Posted by: Tracy Barsamian | September 25, 2014

ADD and ADHD (an OFF KLTR Series)

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A dear friend of mine recently told me that her son was diagnosed with ADHD this summer.

My first thought was:  WHAT?!  NO WAY!

My second thought was:  SH*T!  He is super smart and really high energy.  Not a good mix for school.

My third thought was:  Schooling the World!  I remembered the boy who’d haunted me in an article I’d recently read (on the Schooling the World site) entitled  A Thousand Rivers.  I went back and re-read the article and my friend’s son IS the nine-year-old boy the author writes about in her essay,

“One day I watched a nine-year-old boy as he led a group of children scrambling over Vasquez Rocks, a great sandstone formation that slants up out of the California desert. He was one of those magnetic, electrical, radiant boys; kind to the younger ones, strong, quick, inquisitive, sharp as a tack, his eyes throwing sparks in the clear air. It was a joy just to watch him, I said to the friend standing beside me. She told me he had just been diagnosed with ADHD.

When you see children who do not learn well in school, they will often display characteristics that would be valued and admired if they lived in any number of traditional societies around the world. They are physically energetic; they are independent; they are sociable; they are funny. They like to do things with their hands. They crave real play, play that is exuberant, that tests their strength and skill and daring and endurance; they crave real work, work that is important, that is concrete, that makes a valued contribution. They dislike abstraction; they dislike being sedentary; they dislike authoritarian control. They like to focus on the things that interest them, that spark their curiosity, that drive them to tinker and explore.

“Experts” in our…society tell us these children are learning disabled; they have poor impulse control; they lack organizational skills; they are oppositional. One in twenty, one in ten, one in seven of our precious bright-eyed children, we are told, have some kind of organic brain defect that disables them as learners.

But any Maori parent knows that you have to watch a child patiently, quietly, without interference, to learn whether he has the nature of the warrior or the priest. Our children come to us as seeking beings, Maori teachers tell us, with two rivers running through them — the celestial and the physical, the knowing and the not-yet-knowing. Their struggle is to integrate the two. Our role as adults is to support this process, not to shape it. It is not ours to control.”

It is NOT ours to control and yet, our schools and our doctors are medicating these children to do just that:  to control them!  By medicating these children, the children become “less” than and “quieter” than their true whole selves.  And for what?  So that they can conform, so that they can better fit into our broken school system.  Oh!  I just want to weep.

Over the next week or so, I will publish a series of posts about ADHD.  I’ll start with the research that concludes that ADHD is not a mental disorder; rather it’s a child’s failure to conform to school.  I’ll argue that an ADHD diagnosis is just a huge, flashing, neon red flag that compulsory school is NOT working for your child.  (And, it’s okay.  School didn’t work for my child either.)  And finally, in an effort to support the children labeled with ADHD that remain in school, I will discuss some holistic alternatives to Ritalin.


  1. Yes! So glad you’re doing this series! I love Dr. Peter Gray’s characterization of how ADHD is basically a failure to adapt to the conditions of modern schooling. Can’t wait for your insights.

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