Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Mountain or a Mole Hill?

By Calhoun, George, Jr.; Greenwell-Iorillo, Elizabeth et al. | Education, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Mountain or a Mole Hill?


Calhoun, George, Jr., Greenwell-Iorillo, Elizabeth, Chung, Soonyoung, Education


Introduction

During the past decade, more children have been identified as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); however, according to Foster (1989), only 6% of all school age students actually suffer ADHD. This is a relatively small number, and many school age children that are afflicted with the syndrome exhibit many varying degrees of psychiatric disorders with coesting conduct disorders and learning difficulties. Research suggest that more boys are labeled than girls. Reid et al. (1994) investigated 138 students identified with the condition and found that 123 were boys and only 15 were girls. This supports the contention that 90% of all ADHD children tend to be boys. Woods (1986) indicated that some ADHD children fail to outgrow this disorder and continue to exhibit behavioral symptoms, poor academic performance, cognitive impairment, low self-esteem, and difficulty with peer relationships throughout adolescence and adulthood.

Much of the time they are simply misunderstood and unable to adopt acceptable ways of rechanneling their excessive energy constructively. The purpose of the present report is to provide some information about ADHD children and ways of optimizing their strengths as a means of minimizing their disruptive nature in school. ADHD will be reviewed with respect to history, definition, etiology, characteristics, and methodologies for providing intervention and remediation in the classroom setting.

Historical Perspective:

ADHD is one of the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misdiagnosed syndromes researched by professionals today. However, the disorder is treated as though it were some recently discovered esoteric phenomenon with life threatening properties; when in fact, it's just simply a facet of behavior. It is not as serious as most people believe or researchers wish us to believe.

"Hyperactivity" is another in a series of worn out euphemisms which seemingly are being replaced yearly to satisfy the whim of a researcher in support of a theory relative to ADHD. This disorder has been prevalent for generations, but under different names. Ebaugh (1923) was among the first to investigate this topic. Dr. Ebaugh, a physician and Director of the Near-psychiatric Department of the Philadelphia General Hospital became fascinated with the disease "epidemic encephalitis" with respect to its affect on adolescents.

Ebaugh found that children afflicted with the condition were: quarrelsome, hyperkinetic, impulsive, talkative, moody, irritable, incorrigible, and suffered from insomnia. His report is among the first to describe the hyperactivity/hyperkinesis phenomenon. During the past 70 years, hyperactivity has shifted from one name to another. In the 1930's, the disorder was referred to as "restlessness," "irritability," "overactivity," and Charles Bradley's (1937) term, "organic behavior syndrome." By the 1940's, the term of choice was "distractibility" Strauss & Werner (1941) and Strauss & Lehtinen (1947). By the 1950's, the labels employed to describe the condition included, "minimal brain damage" by Strauss & Kephart (1955) and "hyperkinetic impulse disorder," by Laufer, Denhoff, & Solomons (1957). Clements (1966) indicated that since it was difficult to prove that a child was afflicted with "minimal brain damage," or "Strauss Syndrome" as it was commonly called, perhaps, the term "minimal brain dysfunction" (MBD) was more appropriate.

During the late 1960's, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) became involved in renaming various disorders. They published the Diagnostic Statistical Manual-II (DSM-II) (1968), and called the syndrome, "hyperkinetic reaction of childhood." In the 1970's, "hyperactivity" and "hyperkinesis," were the most popular terms. However, by 1980, APA published its third, Diagnostic Statistical Manual-III (DSM-III), and renamed the disorder, "attention-deficit disorder" (ADD) and "Attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADD-H). …

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