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Help write an email to a Sociology tutor who says ADHD is medicalising the problem of naughty children.

(65 Posts)
GhostofMammaTJ Fri 05-Oct-12 18:12:22

My friend has just started uni. She has a son with ADHD. She went through many years of hardship with him before diagnosis. He is on ritalin and has greatly improved.

She sat in a sociology lecture where the lecturer was talking about over medicalising problems. The lecturer said that obesity is over medicalised, fair enough in some cases, getting operations and tablets for something that can be controlled by diet and excercise.

They then went on to talk about ADHD. ADHD is medicalisation of naughty children, just sticking a medical label on them so the parents don't have to blame themselves.

One of her cohort then said 'Maybe their behaviour is due to tablets and things taken during pregnancy' (not meaning recreational, but prescribed). The tutor then shrugged as if to say 'Well maybe'.

My friend sat there trying to control her anger and tears and would like to correct the tutor in the best and calmest way possible, via email. She has asked for my help and I in turn am asking for yours.

TIA

ouryve Fri 05-Oct-12 19:47:52

quietly - DS1's ADHD diagnosis came 3 years after his ASD diagnosis, with all the SALT, OT and other input that had happened in the process. The ADHD diagnosis involved screening and observation appointments spanning 6 months. If you're inferring that CAMHS hand out pills like smarties, you're very wrong.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 05-Oct-12 19:53:35

I am afraid that this attitude is prevalent within sociology as an exemplar of a particular viewpoint - that of 'social constructionism' - and is implicity accepted in the viewpoints of realist sociologists that remain ignorant of neurology.

tbh I think it is being generous to think that the lecturer was being deliberately provocative in order that students think for themselves - sociology is about learning required texts and bodies of thought just like any degree.

madwomanintheattic Fri 05-Oct-12 19:57:39

...and having the courage to argue with them. grin

quietlysuggests Fri 05-Oct-12 19:58:38

ouryve, I may be wrong in your case, but I'm not wrong in general.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 05-Oct-12 19:58:54

Basically what your friend should do is to write an essay highlighting the problems with a social constructionist view of ADHD and other neurological disorders bringing in research from other discplines but also experiential evidence of parents. smile Counter-argument needs to be research based.

coff33pot Fri 05-Oct-12 20:02:50

Quietlysuggests. Well that makes you wrong in two so far.........DS also has salt, ot input and sensory work, behaviour management team and autism team. prior to meds.

coff33pot Fri 05-Oct-12 20:03:40

I like keepingOns idea for counter argument purposes smile

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 05-Oct-12 20:15:14

I must confess that I have never felt more shame for my displicine than the stance on some SEN as the medicalisation of 'normal' naughty behaviour. But I am aware that this is only one view (and that another needs to be articuated) and am well used to dismissing the views of those I don't, and will never, agree with. Its a bit different being a 1st year undergrad.

The main thing is to spark a passion but to remain objective ifykwim.

madwomanintheattic Fri 05-Oct-12 20:34:51

Yy, it was objectivity that let me down. grin

sneezecakesmum Fri 05-Oct-12 21:07:30

The lecturer was frankly wrong and has no right to 'express an opinion'! They are in a position of educating in a higher education setting, and the very least they should do is be basing their teaching on valid research, not opinions!!!

ADHD when diagnosed by the appropriate HCP is a diagnosis of a set of behaviours which can be managed - sometimes with medication, if other methods do not work.

If lazy HCPs are medicating naughty children then they are not doing their jobs properly.

It is not a mental illness but it probably does have a genetic link and probably a physiological cause. In my DS case his father shows ADD signs and was similar as a child, and my father died unexpectedly when I was 7 months pg with DS (cortisol stimulation). As for parenting, DD was always little miss perfect despite having the same parents!!

GhostofMammaTJ Fri 05-Oct-12 21:32:29

Have had a little drinkies right now, so will return with sensible responses tomorrow. Thank you all though.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 05-Oct-12 21:35:40

The lecturer is not wrong and is not expressing an opinion but in most cases is merely teaching to requirement - quite frankly they might not have an opinion! Most 1st year tutorials will be led by PhD students who have no personal experience of parenting.

GhostofMammaTJ Fri 05-Oct-12 21:56:57

Thanks all!!

GhostofMammaTJ Sat 06-Oct-12 09:38:24

I am seeing my friend this afternoon, so will print this off for ease of reading. Thank you all for you input, especially coff33pots DD. grin

I think she will give it a lot of thought, given what madwomanintheattic has said. Thanks again all.

ArthurPewty Sat 06-Oct-12 11:07:25

My brother had ADHD - he is 33. He was unmedicated as a child. Yes mom smoked through both of our pregnancies, and he was 5 weeks early.

He didnt have ritalin etc when a child. He turned immediately to nicotine as soon as he was old enough to buy smokes, and then eventually to harder drugs. He just finished up 15 months in prison for a crime committed whilst out of his coconut on opiates.

After TWO near-hangings and a lot of time spent in intensive care, he is now stable on lithium citalopram and clonidine, with ADHD and bipolar dxes.

Long story short? Do i agree with medicating children with ADHD? Not really. Do i like the outcome, long term, if you DONT medicate them? Not really.

I have taken a harder stance on ADHD before, as tbh in America, a lot of children ARE unnecessarily medicated. There are toddlers as young as 2 dying of ODs of psych meds because doctors are giving parents ritalin and clonidine to deal with ADHD in 2 year olds. Its INSANE.

But here in the UK, i know that if a child ends up on ritalin/strattera, he/she damn well ought to be on it, and it wont be the first thing tried, and it wont be the "

ArthurPewty Sat 06-Oct-12 11:10:06

My brother had ADHD - he is 33. He was unmedicated as a child. Yes mom smoked through both of our pregnancies, and he was 5 weeks early.

He didnt have ritalin etc when a child. He turned immediately to nicotine as soon as he was old enough to buy smokes, and then eventually to harder drugs. He just finished up 15 months in prison for a crime committed whilst out of his coconut on opiates.

After TWO near-hangings and a lot of time spent in intensive care, he is now stable on lithium citalopram and clonidine, with ADHD and bipolar dxes.

Long story short? Do i agree with medicating children with ADHD? Not really. Do i like the outcome, long term, if you DONT medicate them? Not really.

I have taken a harder stance on ADHD before, as tbh in America, a lot of children ARE unnecessarily medicated. There are toddlers as young as 2 dying of ODs of psych meds because doctors are giving parents ritalin and clonidine to deal with ADHD in children as young as 2 years old. Its INSANE. Polypharmacy is repeatedly the cause of death in more and more young people and it is seriously scary.

But here in the UK, i know that if a child ends up on ritalin/strattera, he/she damn well ought to be on it, and it wont be the first thing tried, and it wont be the "easy way out" like it is in the USA. And more importantly, the child wont be given the meds and left to not grow and not eat because of the side fx, or suffer heart problems because their ECGs arent done before eating ritalin like candy, like they are in the USA, too...

ArthurPewty Sat 06-Oct-12 11:11:25

here's one 4 year old's story

and that happens over and over in the US. Frightening.

Sneezecakesmama Sat 06-Oct-12 12:01:35

Keepon. If the teacher is not wrong and not expressing an opinion then does that mean they were right confused Does that mean a teacher is teaching that ADHD is down to poor parenting and doesn't exist but the children are just naughty? Sorry it flies in the face of research and REAL experts. A sociologist is not an expert in paediatric psychology!

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Sat 06-Oct-12 12:28:33

The tutor is not 'wrong' or expressing an opinion but is referring to a well established body of sociological research and writings. There is other research from within sociology that counters these views. Sociologists do not need to become medical doctors or psychologists to challenge this viewpoint. In fact doctors and psychologists lack the philosophical and sociological knowledge of all that lies behind social constructionism and so are not in a position to challenge it theoretically. There is no such thing as being 'right' in academia - there is always vehement disagreement within and between disciplines and so it is not as simple as correcting the tutor. See for example the work on embodiment and a realist perspective (Like Simon Williams - Is there any body there?).

It can be difficult to read abstract research on areas of our own lives with which we have intimate experiential knowledge. This is one of the reasons that some researchers prefer to have personal experience of the issues they research whilst others go to methodological lengths to give a voice to 'lay-knowledge' ie the voice of parents.

GhostofMammaTJ Sat 06-Oct-12 12:35:28

Leonie that is a shocking tale. Here children rarely get diagnosed under 7 years old.

Sneezecakesmama Sat 06-Oct-12 12:51:50

Link please Keep. To the body of research that says ADHD doesn't exist but is a combination of bad parenting and naughty children? Preferably something up to date.

I disagree with your statements as to what the lecturer was expressing. If there is no right or wrong in academia (which I agree with) then the person in question should not state his views as fact but should offer both sides of the argument, which he did NOT do.

If the lecturer is then expressing a 'fact' he should qualify it with research. It appeared to be tacked on opinion.

Am I saying all children treated as ADHD are correctly diagnosed? No, I am sure some are not, but equally some are. Unlike the lecturer I am open to the fact that there are two schools of thought and am prepared to concede this. Something I feel the OPs friend should point out in her email. It's about balance!

coff33pot Sat 06-Oct-12 13:24:00

leonie sad that is really shocking.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Sat 06-Oct-12 14:05:31

leonie sorry - didn't mean to ignore you. What you draw attention to is quite correct - the consequences of the non-medicalisation (and hence non treatment) of so-called behavioural problems leading to self-treatment and individual, familial and social costs.

Sneeze - this is not my area and so I do not have up-to-date references and I wish it was so simple that there was a single link to this - it would certainly make research a lot easier! As a start, I would do a google scholar search on the 'medicalisation of ADHD', choose and read one recent article for and one article against and use the references to find further papers. If you cannot access the full journal article but only the abstract (without paying an extortinate amount) PM your email address. Current research is influenced by 'old' research on the sociology of deviance (for example, the illegality/legality of homosexuality) and the history of psychiatry and the progression of the social identification of those who are 'ill' (and in need of treatment) rather than morally lacking (and in need of incarceration and/or punishment). Rightly or wrongly, focus remains at the level of the social and there is no sociological interest in attempting to attach blame to parents or children.

I think you are right - it should have been made clear that the views expressed were not necessarily those of the tutor. Depends on the institution - it is possible that the tutors also conduct original research but it is very unlikely that the tutor was referring to their own research. Universities are places of debate and disagreement and as such 'facts' have no place there - which is why it sometimes comes as a shock to mature students but also why tutors do not imagine that students believe they are teaching facts to a passive audience.

ArthurPewty Sat 06-Oct-12 18:43:40

Keep on: its a hard road, a fucked up road no matter what the parental choice re meds..

creamteas Sat 06-Oct-12 19:29:02

I teach medical sociology, and there is a lot of misunderstanding about the concepts of social construction and medicalisation.

The argument that illnesses are social constructions in most sociological theory is that illness can only understood socially. This does not mean that they have no biological basis, but that it is the social context through which we understand them.

For example, my DC are ASD. If society didn't expect everyone to act in a certain way in relation to behaviours around communication and interaction then ASD would be unlikely to exist as diagnostic category as they would not be seen as different. This is not denying that the condition is a bodily fact. The brain difference would be the same in societies that accepted them as 'normal' or see them as different. But as society does not tolerate the difference, their behaviour stands out and needs a 'label' to explain it.

Another way of explaining it is to think about other forms of body difference.
We don't divide people on the basis of the shape of their ear lobes, but we do use skin colour. Both are actual bodily differences, but the fact that one is significant and one isn't shows us that these type of divides are social constructions.

Medicalisation refers to the way that certain conditions come under the remit of medicine. It is a concept about professional power. This means the medical profession gets to decide both what behaviour is within a diagnostic category and who fits them (and don't we all know it grin). Categories of difference move in and out of the control of medicine (for example being gay was a crime, then an illness now it is not either).

So the argument that ADHD is a medicalised social construction does not necessarily mean that there is no underlining biological basis. What it means is first, society deems their behaviour as outside of the range of normal and second that medicine claimed power to name and control the behaviour.

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