Boys will be boys

Hal sailingWhen my 13-year-old son broke his finger kickboxing just before Christmas and needed an operation to put it back together properly he didn’t become tearful until he was told no sport for eight weeks. The surgeons might as well have lobbed his arm off as far as he was concerned.

Little did I suspect that a month into his confinement (I think the diversion of Christmas helped), he was to turn into a ball of pent up aggression and frustration. Hell, if I had to put up with that behaviour for too long, I would put him on drugs.

After one particularly almighty eruption which included a fair bit of door thumping, I even called his dad to come and read him the riot act, not because I couldn’t handle him, but because I wanted him to appreciate his behaviour was totally unacceptable.

Before we really came to blows, I thought it would be sensible to send him back to his kickboxing club almost three weeks before the all clear from the hospital, his appointment is next week. Lo and behold, he is a completely different kid!

Surely it can’t be a coincidence? Of course, it’s not. Like most teenage boys or, indeed boys, he needs to channel his energy and if it isn’t given an outlet, it boils over. If your energetic boys never have the chance to rid themselves of their energy, guess what, you’re going to have some angry young men on your hands.

Now before you all get on your high horses about your ADHD boys and I don’t know the half of it, etc, etc, etc, yep, this is where I am heading, I am not denying the disorder exists. I know enough mothers whose sons have been given an ADHD diagnosis to see their behaviour is excessively different. In fact, it’s you lot who should be shouting from the rooftops about the need for accurate and considered diagnosis so your boys’ condition is properly appreciated by the rest of us.

However, if my son had a lifestyle which saw him simply going from home to school and back again into his bedroom where he played computer games night in, night out, I have no doubt he would behave badly simply because he would not be using up his energy. And, I repeat, I would be frogmarching him to the GP for a Ritalin prescription. What’s more I would probably get it.

My son is predisposed to a rather volatile set of characteristics (he’s my son, it’s in the genes), but the exercise and discipline he gets from both kickboxing (around three or four times a week) and the fresh air and freedom of literally sailing his own boat at the sailing club (at least once a week during spring, summer and autumn) definitely keeps the lid on what would otherwise be described as a volcanic personality.

According to a report in The Guardian  in September 2015, almost a million prescriptions were handed out for the Ritalin drug in 2014 which ‘treats’ the hyperactivity disorder. And that’s double the number of almost a decade ago.

Seriously? Is it contagious? Oh, it now receives more recognition, I hear you all cry. Given my son’s attack of cabin fever when he was confined to quarters, I would question whether all of them were genuine ADHD cases and in need of drugs. And I’m not alone. Psychologists and psychiatrists agree. Or rather, I agree with them.

The Guardian asks whether overstretched mental health services have led to misdiagnosis with the subsequent result of children inappropriately prescribed drugs. Or is it also parents (mostly mothers) who simply can’t cope with their high energy off-spring (hey, didn’t anyone tell you, that’s normal?) and off they trot to the docs for some drugs (try stopping off at the park).

Even the chief executive officer of the ADHD Foundation Tony Lloyd questioned the numbers saying drugs should only be prescribed as a ‘last resort’.

If you are considering a trip to the GP for a diagnosis, read what The Guardian has to say first, it’s quite damning.

It includes the views of Kate Fallon, chief executive of the Association of Educational Psychologists, who said: “We hear stories of teachers who had no idea that one of their pupils had ADHD until Mum appears with Ritalin. Conversely, we hear of teachers telling parents, ‘We can’t deal with this child, so you should go to the doctor’.”

Similarly, in the US there was an 83% increase in sales of the drug between 2006 and 2010.
Allen Frances, a professor at Duke University in the US, writing in the Huffington Post in 2014, even went as far to claim that most active kids don’t have ADHD. Stating the US was over diagnosing their kids, he wrote : “Some kids, especially boys, are more active than others; most of what passes for ADHD these days is really no more than normal variation or developmental difference.”

Over the pond, 11% of youngsters are diagnosed with ADHD and sales of ADHD drugs were nudging $10 billion a year, which he called ‘obscenely profitable’. You can’t help but think there’s a connection.

One in five teenage boys is diagnosed and one in 10 is on medication. Careless diagnosis, worried parents overreacting and overcrowded classrooms and not enough ‘gym’ (PE) teachers are to blame, he wrote. Apparently, studies also show the youngest children in the year are more likely to receive the diagnosis, obviously the ones who ‘grow up’ last.

ADHD is a ‘fake epidemic’, he claims. Ok, everyone, he’s not saying ADHD doesn’t exist, he’s saying too many are misdiagnosed.

Your child could, of course, be among the 3% which the professor believes genuinely have the disorder, but if you would like to pause for thought a moment or two longer, I refer you to an article in Esquire magazine The drugging of the American boy, it’s message still rings true for us in the UK.

Still want to put your boy on drugs?

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