Why are we medicating so many of our young African-American males for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Recent studies show that there’s a 70 percent increase in ADHD identification for Black children. Black boys are diagnosed with the disorder at a higher rate than any other group of students in the United States.
Educator and school psychologist Dr. Umar Johnson says one way that schools deal with perceived “bad behavior” is to diagnose and medicate students for Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
Dr. Johnson joined Roland Martin Wednesday on NewsOne Now to discuss his book, Psycho-Academic Holocaust: The Special Education & ADHD Wars Against Black Boys, the increase in misdiagnosis of ADHD in the Black community, how to combat the American education system’s use of ADHD, and behavioral disorders that stigmatize African-American youth.
“ADHD as a diagnosis came to us in 1980,” Johnson told Martin. Then it was called ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). In 1987, the “H” for hyperactivity was added to ADHD, he added.
“When it became ADHD, it opened up a vacuum that allowed for nearly every child to be diagnosed to prescribe medication, because previously it was attention deficit disorder — once they added the word hyper, it opened up the opportunity for medication.”
Martin highlighted the fact that most children at 7 or 8 years of age are a little hyper. He said, “That’s just being a 7 or 8-year-old kid.” Dr. Johnson agreed with his assessment saying, “It’s normal childhood behavior.”
Dr. Johnson went on to discuss the underlying issues associated with the practice of identifying and diagnosing African-American boys with ADHD saying, “97 percent of public school teachers — charter, independent school teachers are female, so you have to look at the female culture of the schoolhouse and how when boys cannot adjust adequately to female expectations, they are marginalized.”
“When you look at the criteria for ADHD, losing things necessary to get your work done, not being able to pay attention, blurting out answers, having excessive energy — that’s normal male childhood behavior, but when you come to school, you’re kind of expected not to engage in traditional male types of behavior and if you do, you become stigmatized. And then in comes the drug companies, manufacturers of all these popular anti-stimulant medications who pay for a lot of the teacher conferences.”
“They’re fueling the diagnosis. They also fund significantly the American Physiological and the American Psychiatric Association. So a lot of this is about money, it’s not about treatment.”
Dr. Johnson says the best way to combat the misdiagnosis of ADHD is through education, “Parents need to know that in the school, we do not diagnosis ADHD.”
Johnson, a clinical doctor and school psychologist, explained “ADHD is not a special education disability.”
“You don’t diagnosis ADHD in the school. So when so many boys being put in special ed for ADHD — because one of the special ed classifications is known as ‘other health impairment’ — because psychiatry is a branch of medicine, if you can diagnosis by the doctor with ADHD, if the parent brings the paperwork to school, they can now special educate you.”
Dr. Johnson proclaimed that he has a “big problem with that,” because he believes that ADHD is not a learning disability. Johnson questioned a second time why Black boys are being put in special education environments, saying that 85 percent of the time, the evaluating psychologist “never observes the child in the environment where the complaints are being made.”
Johnson explained that parents need to remind teachers who are attempting to label a child as suffering with ADHD that their “degree, certification and expertise is in teaching, it is not in mental health diagnosis.”
“It is illegal for teachers to tell parents their children have ADHD. It’s not illegal to recommend that the parent look into the problem more.”
Dr. Johnson, who is also a former school principal, stated, “Because a lot of our boys grow up without their father at home, that masculine energy, which normally provides the boundary setting, the consequences — it’s taken out. Eighty-five percent of boys diagnosed with ADHD don’t have their father in their life.”
As a result of this, Johnson renamed ADHD as “Ain’t no Daddy at Home Disorder.”
“It’s not about mental health … It’s about the breakdown of the Black family that leaves the mother there with the responsibility of turning a boy into a man.”
Watch Martin, Johnson, and the NewsOne Now panel featuring Lauren Victoria Burke, Managing Editor of politic365.com, George Curry, Editor-in-Chief, National Newspaper Publishers Association, and Dru Ealons, political blogger, discuss the misdiagnosis of ADHD of so many of our African-American boys in the video clip above.
For more information about Dr. Urmar Johnson, visit www.DrUmarJohnson.com and to order his book, Psycho-Academic Holocaust: The Special Education & ADHD Wars Against Black Boys, visit Amazon.com.
Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.