Last week I facilitated a workshop for parents and teachers. One participant told the story of how her talented 22 year-old son’s ADHD label has prevented him from following the career he always dreamed of. Since he was a very young boy, Josh wanted to join the police force. As a young man today, he shows the courage and strength, responsibility and caring that would make him an excellent policeman but wherever he applies, he is rejected because ten years ago he was ‘diagnosed’ with ADHD.
Josh’s second best dream was to be a pilot. Well, needless to say, he has not been accepted for this either, despite the fact that today he shows none of the typical signs and symptoms of ADHD. For all we know, he was simply an exuberant, playful and energetic 12 year-old that was labeled as ADHD.
Now imagine this: What if, instead of labeling Josh, the healthcare practitioner had said something like… ‘Josh likes to be busy and keep moving. He does not enjoy sitting still for long periods of time. This could be appropriate for his age and his personality or it could triggered by an underlying root cause. You know there are 26 medical conditions that create such symptoms. Let’s explore this.’ there is the possibility that they could have found for example, heavy metal toxicity in Josh’s body that nobody had looked for. Or a food sensitivity or vitamin deficiency. Or stress chemistry. Or a fungus or bacteria or parasite or worms in the GI tract. Easy to find and easy to treat. Fix this and the so-called ADHD disappears. Perhaps they would not have found anything and, as seems to be the case, Josh simply got older, matured and learned how to use his restless nature in positive ways.
If that had happened, Josh would never have been given a label that has followed him around and will continue to do so for the rest of his life. He would now be in the police academy living his dream.
Millions of children around the globe are being stigmatized by diagnostic labels such as ADD, ADHD, Bi-polar, OCD, ODD and the list goes on and on. From the moment that a diagnostic label is slapped on a child, that child’s life changes. Parents, siblings, friends, relatives and teachers tend to respond differently to him. The label becomes the child’s middle name – and sometimes even his or her first name. Like the child who visited with me and said, “Hi Dr Gluckman. I have ADHD. My name is David.”
Parents, teachers and healthcare practitioners please let’s stop labeling our wonderful talented and unique children!