Imagine this: You bring a group of children - your own, say, or yours and your sister's, or the Scout troop of which you're in charge - to a theme park. It's crowded, and the lines are long, and all the kids are restless, wriggling, peeved at having to wait. Even the group's most reserved, polite, passive child is pouting, stamping, joining the chorus of impatient little voices. That chorus, complaining and demanding, is contagious. As the adult in charge, you try to soothe the group. You coax them to pass the time while waiting in line with word games or songs -- because, you explain with your grown-up wisdom, we must face facts: We can neither shorten these lines nor cut to the front. The first would be magic; you tell the kids: the second would be insufferably rude.
Imagine, then, that one of the kids in your group -- the most restless one -- fishes from his pocket a folded paper: It's a doctor's note declaring that the child has ADHD. And this note qualifies this child to jump the queue, to stride to the front of any line and be allowed to ride the tilt-a-wheel or roller coaster ahead of everyone. How would the other children in your group react? When some shrieked That's unfair, as children do, what would you say?
That scenario is now a reality in the UK, where tourist boards and theme-park management have recently begun granting "priority wristbands" to children with ADHD if they present letters from their doctors, because ADHD sufferers "can't stand" waiting in lines.
According to the Daily Mail, "ADHD experts said the priority system was necessary as youngsters with the condition simply couldn't wait patiently for their turn. Andrea Bilbow, of the ADDISS support service, said: 'Children with ADHD are very impulsive and just can't cope in a queue or when there is a delay in gratification. They can't stand and wait for an hour because there will be a nice ride at the end of it. They physically can't cope with that.'
"She said the idea that ADHD children should wait like others was based on a misconception of the condition. 'If you believe ADHD is a real condition and understand and acknowledge it, then you would understand why they have got this treatment,' she said. Sufferers had a 'maturity lag', she said, and may only be able to handle waiting in a queue until later in life."
A spokeswoman for the popular park Alton Towers is quoted as saying: "At the Alton Towers Resort, we take great pride in the fact that we go to great lengths to ensure our attraction is as accessible as possible to all our guests. Visitors who are unable to stand in line in our standard queue lines due to medical conditions are eligible to receive wristbands in order to gain priority entrance to our rides and attractions. 'Documentary evidence of their illness or disability must be presented to our Guest Services team.'"
Readers' responses to this story, which has appeared in several different papers, reflect consternation.
"Why should I have to queue when others don't because they simply are impatient!?" asks a Daly Mail reader. "What is the world coming to?!"
"As the mother of an autistic boy I can't praise these exit passes enough," asserts another. "They've revolutionized our family outings. My son is unable to wait for extended periods of time even with distractions and struggles to tolerate large crowds of people, very similar to a child with ADHD). So many of our days out to local theme parks would have to be cut short in order to prevent him becoming distressed and ourselves stressed, or avoided all together which then meant his sister lost out. These passes allow him to participate with the same activities as his peers at a level he can manage."
"Part of having ADHD should be teaching them to live in the world as we know it," laments a teacher at the Times Educational Supplement online forum. "They cannot queue jump in later life in the post office, therefore they need to be taught this."
"They don't need to be able to jump the queue," argues another Daily Mail reader. "They need to be made to behave."