Thursday, February 2, 2012

Focus on ADHD: A reaction to L. Alan Sroufe

L. Alan Sroufe has caused a stir. 

In a New York Times opinion piece, he has basically denigrated parents of kids with ADHD and blamed their problems on poverty, wealth, too little attention, too much attention, and sneaking up behind their children as babies and scaring them.  These parents, says Sroufe, have placed all their hopes and dreams into medications like Ritalin, which offer no real, lasting treatment at all.  And the parents are to blame for all this.

Supposedly, he is an accredited researcher with the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development.  I work for a research university and I can't imagine any of our faculty presenting such a salacious piece to the media.  Or at least getting it past our crackerjack public relations team.  

The blogsphere has been in uproar ever since.  Noted ADHD expert Ned Hallowell addressed Sroufe in his blog, the Child Mind Institute shot back, and even New York Times blogs, like The Motherlode, have reacted with vehemence to Sroufe's archaic claims. 

Really, we thought we were past all that.  

If clinicians are questioning whether ADHD is inherited and are blaming parents and parenting...well, then ADHD might as well go back into hiding, something you treat on the downlow. 

What Sroufe has done is as irresponsible as an AIDS researcher claiming that HIV can only be contracted by homosexual sex.  We all know that's not the case, but by being an authority who says it, you will get all the doubters and wingnuts in an uproar.  

One point that he makes is valid - we need more research into ADHD.  The causes, the genetic links, behavioral therapies, neurotherapies, diet, you name it.  We need to know this disorder inside and out and begin actually treating.  We need definitive, irrefutable diagnoses.  We need to be able to give parents HOPE.   

When a child is diagnosed, parents ought to be able to hear how the ADHD will be successfully managed.  We need testing that will tell parents what will work with their child's type of ADHD.  Parents shouldn't have to repeatedly hear about the high rates of incarceration for adults with ADHD. 

I heard just yesterday that researchers may be close to managing 90% of all Cystic Fibrosis cases.  Having known children and young adults with this disease (since there are virtually no surviving older adults with this disease), it's a true blessing that there is hope of a cure...or at least a long-term management plan.

Although autism is diagnosed at rates that were unheard of 20 years ago, awareness has brought expanded attention and options to families suffering with this neurological disorder.  Autism Speaks is a movement that is well known, and that seeks a cure and sustainable solutions that will help children and adults thrive.   

We need a campaign for ADHD.  

Taking a cue from Autism Speaks, at first I thought about ADHD Focuses.  But besides the fact that it's an oxymoron, it just didn't trip off of your tongue.  So I've settled on Focus on ADHD.  We need to focus on ADHD, so that kids and adults with ADHD can focus.   

Focus on ADHD.  Not L. Alan Sroufe. 


  1. That article punctuated what we all know. People have many, many biases against ADHD. It's an uphill struggle. Hopefully the voices speaking out against the blame-game will make the hill not quite as steep.

  2. The article is refreshing and seems right on and encouraging. I think the main point the article writer was making was that life with ADHD isn't a simple. see link here!