor and be stuck in a corner and forgotten. They actually said “He is destined for a lifetime of failure”. So I took him to see an ADD/ADHD specialist who spent an hour and 45 minutes with us and said he definitely doesn’t have ADD or ADHD but does have signs of anxiety. I called the daycare, they didn’t let me finish what the doctor had said they just started repeating over and over “Get a second opinion, get a second opinion!”. They said he is the only child in his class that can’t do the school readiness work. They said he does inappropriate things like putting his clothes or blanket in his mouth and growling. They said he runs around the classroom waving his arms over his head and yelling. They said he melts down over nothing. They gave the kids (4 to 5 years old in his class) a hand held game boy to play with if they somehow won this privilege. A privilege my son only received once. A high point for him that he still talks about. He hated school readiness. Had no interest in sitting at a table and tracing letters. They said he was the only child who didn’t finish his work every day. They said he would sit and stare at the game boy or other toys he wanted to play with instead of doing his work. I wonder if that could be where his anxiety came from. Knowing he was not going to be able get the “prize” yet again because there is always someone faster than he is. All his behaviors sound normal to me now. But at the time all I could hear was the destiny of failure and how all the other kids could do the required tasks.

    I decided to enroll him in the only Waldorf school in our province instead of public school. It’s a strain on me financially and it means three hours of driving for me and one and a half for him. But it’s worth it. One week in and he is happier, there is less tantruming at home, his energy feels more positive instead of negative. At the end of the day he is exhausted but in a different way. Tired at the end of the day from being outside and being busy having fun instead of exhausted and ragged from failing all day to meet anyones expectations, and being required to be something he isn’t all day long. I know we are probably in a honeymoon period and I’m sure he will have his moments at this school too. But how refreshing to talk to the school about his so called “issues” and “problems” and be told “he’s a normal little boy – why would a 5 year old want to sit at a table and do school readiness?”

    I am so thankful I have the option of this school. I was dreading enrolling him in regular public school. I know my son is “busy” and intense and he runs me ragged too. But I never saw him as a failure, If anything, all that boundless energy and imagination (How is a 5 year old pretending to be a dog growling and shaking a blanket inappropriate?)signaled a bright future to me. He will have the energy and perseverance to go the distance. How could they label him a failure at age 5?!!?

    And a hand held video game as a reward for a preschooler? Please. I am labeling that daycare a failure! My only regret at this point was that I had to put my son through that experience and I wasn’t able to get him out when he started having problems.

    I wish more parents knew about Waldorf and the value of being outside and active and using ones imagination.

    • Tina,
      What a beautiful ending to your story! I am so glad you all found Waldorf but most of all I am glad you did not see your sweet little five-year-old as a failure. I am so worried about the small children of today in our country, and I don’t know what else to do to get the word out.
      Many blessings,

  6. Hi,

    Yes, the school system certainly does need to be reviewed in light of the fact that not all children fit the criteria for the very female centre environment of learning.

    However as parent of a child with ADHD I want you to know that we do not all live in the city, do not over schedule our child, do not force him to do activities he is not interested in, live in a very quiet suburb with lots of trees and birds. We are not insured, are not living below the poverty line, English speaking, non-Hispanic and live a very healthy life style. We spend hours out in nature, at the river, on the beach. Our child plays constantly and by all accounts I can say is having a pretty good life in general. Unfortunately, he is having to contend with not being able to do his work at school. This is not just because he can’t sit still for long….adhd is a lot more complicated than that.

    Adhd has been around for a very long time so I do not beleive it is a new condition brought on my modern society. However, modern society doesn’t benefit children with adhd and it is perhaps more difficult to bring up a child with adhd in a modern world than it may have been previously.

    • Great points Lynette! Thank you so much for writing! And you are right, the etiology is much more complicated and multi-factorial than we can imagine and I too do not think it is new…The things I mentioned in this post – insured, poverty, etc, etc, came directly from a study, not from me personally, so I do thank you for pointing out for folks that there is much more to it all..perhaps this needs to be pointed out to researchers!
      Many blessings and thank you for sharing!

  7. Hello,
    Great topic.
    I have a delightful 6 year old girl. She is in her first full time year of school (Australia). She does well. It’s a beautiful little school … but something in me is saying “this is not quite right”, even though on the surface she is doing really well at school.

    Fundamentally I think it’s all too much. TOO much learning. TOO many lessons. TOO much stimulation.

    In the next few days I’m going to make an appointment with her teachers to ask them for more details on how she spends her days. For example, Do they rest them? How much time is taken to teach the children to be still and peaceful? What exactly is happening in the playground at lunch time?

    I’m not sure that school is even the right thing for such a small soul … she has an anxious undercurrent that I can feel . Also I don’t know much about developmentally where she’s at @ 6 years old. I’m not sure how she sees the world …
    now that she’s not home any more … I’ve lost sight of her true wee inner self.

    So, I’m looking forward to sifting through your blog for more info so that I can perhaps ask more specific questions of those who spend more time with my daughter than I do … hmmm. This topic, I think, might just be the tip of the iceberg.


  8. Carrie,

    This is an older post so I am not sure if you will read this comment. Thank you for this post. I am the mother of a 7 year old girl. She is struggling in her second grade class to remain focused during quiet work times and complete tasks. ADD is being considered. I am also a SLP in early intervention. This is one of those situations where the more you know the more confused you become. Re-reading this post today gave me some calming insight and ideas to implement at home. Thanks, jess

    • Jessica,
      Thank you so much. I am sorry your little girl is struggling with this. If you read this blog, I guess you probably saw I am a pediatric PT, and I agree, it is so hard to know what we know and deal with our own children. In Waldorf Education, there is a lot of movement and your 7 year old might actually be in first grade, not second, so sometimes I feel alternative educational methods can be helpful.
      Please do email me if you want to dialogue…my email is at the bottom of the about page.
      Many blessings,

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