Speaking of labels. When I worked with students in the charter schools and public school system developing dual credit coursework, I ran across students who were shy (or boisterous) and exceptionally bright. Light years ahead of their teachers and therefore bored with the material in class, and yet far behind other students in adapting to their peer groups (many of whom they considered to be, rightly so, juvenile[1]).

Too many of these students were labelled ADD or with the even more ambiguous and broad social learning disorder. Social learning disorder, which, when it occurs can cripple a young person. Too often it is taken to mean lagging behind their peers in the ability to socialize with popular groups, participate in sports, and know when to kiss the teacher’s ass. These are critical skills, but for many of the brighter students, they don’t develop until college. The same with faux ADD, which fades when students meet a broader range of peers and can focus on acceptance because their classes challenge them enough to engage their interest.

Parents should make sure to consult more than one specialist, and definitely consult a specialist when a teacher or administrator (or school counselor), who is completely unqualified, makes the diagnosis. But considering how many students are now diagnosed, it might be time to quit drugging and stigmatizing and recognizing that these symptoms are part of one norm for teen behavior.

I write this knowing that, had I entered the school system in the seventies instead of the fifties, I would have most likely been diagnosed with both.

[1] “Juvenile” isn’t a judgment. They were juveniles by definition.

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