Updated: Jan 22, 2022
Myth #6: ADHD is a learning disability.
This comes from the medical and scientific communities’ definition of ADHD as an “impairment” which interferes with the ability to “learn” in a “normal” school.
For example, I could not learn to read or write in school. But this was no a result of an impairment—rather it was the school.
I had a tutor I saw once a week and I basically taught myself. I was interested in dinosaurs. This allowed me to read at an almost adult level in just a year or two. The books from the library had great pictures and a lot of text. I wanted to read the text – so I did. ADHD does not stop you from learning—instead it can impair the ability of a school to teach, which is quite another thing.
Not all children develop in the same way, at the same rate. In addition, while some neurodivergent children are precocious, other neurodivergent children may have special abilities that simply take longer to integrate and potentiate. Parenting, however, can affect how a child deals with his cognitive gifts.
Are you a good parent?
That leads us to the question of what is good parent. It is easy to tell “bad” parents. They are the ones who leave scars on their kids’ bodies and minds.But what is a “good” parent? “Norms” change. If today’s laws and standards had prevailed when I was a child, my parents would have been arrested and my brother and put in foster care. Parents don’t study how to be parents.
For the most part, they just go with the flow, according to what their own parents did, what others do, what they learn in school – and most important of all – what the media says-- which may be good--or bad--for children in general, usually a mixture of both.
These days it is especially difficult for children labelled as having ADHD, with the spotlight on behavioral characteristics said to be "impairments" since they impede a child's ability to satisfy what are, for them, unnatural institutional expectations.
Our natural behaviors, as neurodivergent, are those of outliers, which we have always had.
Before psychologists educated teachers to identify them as abnormal, no one paid that much attention. We just shook our heads and said, "kids will be kids". Of course, they don't want to do home work. Of course, they want to run around and play.
I should know – I went through the school system,and I was considered “odd” sometimes, first mentally challenged (in today's parlance); then "gifted".
I didn’t ‘need drug, which in any case, were not available--and later when they were available I found they interfered with my intellectual abilities and other strategies were much better. The same reason that John Nash gave up his meds for schizophrenia.
If you put your kid on a stimulant drug at 8 so they can do better at school— but that’s not so much “bad” as just misinformed--since your kid should not be in a school where he (or she) needs drugs to perform. In any case, for the most part, the drugs are dealing with symptoms, not of ADHD--but of your efforts to make your child do things for which he/she is unsuited.
There are always other options – as we saw earlier with the tale of Tertius and Summerhill. No free schools around? Form a collective and start your own.
Or…. there is the “unschooling" option.
This is not “homeschooling” which right wing religious crazies and libertarians who think COVID is a government hoax--love so much. Homeschooling is just a school at home with parents acting as teachers and still setting a curriculum.
By “unschooling” I mean letting kids learn at the own pace what they choose to learn – not you. If Johnny and Mary don’t learn to read until 12 – fine. Most likely, they will learn eventually when they need to, if the resources are there.
I am sure you will automatically think of caveats.
How will they get into college? How will think make friends?
If they want to go to college, they take their GED, as Edward Snowden, an under-performer in regular curricula, did and generally do just fine. As for friends, they make friends in clubs and activities outside school and with other unschooled kids. Without age ranking, they make friends of all ages and kinds, developing very good social and communicative skills and emotional stability.
Studies, including a recent one by the eminent child psychologist / anthropologist Peter Gray, demonstrate that unschooled kids demonstrate a higher level of satisfaction in later life than regular schooled kids. They are also happier as kids. Like Tertius at Summerhill, there are few signs of anxiety, depression, impulsive aggression or destructiveness, or the like. Unschooled kids tend to go on to creative jobs or jobs that yield a high level of satisfaction.
Myth #7 ADHD is the result of bad parenting
ADHD is genetic.
But poor parenting decisions can make things difficult for ADHD kids, leading to anxiety, depression, anger, impulsivity, and (inappropriate) “hyperactivity”.
My example and that of brother certainly suggest that.In any case, parents, good or bad, are not the “cause” of ADHD any more than they are the “cause” of their kids having blonde hair or black, blue eyes or brown. Blame the DRD4 7R allele and neurochemistry.
If you look at the literature, you will see this allele implicated in a wide range of conditions and there are sure to be other genes at work, too, accounting for the huge range of cognitive diversity associated with “ADHD”.
Are you an introvert? A violent criminal? Do you like to jump out of airplanes (try to remember the parachute, please)? An alcoholic? Do you have ADHD? Do you have a lot of lovers? Do you want to live to 110? Say thank you to DRD4 7R.
The DRD4 7R allele blunts dopamine signaling, which enhances individuals’ reactivity to their environment.People who carry this variant gene, Moyzis said, seem to be more motivated to pursue social, intellectual and physical activities. The variant is also linked to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and addictive and risky behaviors.
"While the genetic variant may not directly influence longevity,” Moyzis said, “it is associated with personality traits that have been shown to be important for living a longer, healthier life. It’s been well documented that the more you’re involved with social and physical activities, the more likely you’ll live longer. It could be as simple as that.”
"Numerous studies – including a number from the 90+ Study – have confirmed that being active is important for successful aging, and it may deter the advancement of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s"
Prior molecular evolutionary research led by Moyzis and Chuansheng Chen, UC Irvine professor of psychology & social behavior, indicated that this “longevity allele” was selected for during the nomadic out-of-Africa human exodus more than 30,000 years ago.In the new study, the UC Irvine team analyzed genetic samples from 310 participants in the 90+ Study. This “oldest-old” population had a 66 percent increase in individuals carrying the variant relative to a control group of 2,902 people between the ages of 7 and 45. The presence of the variant also was strongly correlated with higher levels of physical activity.
Once again, ADHD need not be a curse; it can be gift.
Hyperactivity can be good for old people if it gets them up and out. The gene is also called the Adventure Gene, the Nomad gene and the Wanderlust Gene. The constant turning of a multi-attentional restless mind helps stave off Dementia. It's the da Vinci gene, too.
Don’t worry about the forgetfulness--you had that when you were 6.
DRD4 is also called the Promiscuity Gene or the Slut Gene. There is a reason you have Neanderthal DNA. It was that hunky guy with the muscles and big jaw, Granny met when she was out picking berries and ovulating! Sex is also good exercise. And yes it helps you live longer.
Thank you DRD4!
Parents and HIve Culture
As for good and bad parents, as I have indicated, they can be good and bad at the same time, as was the case with mine.
What constitutes “good” and “bad”parenting changes with the media cycle.
A “good parent” in our society agonizes about his or her kids’ future, trying to find the best school to prepare them for that future, which unfortunately is based on the parents’ pasts. But all age-graded schools with mandatory activities and courses demand conformity and inhibit creativity, while building dependency rather than supporting autonomy.
As I have written in my book, Ageing Young: You’re Never Too Old To Rock And Roll, we live in “hive cultures”. While ants and bees’ roles are genetically determined with extreme precision, our roles are, for the most part, artificially created and designated. In addition, we play multiple, sometimes conflicting roles, nowadays defined digitally.
An artificial hive culture like our favors genetic types supporting linear thinking, conformity, and high latent inhibition and high levels of neurochemicals such MAOI which regulate dopamine—the kind of people who made good farmers in the Neolithic when the climate changed and we were forced to adopt agriculture. Once, we ran with wolves. Now we needed people as domesticable as goats or cows. The Industrial Revolution upped the stakes forcing us to invent the Cult of the Child, mass education, and later Teenagers The direct authoritarianism of previous times was replace by subtle, indirect, "inverted" authoritarianism.
Modern parents often pretend to be "teaching" creativity, autonomy and the like--which, are in fact, unteachable--while framing the world in such a way as to restrict such things.
DDR4 R2/ R7is the Slut Gene, right? Among other things, it promotes genetic diversity -- and indirectly --- neurodiversity.
Our ancestors needed that to prevent inbreeding. Our increasingly technocratic hives need outliers to navigate the Matrix. Without whom we cannot have scientific progress Their genes enables low latent inhibition, which is today seen as impaired “executive” function, a poorly defined, if not murky abstraction of neurological and cognitive functions except when we need creativity, innovation and genius.
Psychological neoliberlism? No, you don’t have Bill Gates in your frontal lobes telling you what to do -- not yet, anyway. But you have a lot of other people up there -- parents, teachers, and that sexy anchor on CNN.
EF is pretty much anything you want it to be or what social norms define appropriate…
Note Note that the that "control" part of executive control is "inhibition" and relies on "self" monitoring which in turn relies on social monitoring and indoctrination. So...is Executive Control a kind of cognitive fascism which frames the natural spontaneity of the creative mind "hyperactive impulsivity"?
A “natural” parent allows a child, especially a kid on the spectrum, to make their own decisions and to learn from experience. The family is not focused on the children; as the core. Nor on the parents' expectations and biases.
What are important are the individual needs and wants of every member of the family which requires consensus, compromise, communication and especially honesty.
Unfortunately, with social atomization and smaller families and fewer children, we are ever more “child-centric”, perhaps because we are unconsciously aware that there is no “normal”, and that what we are doing is probably wrong.
We double down on our mistakes rather than learn from them and seek validation from “authorities” rather than our instincts.
Here is an excerpt from an article advising vigilance – and pediatricians.
Babies with ADHD require more attention and care than others do. They are often distressed, and uneasy to please or handle. This can involve colic or excessive inconsolable crying when no problem is apparent. Parents of ADHD babies have reported that their infants also constantly need to be held, coddled or rocked. For a parent whose job is the primary caregiver for an infant with ADHD, this can be exhausting and seemingly endless.
The advice is not based on any “science” or research. All babies cry. All babies are difficult – often for longer periods of time than you might want. All babies need to be held, coddle, rocked and sung to. Babies are troublesome little animals that only a mother could love.
Diagnosing a baby with ADHD therefore is pretty much impossible.
For example, I have ADHD was a model baby, happy most of the time, although very demanding of attention – which I got, having quickly learned that being cute and smiling and laughing a lot made as love sponge.
My older brother, by contrast, was a “difficult” infant – but that had more to do with my mother’s inexperience. Years later she would complain, “Your brother was always a problem – y’know he fought at the breast – he wouldn’t even feed properly”. Children “fight at the breast” when the breasts are large and are suffocating them! It is inexperience on the part of the mother.
But such events can set up a chain of events afterwards. My mother was neurodivergent, as was my father; each different in their ways; both gifted.
My brother was not good in school. His IQ scores ranged from 90 to 140 depending on the day. He was impulsive and a natural and rather astute rule breaker, who did not pay attention in class. He became an alcoholic and died young of cancer, leaving a small fortune. He too was “neurodivergent” as were his two children.
The point here is that “ADHD” is a term that covers a range of genetically gifted, unique neurological configurations, and no infant should be labeled, as having a “medical condition” with prescriptions for care based on their “condition”, when you really don't know what that condition is.
In addition, there caregiving needs to be shared between mothers, other nursing mothers, grandparents, husbands, sibling, and children.
The Hunter Gatherer Solution
How did Hunters and gatherers nurture their infants, many of whom had the ADHD gene?
From birth, babies were carried by their mothers or surrogates everywhere they went, so they could be cuddled, coddled, and nursed on demand, which could last up to five years.
Mothers didn't do it alone. Why do women have two breasts when they generally have one child at a time? Caregivers responded immediately, without judgment or concern when young children cried, got angry angry and so on , but they didn't' over-focus on the baby or over indulge them. They continued doing what they normally did – gathering food, for example-- or hunting. After kids were old enough to crawl, they are often looked after by older children, including but not limited to their siblings.
The fact is that children "belonged", if they belonged to anyone, to everyone, at least until they were weaned, at which point, they were participants in their society. They learned through experience, trial and error. They were not over-protected, despite a high mortality rate.
Mothers in indigenous communities did not agonize about which Kindergarten would best prepare Junior for Harvard, or which educational toys—they were happy if the child was healthy, happy, and autonomously engaged in the community that the band constituted. Children did not belong to their parents-- they belonged to themselves and to the community.
So, what is good parenting? It is letting your kids be who they are and allowing them to nurture themselves.