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Are We Diagnosing ADHD Too Young?

I was at my therapist’s office the other day (Why? Because it’s 2019 and doesn’t everybody have a psychiatrist or psychologist?) and as my doctor and I were closing the end of our session, he asked a final question.

This man has been my therapist for a while now and knows basic details about me like where I’m from, that I have a little boy, and that my dad messed me up so bad I’m probably a lost cause. (Ok, he’s never said that last part out loud, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s thinking as he takes my money after each session).

He politely inquired about my 3-year-old boy, asking if he was adjusting to preschool. I confirmed that, yes, my son was doing quite well. Then, my therapist dropped this bombshell on me:

“That’s good to hear. So, you don’t think he has ADHD?”

For context, my entire family has a history of mental issues including ADHD, so it wasn’t COMPLETELY out of the blue for him to ask. However, my son is three. He has also never met my therapist. So, those two factors trumped any details regarding my lineage and any associated behavioral issues.

Taken aback, I said “no,” but motivated by sheer curiosity, I asked him what age he typically diagnoses kids with ADHD. The therapist said, “Around 5 years old.”

Ya’ll, the man said FIVE YEARS OLD.

Now, I’m in no way qualified to assess behavior and/or mental disorders and I believe ADHD is an actual thing. However, if we have medical practitioners both diagnosing and prescribing meds for little kids this flippantly, there is a glaring problem.

What exactly are the markers of little boys (or girls) struggling with attention span? Do they have trouble sitting in school for hours on end? They go around playing with one thing after another? Are they rambunctious on the playground? Do they have trouble eating at the dinner table for lengthy periods of time?

That’s not called ADHD. That’s called being a kid: a new person in a new world with a curious drive and high levels of energy.

Part of the issue with this seeming rise in an ADHD epidemic is how Western culture teaches our youth. In Finland (and many other modernized counties), recess and playtime are heavily encouraged. In fact, Finnish schools require 15 min breaks between 45 min academic sessions. During these breaks, children are encouraged to play outside or with toys or just socialize amongst their peers in the classroom.

And guess what? Finland has held the top ranking for the best education in the entire world since the year 2000, with kids outperforming every other country in all academic areas. And mounting evidence suggests that play-focused schooling has a large part to do with this.

It makes perfect sense. Think about your job, particularly if you have one that requires you to sit in an office all day. Think of how bored and anxious YOU get during an 8 hour day, and you are an ADULT.

Expecting kids to stay focused, sit still, and listen and absorb information for large quantities of time inherently goes against their makeup. Toddlers and elementary-aged kids don’t need prescription drugs – they just need freedom to play, explore, build, and try things in an environment that lends itself to constant activity.

Does my son have ADHD? I have no idea. And I won’t know until much further along his developmental journey, because I’m not going to take him to therapy or medicate him on the premise of him being a curious, rambunctious, little boy.

If you are grappling with whether you should seek help for YOUR child’s behavioral issues, please consider this: while medication and therapy are very important and valid in some childhood cases, give your kid time to grow into him or herself. Remember they are still navigating their emotions, their understanding of things, and the world around them and that would make ANYBODY appear to have attention deficit disorder. Do everything you can to facilitate their intuitive needs before asking for professional help. A growing mind should be celebrated, not suppressed.

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About Mcclain W.


  1. “Because it’s 2019 and doesn’t everybody have a psychiatrist or psychologist?” Perhaps that is the problem. People are less and less self-reliant, likely because we are less free and more and more dependent on someone else to think for us, since the schools tend to brainwash children these days more than ever before.

  2. No, I and my friends do not have psychiatrists or psychologists. We have each other. More and more society expects us to pay someone to listen to us. For years I’ve worked in clinics, but the last one I quit. The medical floor was being taken over by the upstairs mental health clinic’s newest providers. They informed us they were going to cut medical staff down to a minimum because “Mental” is where the money is. It’s all about money. On children….years ago I worked and lived in a children’s home. One of the boys’ homes got new house parents. An older couple. The woman promptly let it be known that 4 brothers were over the top, needed to be medicated to calm them down immediately. Unfortunately, she got her way. I had no say in the matter. Those boys didn’t need anything, but playtime and exercise to use up the energy they had, but she was older and didn’t play or suggest play games. She wanted cute, don’t bother me children. Ones who stayed away until they quietly sat and ate dinner, then went to their bedrooms. I left that state and wonder how those boys are today. They needed someone to spend time with them. To corral their attention at times, by reading out loud to them. Then they’d learn to naturally relax and stay calm to listen. They were certainly NOT over the top! In fact, they reminded me very much of my brother and cousins. Boys will be boys only if they’re allowed to be. They can be guided in a certain direction to aim for a goal, but it’s so sad when someone else decides it’s time to put the brakes on them. In school, consider if a different teacher, who will approach things a different way, may solve any “problem” activity reported. Oftentimes a change in class rooms is all that is needed.

  3. Personally from what i have seen on all the research many kids that are being medicated are just highly active and curious kids, however the more extreme cases (and these often display extreme violence displays for a kid as well as signs they may be in some sort of pain that they are trying to overcompensate for) there is shown a link to vaccines and many of the toxins in our modern environment that were in past generations not there in the concentrated forms that they are now. I will add right now that these kids dont need the medication that mainstream medicine is prescribing either but rather natural medicine involving chelation therapy or similar and a diet that is very strictly organic. The drugs of mainstream medicine for these issues can lead to much greater problems later on.

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