Dear Matt Walsh… and others like him

I’m truly disappointed. I love Matt Walsh’s blog, I think he has a true talent with words, and he likes to tell it as (he thinks) it is – and normally, he’s bang on. Except for yesterday. Yesterday Mr. Walsh wrote a blog post about ADHD, or rather, what he considers the made-up label of ADHD. What he claims he was going for is the fact that there’s really nothing wrong with the symptoms of ADHD, and that it’s the world we live in today, that creates the problem, by not allowing children to be children. However, if that’s what he was going for, he failed – big time. The end result of his blog post, which can be read here, was an insulting, trivializing sarcasm-drenched post that mocked a real and valid neurological disorder – but wait, Mr. Walsh went even further and stated that ADHD isn’t even a real neurological disorder.

The very title of his blog, “Help, doc, I’m bored by boring things. I think I’ve got the ADHD,” sets the tone of the disrespect that follows in his post. On his Facebook page he outright stated, “No, I don’t think ADHD is a myth. I think it’s a combination of misunderstandings, misreadings, lies, fears, and effective marketing tactics. There are legitimate mental disorders out there. ADHD isn’t one of them.”

Now, I will say upfront that he did have a few good points:

1. I do believe that ADHD is over diagnosed today, and over medicated.

2. I do believe that we have a vision of what children should be, and that if they don’t behave exactly as we feel they should, or if they don’t meet certain milestones at an exact time, then we automatically assume there must be something wrong with them.

3. I do believe that many of the “culprits” he listed, such as electronics, diet and lifestyle, do have an impact on ADHD. They can worsen symptoms, or what’s more – they (especially our chemical-filled foods) can cause side effects that mimic the symptoms of ADHD, which leads to a false diagnosis.  However, they are not the “cause” of ADHD. If they were, then ADHD would not have been first diagnosed in 1902.

4. I believe that we are too quick to jump on the “drug” train, without looking into natural treatment remedies.

If he could have just left it there, or perhaps even gone ahead and encouraged parents to explore alternative options to medicating their children, to explore environmental factors that could be causing the ADHD symptoms, instead of assuming a neurological disorder, I probably would have applauded the blog post. But unfortunately, he didn’t. Instead, he jumped onto the band-wagon of the “Neurological-Disorder Ignorant”, and helped to perpetuate the cycle of misunderstanding and mocking that almost all parents of children who have real and valid neurological disorders have to fight against.

Instead of doing research, he posted an article that had outright false information in it. Instead of offering sympathy and an attempt at understanding to the families affected by ADHD,  he used scathing sarcasm and mocked the real trials that parents face when dealing with this disorder. He trivialized their struggles and emotions, and what’s worse – people applauded him for it.  More than one commenter went so far as to say that ADHD is nothing more than a lack of parenting.  Mr. Walsh himself made a “joke” of ill-taste when in response to some of the negative feedback he was receiving, said, “Wait, is this a controversial topic or something?” This disrespectful comment coming from a man who calls himself a Christian. And so, he became one of those people – the ignorant ones. The ones who’ve never had to walk a step in our shoes, let alone a mile.

The ones who have no idea the battles that we face, the judgement, the fear, the emotional drain, the utter exhaustion that comes from battling the medical system as we try and get services and help in place for our children, as we drive ourselves batty researching and second guessing every decision, wondering if it’s the right one for our child. The ones who never have to listen to people tell us that our doctors are wrong, and there’s nothing wrong with our child – after they’ve spent a few hours with them, instead of living with them day after day after day. The ones who tell us we’re doing it wrong, that we should be doing it this way or that, the ones who when asked, “Oh do you have a child with [insert disorder of choice here] say, “Oh, no, but Dr. Oz had a show and it said…” etc…

Do I have a child with ADHD? No. So why does his post incense me so? Because I have two children with neurological disorders – and I’ve been on the receiving end of comments just like these. I know what it feels like.  And, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s ignorance, especially from those who go around spouting off information like it’s fact when not only do they have no experience with what they’re talking about, the information they’re giving is also just plain wrong. And let’s get something clear here – unless you have a child, or have cared for a child, or even perhaps grew up with a sibling who had whatever disorder you’re talking about, you do not have experienceReading about it, is not experience. Hearing about it from a friend who’s child has it, is not experience.

So what are the facts of ADHD that Mr. Walsh got wrong? Well the two main ones are: he outright stated that ADHD has no diagnostic criteria, just some symptoms, and of course, that ADHD is not a real diagnosis, it’s just a product of our culture.

However,  ADHD has very specific diagnostic criteria, per the DSM, there must be:

A. Persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and is more severe than is typically observed in individuals at comparable level of development.
B. Some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms must have been present before seven years of age.
C. Some impairment from the symptoms must be present in at least two settings.
D. There must be clear evidence of interference with developmentally appropriate social, academic or occupational functioning.
E. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorders and is not better accounted for by another mental disorder.

And,  ADHD is not a “new” diagnosis. It was first diagnosed in 1902. This is not a made-up disorder created because kids are eating too many candies and watching tv.  Is it on the rise? Yes. Could the reason for that be some of the reasons touched upon in Mr. Walsh’s blog – for sure. But for him to say it’s not a real diagnosis, is erroneous.

ADHD is so much more than just a kid who gets distracted, or who likes to fidget and squirm. It’s about a child who has such serious struggles with his symptoms, that he is unable to function well. It interferes with his daily life to such an extent that his ability to learn, to have friends, to function in the areas of daily living, are impaired.  One of the (many) comments on Mr. Walsh’s facebook page in response to his post was from a mother who’s child has ADHD. Due to his disorder, he was failing in school, he was struggling to learn, he had no friends, his behavior at home was a struggle. After trying other routes, after debating whether to medicate or not – they did. And the improvements were amazing – his grades improved, social relationships improved, behavior improved. Not too long afterwards her son came to her, thanking her, saying, “I can actually think now.” She admitted to crying, realizing just how much her son had been struggling.

And it’s this woman, her son, and all those like her – that Mr. Walsh just mocked, and insulted. It’s women like her and children like her son, that Mr. Walsh just told that these struggles are nothing more than a figment of their imagination, caused by (according to him) nothing more than watching too much tv, not getting enough exercise and eating too many candies. He told them that their struggles, really aren’t struggles at all, they’re just a personality trait.

Shame on you Mr. Walsh. And shame on all the others like him. We’ve all seen the tv commercials talking about how words can hurt, we grew up with our parents teaching us to think before we speak, lest we hurt someone  – apparently Mr. Walsh should have paid better attention.

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One thought on “Dear Matt Walsh… and others like him

  1. Amen. Two of my children are medicated for ADHD. It is a night and day difference for them. My third grader, who has dyslexia and dyscalculia as well, is finally learning to read and do math – thanks to Strattera. I am disappointed in Mr. Walsh. I am also somewhat amused by his strong opinions about child-rearing, given that his children are very small.

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