Monday, August 15, 2011

Does living in Utah Cause ADD/ADHD?

Several of my cousins on my dad's side have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. In the previous generation, on my dad's side at least, none of their parents had similar dignoses. From what my mom has learned just through talking to her brothers- and sisters-in-law, my dads' siblings' spouses didn't, for the most part, have the condition in their families, either. The fact that the disorder didn't exist or at least wasn't diagnosed in the previous generation doesn't make it impossible that the diagnoses in my first cousins are legitimate.

One thing that is interesting to me is that every single case of ADHD that has been diagnosed in my family was diagnosed, and medication was prescribed, when the family was living in Utah. My dad's family is large enough (he's one of ten children surviving to adulthood; my dad and my Uncle Steve each had two children surviving past infancy, but the other siblings produced a minimum of five children each, with the mean of offspring, when my dad and Uncle Steve are excluded, being over eight children. So even though it's only one family, it's a large enough sampling to make at least a few generalizations.

Six of my father's nine siblings live in Utah. Of the forty-four of my first cousins on my father's side who have lived in Utah, twenty-four are male. Of those twenty-four male cousins, fourteen were diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD. This ADHD-diagnosed population of male cousins equals 66.5 % of all male cousins who have lived in The Beehive State. The disgnoses in every case occurred no later than during the child's kindergarten year of school, with almost half occurring prior to kindergarten entrance. My mom thinks it's statistically significant that nearly all of these boys with ADHD diagnoses have birthdays no more than two months prior to the cut-off date for kindergarten entrance, and in each case the parents opted to start the boys in kindergarten rather than holding them out an additional year, which many educated parents will do when their children, particularly boys, are born near the kindergarten cut-off date.

Medicating a child with Ritalin (or similar drugs frequently prescribed for children with ADHD, i.e. Concerta or Adderal) is not the equivalient to giving him arsenic. Still, controversy is associated with the practice.

In some cases, medications to control ADHD are cleaarly indicated. If a child's hyperactivity, inattentiveness, distractibility, or impulsivity is making him a danger to himself or others, or his behavior is interfering with the education of either himself or his classmates, medication for the child is ethically and morally imperative. In less blatant cases, which correctly depicts all of the diagnosed cases of ADHD in my family, the prescribing of medications is arguably less imperative.

If I were on better terms with these relatives, I would give you more information on how the diagnoses were reached. Even without documented information in each case, I can state just from anecdotal information that
neighbors and fellow church members have suggested to my aunts and uncles that their lives might be made easier by taking their sons to particular pediatricians or family practitioners who were or are known to freely prescribe the common medications used to treat ADHD.

Again, it's not as though these boys were given poison. Still, some of them were given powerful medications that they did not need. My parents don't like to give my even acetaminophen or ibuprofen unless I really need it. It's impossible to state unequivocally that no harmful effects whatsoever have occurred through the ingestion of these medications.

Statistically speaking, probably at least one or two of the ADHD diagnoses were bona fide. A lot more, however, were borderline at best. My mother feels that they occurred in my family's case as a result of large families with parents lacking the coping skills to deal with boys who have difficulty not annoying parents and other adults in the confined settings of home during harsh winters and church during three-hour marathon sessions. The condition is exacerbated, my mom believes, by too much time spent watching television and playing video games from early ages.

Obvsiouly ADHD is very real, and if a child is truly suffering from it, medication should not be withheld. Equally obvious to me, however, is that ADHD is sometimes diagnosed with medication prescribed when the condition could be managed by more appropriately spent leisure time and better parenting strategies. My mother, whio is a licensed clinical psychologist, once said that there have been many times when she has observed the dynamics of a family in the waiting room of an office. In some of these cases, she has said, she would have loved to be able to approcah the parents and say something to the effect of, "I've seen a whole lot of children with their parents, and in your case, the problem is not your child; it's you!"

Information I received from one of my readers indicated that today was the court date of Jessica Beagley from Dr. Phil's show, of hot sauce fame, for her charge of child abuse. I'll have to see if any information was released. This isn't entirely pertinent, as she doesn't live in Utah, but I wonder if any of Sister Beagley's children, biological or otherwise, have been diagnosed with ADHD and are taking Ritalin or similar medications.


  1. I wonder if the advent of dosing children with Ritalin, etc., coincides with the idea that one should allow children a great deal of free expression whilst not smacking them for doing wrong?

  2. I haven't talked to my mom about her opinion. I'll ask her next time I talk to her. My Uncle Scott says yes, there's a definite correlation. My Aunt Jillian, who probably knows more than my dad because she has a master's in educational psychology, thinks ist's a combination of factors, including all the processed foods and fast food consumed, the amount of time children spend in a "plugged in" state due to TV viewing in addition tovideo game and computer use, the fact that many parents drive everywhere and walk almost nowhere with their children, the idea that kids can no longer have the run of the neighborhood or the family farm at an early age for safety reasons, and parents' inability or unwillingness to discipline children. She says that the more agrarian lifestyle of yesteryear naturally absorbed many psychoeducational problems that now must be dealt with in school.

  3. I walked past a large group of squealing, happy children this evening. White, Black, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, they were all running around, outside, without an adult in sight!

    The adults, however, knew where the kids where, though.

  4. Matt, that sounds perfect. Children are burning off energy in a manner in which they were intended to do so. Adults are close enough to be available if their assistance is really needed, but aren't supervising when the children are doing fine without their interference.

  5. I agree with you, I think a *lot* of the cases where a child is labeled ADHD are inaccurate. I have had 2 teachers think my kid is ADHD. The 1st time, the school psychologist interviewed him and said she did not see it. The 2nd time, this past school year, I went to meet the Dr before hand (and only did it to shut the teacher up) looked at the previous report and said it wasn't revelent and that my son probably did have (without meeting him 1st mind you) and thought that my husband had a mild form of Tourettes (again, not even meeting my husband) based on a 45 minute conversation. Seriously, the guy I think is a whack job. I never went back to him and let the subject drop with the teacher. I then took my kid to Sylvan and had him tested to see about tutoring. They said he had great comprehension skills but that his vocabuary was lacking. Huh, who would've thought!! So, with *that* in mind...maybe this kids DON'T have ADHD, maybe it's something else.

    And we have always encourage the kid to get outside, play and just be a kid. I think another overall part of the problem is that schools don't have as much recess as we used to and that the teachers are better at cooping with larger classes...