In the context of the educational assessments that children like my five-year-old daughter are subject to, we see a diagnostic model that specializes in both quantifying educational deficiencies in very young children and providing an antidote that meets the needs of the diagnosis. We see the emergence of large publishing companies that are allowed to control the definition of the symptoms as well as prescribe and furnish the cure – for a hefty price. We see the emergence of the scripted curriculum, where “scripted” means an explicit formula to cure what ails them, as in “prescription.”
At my daughter's school, the prescription comes in the form of Scott Foresman’s Reading Street. Scott Foresman is a division of publishing giant Pearson Education. My daughter's school enrolls about half white children and half children of color and qualifies for Title 1 funds, so it might be logical to infer that this prescription is aimed at “those kids,” i.e., low-income minority children. But the same kind of prescription is being handed out everywhere in the district, not just at my daughter’s school. And it’s being handed out all across the country. The prescription goes by various names, but they all have this in common: invent, identify, and remediate deficiencies, all in one slick package.
In the context of the psychiatric medication that children like my five-year-old daughter are subject to, we see a diagnostic model that specializes in both quantifying behavioral abnormalities in very young children and providing an antidote that meets the needs of the diagnosis. We see the emergence of large drug companies that are allowed to control the definition of the symptoms as well as prescribe and furnish the cure – for a hefty price. We see the emergence of the prescription as the cure for childhood.
Here's a nice passage from Thomas Armstrong, “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children: One Consequence of the Rise of Technologies and the Demise of Play,” in Sharna Olfman (ed.) All Work and No Play…How Educational Reforms Are Harming Our Preschoolers. Westport Ct.: Praeger, 2003, pp. 161-176. . Online at: www.thomasarmstrong.com/articles.
Research studies have demonstrated that children's ADHD symp toms decrease under a variety of environmental conditions, including when they are engaged in one-on-one learning experiences, when they're being paid to do tasks, when they have access to novel or highly stimulating activities, when they're in control of the pace of learning experiences, and when they're interacting with male authority figures (Barkley, 1990; McGuinness, 1985; Zentall, 1980; Sykes, Douglas, & Morgenstern, 1973; Sleator & Ullman, 1981). From this we can infer that symptoms of ADHD in children might increase when the oppo site environmental conditions pertain, such as when they're perform ing in boring or low-stimulation environments, when they're not receiving a meaningful reward for their efforts, and when they're powerless to control the pace of learning tasks. Indeed, if these con ditions are present in a child's home environment from birth, it is rea sonable to suspect that they could lay the groundwork for the disorder itself.
In a survey of ADHD-diagnosed and "normal" children aged six to seventeen, the odds of a child being diagnosed with ADHD increased in proportion to the extent that they came from a family characterized by adversity, including severe marital discord, low social class, large family size, paternal criminality, maternal mental disorder, and foster care placement (Biederman et al., 1995). Other studies have demon strated that the quality of caregiving in early childhood predicts dis tractibility (a key symptom of ADHD) better than early biological markers or temperament, and that a strong overlap exists between symptoms of ADHD and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in children, suggesting that early sexual, physical, and/ or emotional abuse may play an important role in the origin of ADHD symptoms for some children (Carlson, Jacobvitz, & Sroufe, 1995; Weinstein, Staffelbach, & Biaggio, 2000).