Dr. Leon Eisenberg’s obituary appeared yesterday in the New York Times. A pioneer in the study of autism and ADD, according to the obituary Dr. Eisenberg’s concern in later life was that the ADD diagnosis “has morphed from a relative uncommon condition 40 years ago to one whose current prevalence is 8 percent. . . Correspondingly, the prescription of stimulant drugs has gone up enormously. The reasons are not self-evident.”*
Many years ago when Taylor, my youngest son, was in fourth grade, he almost ended up on Ritalin, were it not for the fact that Ian and I couldn’t believe that Taylor was in any way ADD. Taylor was a fifth grade slacker, who was not interested in much at school except for art. He otherwise zoned out. One day the teacher called us in for a meeting with the school psychologist, who strongly suggested Ritalin. The school psychologist hadn’t even observed Taylor in the classroom. “Taylor – ADD?” I gasped with amazement. “Why, he’s our bright light!” The kid seemed very bright and he focused on stuff he found interesting, which didn’t happen to be most fourth grade subjects apparently.
None-the-less, I felt it incumbent on me to do a little research. I ordered a book from Amazon on ADD. Nothing I could find in the check-list applied to Taylor. So, Ian and I said to the principal and the psychologist at our next meeting that the diagnosis didn’t fit. This was embarrassing for the psychologist, as it was embarrassing for us to have to tell her this. The principal was a bit stiff with us and warned us that there were long term consequences for not intervening. “Taylor could continue for years underperforming and never reach his potential,” she said sadly.
For many years afterwards, I was afraid she was right as Taylor slacked his way through middle school and high school. University for him was looking like a pipe dream. After the problems surfaced with Chris, I got Taylor a hair test, figuring that his artistic temperament was also somehow related to Chris. The hair test said he was off the charts in copper, which would make him dreamy and creative or, “unfocused,” if you will. To make a long story short: Three months of supplements and he got focused, just in time for his final year of high school. As I have said repeatedly in my blog, there can be many reasons for a single outcome. Was it the supplements? Was it that boys don’t normally focus until their later teen years? Or, was it that Taylor got scared about what he saw happening to Chris?