The Theater of the Brain

The play of consciousness.

How do Our Children get Misdiagnosed with So-Called ADHD?

How do our children get misdiagnosed with so-called ADHD? Certainly symptoms present themselves. But they need to be correctly understood. As Mental Health professionals we need to fight against America’s enormous drug epidemic. We must not be the equivalent of dealers by prescribing ‘speed’ to our children. Read More

Great post

Great post. I hope that posts like this, and books like Allen Frances' Saving Normal, will help people understand that so many children are being misdiagnosed and put on drugs. Just because a child is under-performing in school does not mean they should be permanently placed non drugs.

Get children off drugs.

learning styles

I fear you have been mis-informed about learning styles. You might wish to read this article:

This is not to say that some students don't have vivid Walter Mitty-esque inner lives.

However, it's not helpful to conflate the difficulties of those students with contempt for early elementary public school teachers and their teaching methods. If you knew any early elementary public school teachers, you would know that their teaching methods are completely dictated by outside forces--they don't get to choose what or how they teach.

I encourage you to read Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Dr. Wolf, and Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention by Dr. Dehaene. If you did, you would know that *all* beginning readers read to themselves, and that only gradually, with significantly more expertise, do we adults "skip" this stage, with extensive phoneme memorization.

Frankly, I believe the worst thing you can do to children is emphasize sight words over phonetics, given both the extensively history and success of phonetics and the science behind how the brain recognizes letters and words.

So, if your hypothetical student was taught exclusively using the sight-word method, I can see how they became a non-reader.

Great Article

My son was diagnosed with ADHD. He is 6 years old. We do not have the money to put him in a special school designed to let him learn the way he needs to. In order for him to get through this destructive way of teaching today, he has to be on medication. Please read the book "Free to Learn" by Dr. Peter Gray. He emphasizes the need to let children learn their own way; to learn by play. My sister is a second grade teacher. 80% of her time is paperwork, computer work and FCAT score teaching. 20% is teaching. Schools are graded on how well the students do on FCAT. Teachers are drained, overwhelmed and fearful for these children today. This is not to say some children don't have brain deficiencies and need medication, but this is out of control in today's society. College students are on Adderall, children on Vyvanse, Focalin, etc. School teachers are on Xanex because of their nerves. I will get my son off this one day. One day at a time.

Reading and Teaching

This blog was not intended to address reading or teaching. It was simply one example, among millions, of not understanding what was going on with a child; diagnosing him with something that not only he doesn’t have, but doesn’t even exist; and then putting him on amphetamines.
Obviously Larry was initially taught to read by learning the sounds of phonemes. All kids who read phonetic writing do. (This is not the case for ideogram writing and reading which is purely visual and language, without the auditory.) However, he was then taught to abandon that, and to read exclusively visually. He couldn’t do that, and this is where he got lost.
Auditory readers do not abstract the phonemes and generalize to meaning. They cannot skip that step. They always, for the rest of their lives need to hear the sound of the words in their mind when reading. That is specifically the problem. It is very easy to fix. Just have the child go back and read aloud, and then practice reading while hearing the sound in his mind. And when reading a descriptive passage they have to actively force themselves to picture the scene. Otherwise they don’t form the images and skim on past and drop out of the visual comprehension. Also FYI visual dyslexics cannot learn the sounds of phonemes. They require a different visual approach to memorize, which they are very equipped to do.
And regarding teachers. I a well aware of the issues that are destroying the ability to teach well. I am not saying it is the teachers’ fault. They are under extreme pressure from administration to teach according to current fads. They are required to teach to the MCAS (what we call it in Massachusetts). And finally, they have classrooms often filled with problematically raised children. In particular active children without proper boundaries are designated ADHD. They, like Larry, exhibit problematic behaviors, but there is nothing wrong with them that an intervention won’t address, if one has the resources and knowledge to do so. They do not have ADHD, which doesn’t exist. Since the system can’t handle them they get put on amphetamines.
The teaching profession is currently in trouble. It is similar to my profession, psychiatry, which also has lost its way

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Robert Berezin, M.D., is the author of Psychotherapy of Character. He taught psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School for thirty years.


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