Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is on the rise for U.S. children according to a recent government study on ADHD. The new Center for Disease Control and Prevention study cites that 1 in 10 children have ADHD, almost a 25 percent increase in the past four years. The CDC interviewed parents of children ages 4 though 17 and found a dramatic increase in ADHD diagnosis since the last study was taken in 2003.
ADHD is defined as children who have a hard time paying attention and controlling impulsive behavior. The condition is treated with drugs, behavioral therapy, and/or nutritional changes. Two-thirds of children who have ADHD take prescribed medications for treatment of the condition.
Some experts believe that we are seeing an increase in the disorder because we have a greater identification and understanding of ADHD. Doctors are able to better identify the conditions and diagnose the problem along with teachers and parents who are better trained and more experienced to recognize the condition.
Others say that our video game and TV obsessed society is conditioning children to have shorter attention spans and classroom techniques are not able to keep the child’s attention. In other words, real life becomes dull and boring.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatric researcher at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, says, “The onslaught of children’s programming along with DVD players and portable TVs that make viewing possible anywhere anytime, may very well be linked with ADHD.” Christakis is a leading researcher in the study of ADHD and says that, “TV viewing in very young children contributes to attention problems later in life. The study revealed that each hour of television watched per day at ages 1 -3 increases the risk of attention problems by almost 10 percent at age 7,” says Christakis.
Educational psychologist, Jane Healy, agrees with Christakis and says that overstimulation from rapid scene changes also throws the body’s balance off. “Rapid scene changes and other programming tactics may throw off the balance of the body’s catecholamine system, which is responsible for carrying communications between nerves,” says Healy. “We think that with continued exposure to high intensity, unrealistic action, you’re conditioning the mind to expect that level of input,” adds Healy. “When the child doesn’t get the fast-paced input that television provides, he or she becomes bored and inattentive. It used to be that as educators we talked about the two-minute mind. Now it’s the 30-second mind.”
Other experts believe that children are being diagnosed with ADHD unfairly and that the diagnosis of ADHD is a matter of opinion. Howard Abikoff, a psychologist who is director of the Institute for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at New York University’s Child Study Center says the CDC’s study results, “Sounds a little high.” “There is no blood test or brain-imaging exam for the condition,” says Abikoff. “Sometimes reading disabilities or other problems in the classroom cause a teacher or others to mistakenly think a child has ADHD,” he says.
While there is no proven link between excessive television watching and ADHD, parents should try and limit the amount of TV their child is exposed to, encourage their children to learn through their hands and bodies, rather than a video or TV screen, and communicate to their children directly without the use of the television or computer screen so they can learn important language and interpersonal skills. “If you skip over early language or shortchange it because you’re watching television so much, you may never get it back,” warns Healy.
Interestingly, the folks at NASA take a completely different approach to their discussion of ADHD: