Dr. Edward Hallowell Sheds Light on ADHD
Friday, February 8, 2013 • 1:21pm
SHORT HILLS, NJ - Brilliant. Original. Pioneers. Dreamers.
These are just some of the words that describe children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to psychologist and NY Times bestselling author, Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.
On Thursday, Feb. 7, the Millburn-Short Hills Special Education Committee (M-SPEC) and the Winston School presented “An Evening with Dr. Edward Hallowell,” at Christ Church in Short Hills to a receptive audience of about 500 people.
It was in the 1980s that Hallowell made the connection that he himself had ADHD, a “condition that can be a blessing or curse, depending how you manage it,” but one that “can lead you to absolute heights in life.”
ADHD is not new, according to Hallowell. “It’s been around forever,” he said. He explained that the way ADHD was handled many years ago was to “beat the devil out of you if you weren’t doing what you were supposed to.” Adults sometimes took out their frustrations by torturing children, which Hallowell says still happens today. “We love simplistic solutions; passes for enlightened wisdom.”
But truth did prevail. Hallowell explained that in 1937 there was a hospital ward of boys who were uncontrollable, but instead of tying up the hyperactive children, the doctors tried giving them methamphetamines, a potent and addictive central nervous system stimulant. The drug helped the kids interact and it was soon referred to as the “arithmetic pill” because they were now able to do their math. Research continued and ADHD started being called “Minimal Brain Dysfunction.”
During the 1970s, Virginia Douglas, a Canadian psychologist, argued that “hyperactive” children weren’t necessarily more distracted than others and that they could sustain attention under conditions without distractions. Through her research the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) was born. By the 1990s the condition was confirmed in patients with CAT scans and MRIs.
Hallowell shared his own struggles with having ADHD as a kid growing up in the 1950s. He said he was the worst reader in the class, but with encouragement from his 1st grade teacher, he became an enthusiastic reader. “That woman changed my life,” he said.
A natural originality, a sense of daring adventure and a willingness to go outside the box is how Hallowell sees both children and adults with ADHD. He described a child diagnosed with ADHD as having a “race car brain with bicycle brakes,” and that what the child needs is for people to be more patient.
“It begins with connecting with kids,” he said. “Get to know them. Treat them with respect. We underestimate the power of connection. All good in life begins with connection. If you get just a little bit, it cancels out all the bad. It’s the active force of growth and these kids really need it.”
Continuing, he said, “These folks tend to be late bloomers. How many times do you hear stories from successful people that had a hard time in grade school, in high school?”
While medications can help treat children with ADHD, non-medical treatments, such as a change in lifestyle, structure and counseling, give preferable results, according to Hallowell, because they don’t have side effects and can really develop the gifts with which a child was born.
A graduate of Harvard College and Tulane School of Medicine, Hallowell was a member of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School from 1983 to 2004, when he retired from teaching to devote his full professional attention to his clinical practice, lectures and writing books.
Hallowell has appeared on 20/20, Oprah, Dr. Oz, CNN, PBS, 60 Minutes, The Today Show and Good Morning America. He’s been interviewed in Newsweek, Harvard Business Review, Washington Post and New York Times. For more information on Dr. Hallowell, go to: www.drhallowell.com.