We have a 9-year-old son who has been diagnosed with ADHD. His pediatrician has placed him on medication, which seems to help. At home, we are used to his energy, and we find his behavior interesting. He gets bored easily, but seems to always find something else to do. Problems occur more when he is in school. The school complains and calls us almost every week. The school complains and calls us almost every week. He is bright and has many interests. Summer has been relaxing for the whole family. But as we prepare for a new school year, we’re concerned. Can you help us to understand what ADHD is and what causes it?
Dear Not Stupid,
This has been the diagnosis of the decade or even decades!
I will give you my take on the diagnosis and try to make as much sense as present neuroscience will allow. My opinion is ADHD is a symptom more than a diagnosis. The word “diagnosis” comes from two Greek words meaning to know thoroughly. The fact is we do not have any such knowledge. As a diagnosis, behaviors characteristic of ADHD, or even ADD without the H, are decidedly multi-determined in the brain. They are not necessarily cohesive.
For example, the reticular activating system, the part of our brain stem that affords the integrity of consciousness, is involved. Problems may have an origin in birth, injury, development or disease. A hyperactive child may actually be engaged in stimulating consciousness and attention.
Then the prefrontal cortices, the lobes just behind the forehead, have much to do with organization, synthesizing and integration.
Research has shown that so-called “executive deficits” are apparently closely associated with prefrontal dysfunction.
ADHD can also have to do with emotional variables more associated with the limbic system.
All of this is to remind us to be humble in…