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On Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD

Spaniards in general see themselves as nervous, physically active, excitable people, with a heightened capacity to feel emotions, great joy, great compassion, great indignation, great admiration, great sorrow and so on. Spanish has a term for those who lack this passion, “sangre de orchata,” having bland orchata juice in their veins instead of blood.
My father’s side of the family embraced with gusto their hyperactivity, creativity, athletic abilities and histrionics. From an early age, I took this as a way to be that was neither an asset nor a handicap. I was fidgety, energetic, zestful, impatient, enthusiastic, easily distracted, had a hard time focusing, but did intensely when something fascinated me. What really frustrated me was my total geographical-spatial disorientation, which caused me to get lost all the time, though eventually I always managed to get where I needed to be. My mother told me constantly to “calm down,” and her mother complained, “she’s a clown like her father,” but most teachers accepted me as I was, and gave me enough positive feedback to make me want to excel academically and to be accepted socially.
I was determined to listen in class and to lectures outside of school that interested me. I sat with a pencil and pad, focused on the teacher’s words, determined to follow to the end. Within five minutes, my mind was wondering elsewhere for the duration. I went all through school, and on to a Harvard PhD without once having been able to listen to a single lecture.
It greatly surprised me, therefore, by a flurry of publications and media reports during the 1970s in the U.S. that described me, and many extremely accomplished people I knew, as suffering from “a disorder” that had to be medicated. In my estimation, this view got down right hysterical in the 80s, and was established as gospel truth in the 90s. In my experience, private schools and those in affluent neighborhoods have been particularly prone to label some of their students as sufferers from this “disorder,” causing their parents to send them to doctors who suggest medication.
No doubt there are children who are too hyperactive and are aggressive, and need treatment, and scores of psychologists are going an excellent job treating them. But many children I know, who are like me, can perfectly well manage, unless they are told they have some sort of medical or psychological “disorder” that has to be medicated, which causes them to feel they are handicapped. It’s even worse when allowances are made for them due to their “condition.”
Since my arrival in the US, many decades ago, I have seen medical fads come and go. Among them are “thyroid dysfunction;” when there was none; “Recovered Memory Syndrome;” unnecessary bypass operations, hysterectomies and Cesareans. Some of these fads go away, come back and go away again, some disappear.
I suppose the excesses regarding ADHD shall pass too, I hope without having done too much damage to children who are simply full of zip, restless and creative and need to, one, be accepted as they are, and two, get the same limits and demands that are imposed on everyone else.
For interesting views on this subject see, Tara Parker-Pope “Can attention deficit be framed as a gift?” The Global Edition of The New York Times, Thursday, November 27, 2008.
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TAXI DRIVERS AND CELL PHONES

For a chicken like me it’s not easy to deal with taxi drivers–-usually young--who chat on their cell phones while driving with one hand, obviously not totally focused on getting me to my destination as fast and safely as possible. They  Read More 
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