I am looking forward to presenting at this year’s National Youth at Risk Conference in Savannah. The title of my presentation is ADHD: Maladaptive Disorder or Evolutionary Adaptation. According to researchers the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at some point may have served a purpose in society. Studies of ancient hunter-gatherer societies suggest that the symptoms were essential for survival.
Numerous researchers contend that evolutionary adaptation may explain the presence of ADHD symptoms in some children. However, the researchers acknowledge that other intervening variables such as trauma, abuse, and developmental disorders may also contribute to the symptoms. We currently call ADHD a disorder, yet this research may prove that in certain environments the symptoms played a highly functional role.
However, research is only as valuable as our ability use and contextualize it to problems that people face on a day-to-day basis. One of my first private practice client’s had been diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). While reviewing the medical record, I used the terms ADHD and ODD throughout my evaluation. After about 5 minutes, the client’s grandmother looked at me and said, “I don’t care if he has ABC DEF or G the boy is just BAD and he needs a butt whooping.” At that point I remembered that my assessment had to make practical sense to those who needed the services I had to offer. Fortunately, I was able to develop a treatment plan that benefited him and his family.
His grandmother reminded me that my knowledge and skills are only useful to others if they effectively address real world problems. As was the case with that first client, many people think that kids with ADHD are bad when they are often quite brilliant. I look forward to engaging this important issue in Savannah this week.