Teachers Usually First to Report ADHD
Many Advocate ADHD Medications Merely to Keep Classroom Peace, Experts Say
Another expert not involved in Sax's study says that while many schools indeed "overdiagnose" attention deficit disorders, others don't recommended ADHD medications enough for those who need it.
"Some schools and teachers definitely use medications as a form of behavioral control, so they overcall it, and some doctors prescribe the drugs more than they should to keep patients satisfied," says Edward Hallowell, MD, a Harvard psychiatrist who wrote Driven to Distraction, a best-selling book about ADD in children. "But there are other places where the mere mention of medication sends people through the roof, so they undercall it.
"Everybody wants to put an "either/or" label on this debate, but in reality, attention deficit disorders are both being overdiagnosed and underdiagnosed," Hallowell tells WebMD. "It all depends on where your child happens to go to school."
Both experts recommend that you get your own second opinion if your child is suspected of having ADD or ADHD -- either by you, school officials, or your family doctor. "And get it as far away from the school as possible -- ideally from a child psychiatrist," says Hallowell.
"You want what is best for your child, but many schools want what is best for the entire classroom," Sax cautions. "And family doctors, who are faced with a waiting room full of sick kids, may not have the time to do a careful evaluation or may not want to refer children to outside specialists because it puts a black mark by their names with HMOs. It really comes down to you."