Vision Therapy Blog

Is the A.D.H.D. Diagnosis Helping or Hurting Kids?

posted on April 30, 2016
adhd.JPG Is the A.D.H.D. Diagnosis Helping or Hurting Kids?

"The skyrocketing number of children with attention deficit disorders has led some pediatricians to question whether the diagnostic criteria for them — which is necessary for medication prescriptions and disability accommodations — is too subjective. Some children may be over-diagnosed and over-medicated, while others who fall short of the diagnosis go unsupported," writes the New York Times.

They surveyed five experts.

The Diagnosis Does a Disservice

Pediatrician Dimitri Christakis asserts that diagnosing kids with ADHD does them a disservice because it tends to be a black-and-white diagnosis. In fact, like autism, ADHD exists on a spectrum. Take a look at his entire thesis.

Diagnosis Is Key to Helping Kids

Not so, says Tanya Froehlich, a professor of developmental pediatrics. She asserts that there is strong scientific evidence to tie ADHD to dire health consequences that can be helped with early treatment. Read her entire thesis.

Disparities in Diagnosis

Keith Wilson, a professor at a rehabilitation institute in Illinois, suggests that although children of color are more likely to have symptoms of ADHD, but are less likely to be diagnosed or treated. That's a problem.

There's no rush!

Professor of special education Donna Ford urges doctors to slow down and focus first on behavioral strategies and second on drugs. Vision therapy can be one of those strategies!

Failure to Conform Accounts for Most Diagnoses

Author Susan Hawthorne asserts that an ADHD diagnosis can be a cop-out that ignores larger problems and is something easy to blame for difficult children. Many times, it might not be correct at all.

Our Take at AVT

Our very own Dr. Rob Lauver has his own thoughts, which are rooted in decades of clinical and scientific experience working with kids of all ages. Vision can be the root problem!

Until recently, most pediatricians and other medical professionals have denied that vision has anything to do with reading and learning disabilities. We now have proof that vision deficiencies are responsible for more than 68% of reading disabled children. We also know that 80% of what we learn is through vision. We are not born with vision. It is an acquired skill.

For many years, it has been obvious to developmental optometrists that convergence problems (in particular Convergence Insufficiency (or CI) result in behavior symptoms, like those used to diagnose ADHD. In other words, a substantial number of patients who seek Developmental Optometric care have a history of being able to pay attention very well when someone else is reading, BUT have a short attention span, or become more fidgety, when they have to read independently. They appear to have ADHD when in reality; they have visual inattention because of poor or improper vision.

The problem is that these patients are usually lumped together, and they end up in special education and are often medicated. While a small set of patients with true ADHD may benefit from medication, precious resources and money would be saved if those with visual problems such as CI were properly evaluated.

A study, by Dr. Granet and colleagues at UCSD, is notable because it is the first paper published in a medical journal that establishes a direct link between ADHD and CI. In a review of 266 charts of patients with CI, these researchers found a three times greater amount had ADHD than would be expected among patients in general. While the authors are cautious not to draw to much of a confusion from this, they now recommend that patients diagnosed with ADHD should be evaluated to determine if they have CI.

Studies of this nature should help call attention to children misidentified as having ADHD, when the underlying visual problem is left untreated. This is particularly important because CI is one of the more common visual problems that developmental optometrists help through vision therapy. In many instances, parents of children, and adult patients have reported to us that that their capacity to attend when reading, writing, or computing has improved substantially after completing vision therapy.

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