While scientific research has only begun to demonstrate it, my observation and experience suggest that ADD may be everywhere in contemporary society. My bet is that ADD is an important biological contributor that interacts with life circumstances to cause some of the more significant health, educational, social, and economic dilemmas that we face.
In fact, by putting ADD into the mix and addressing its role, we may find that some of these perplexing problems are far more solvable than we thought.
Friends Should Tell Friends
It is imperative in addressing these perplexing societal problems that we increase society’s awareness of this important, but hidden, biological difference. All of us need to be more aware of the critical role that paying attention plays. We need to recognize that difference of weakness in attention places an individual at risk for problems in almost every area of life — problems which, at first glance, hardly seem to be related to a difference in brain chemistry.
Responsibly written and produced articles, books, and media presentations can play a significant role in enhancing awareness about ADD. Too often, ADD is presented in a cursory, negative, and sensational way in the media. Such a simplistic approach to a complex problem like ADD only confuses the picture and heightens parents’ and teachers’ fears.
Professionals Need Informed Training
Another key step in increasing awareness of ADD involves improving and expanding the training that professionals who work with ADD receive.
Too often professionals who are in the position to work with ADD individuals have a poor understanding of ADD. In fact, many professionals continue to be unaware of the fact that ADD is not just a school problem. It is a life problem whose basis is biological. Effective assessment and treatment is impossible without a comprehensive team approach.
Professionals who lack appropriate training and experience with ADD have an obligation to make a concerted effort to match up the ADD individual and his family with the best resources available.
Schools Should Put Some Muscle Behind ADD/ADHD Support
We also need to break down the barriers that limit access to appropriate comprehensive services. Schools should do more than pay lip service to providing multidisciplinary services to ADD children. The team cannot consist solely of a school psychologist and teachers and other educational personnel.
Since ADD is a biologically-based problem, the team must include a physician who is knowledgeable in this area.
And, because the impact of ADD goes beyond the schoolyard, dedicated school personnel need to feel comfortable encouraging parents to seek appropriate help from other nonschool professionals for management of the problem in other life arenas.
ADD is NOT a “Mental” Problem
To make this possible, insurance companies and government health financing systems need to evaluate critically policies and reimbursement mechanisms that unfairly discriminate against individuals with ADD. At a most basic level, they need to accept that ADD is not a “mental problem,” but that its physical basis is as real as diabetes and coronary artery disease. These health care financiers would be wise to consider the cost efficiency of early intervention, health education, and comprehensive team treatment of ADD.
Give ADD the Middle Ground
Finally, as a society, we need to find the middle ground. We need to strike a balance between emphasis on skill acquisition and on learning how to live, between permissiveness and firm discipline, between reliance on technology and humanistic intuition, and between manipulation of the brain and counseling the mind.
It is in this middle ground that true quality of life is found.