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Teachers as Brokers for ADHD

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Dr. Dombeck received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1995 ...Read More

A very interesting article titled “Medicine Goes to School: Teachers as Sickness Brokers for ADHD” has recently been published in the Public Library of Science: Medicine Journal, which, if you’re not familar with it, is a web-only open-source peer-reviewed science journal which is worth keeping up with.

In this article, author Christine B. Phillips argues that teachers may enter into an ethically challenged dual-relationship when they act as “spotters” of ADHD, identifying certain children who may have the disorder and advocating for those children to be diagnosed and treated. More interestingly, Dr. Phillips also describes the pharmaceutical companies tactics in educating teachers through direct and indirect means (e.g., funding of telephone hotlines, and paper teaching materials, contributions to CHADD, etc.) so as to push them to see ADHD through an exclusively medical lense. Making sure that ADHD is diagnosed as frequently as possible, and treated via medical means is, of course, in the interest of the pharmas, who profit from increased drug sales, but also in the interests of teachers, who benefit from less unruliness in class.

There is no sense here that teachers are culprits; but rather that they may have been conditioned or herded, by means of clever marketing, towards an understanding of ADHD that over-medicalizes the condition, and also over-identifies it too; seeing it present in the behavior of children who may not actually qualify for the condition. It is conventional wisdom amoung most mental health professionals that ADHD is over-diagnosed. This article suggests how some of this overdiagnosis may come into being.

Keep Reading By Author Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.
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