The New York Times reported this week that Keith Conners, M.D., who fought for over 50 years to legitimize the ADHD diagnosis and make medication available for children, called the current statistic of 3.5 million children on such medication “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”
Conners is reflecting the growing concern among many in the medical and health field. In a book called The Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults, Jim Webb, Ph.D., along with a host of other physicians and pediatric neuropsychologists, claim that children are being given prescriptions for psychotropic drugs for what should be a complex diagnosis, based on a 15 minute phone conversation with their parents. As a result, they say, we are losing our best and brightest future leaders.
In CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper asks the question: “How can you tell whether your children are gifted or disordered?” He features a spiritually gifted child who can both identify those who have passed and demonstrates profound insight. The piece speaks about a special generation of children born after 1978 who have very high IQs, are very sensitive, and have heightened intuition. Cooper reports that this group is part of the phenomenon called Indigo Children.
David Cooperrider, Ph.D., a Professor at Case Western, says that “We grow in the direction we most persistently ask questions about.” If we ask: “What is wrong with my child and his behavior?” or “What kind of learning disorder might my child have?”, then we are led down the path of pathology, easily leading to the question, “What kind of medication is needed?”
If instead we asked: “How is my child gifted and what development opportunity accompanies his gifts?”, then we must begin to ask, “How can we support his gifts?” as well as “How can we support his development?”
An example of what can happen when we grow in the direction of these questions can be found in the TEDx speech given by a young man, Daniel Wendler, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a neurological disorder “characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.” Wendler decided to study social intelligence and now teaches social skills to others!
We are at a crossroads. We need children who are not “normal” to lead us into a future that is most certainly not going to look like the past. It is time to broaden our Map of Reality by increasing curiosity and innovating ways to support and celebrate those who fall outside our current Map’s margins.