History of Attention Deficit Disorder

Although some would argue that the history of Attention Deficit Disorder is nonexistent - that the entire syndrome was "created" to explain the normal impulsivity and high activity levels of children, there is actually mention of this disorder in earlier generations.

Let's take a look at how the views about Attention Deficit Disorder have changed through the years.

Facts on Attention Deficit Disorder

  • Possibly the earliest description of hyperactivity in children was found in a book authored by a German physician in 1848. The book was entitled: Fidgety Phil.
  • 1902 - first scientific paper written on the subject by Dr. George Still.He maintained that these inattentive and distractible characteristics were not normal. He conjectured that the causes were trauma, heredity, and learning history.
  • Worldwide outbreak of encephalitis in 1917-1918. Researchers noticed an increase of hyperactive symptoms in children who had otherwise had a recovery from the illness. It was thought that some type of brain injury may have been responsible, and the symptoms were named post-encephalitic disorders.
  • 1950s - psychotropic medications became in integral part of the treatment of people who were institutionalized. Many of these adults were functional with the aid of medicine. This led to an increased interest in using stimulants to treat children with A.D.D. symptoms. During this time period, hyperactive children were often termed as having hyperkinetic impulse disorder.
  • 1960s - minimal brain dysfunction was the common term to describe A.D.D. Research focused on the symptoms.
  • 1970s - Attention shifted to viewing the primary problem as inattention rather than hyperactivity. The blame on brain injury lost its luster during this time period.

    In addition, researchers uncovered that the majority of children who had brain injuries didn't develop hyperactivity. Even though they lacked hard evidence to back up such a claim, A.D.D. was still termed minimal brain damage during this era.

Views changed due to the research as this decade rolled on, to look at distractibility and poor impulse control to be on equal footing with the problem of hyperactivity. More focus was given to possible brain neurotransmitter deficiencies, diet, child rearing practices, and other factors. The finger pointing at brain damage took a back seat to these other possibilities.

  • 1980s - A.D.D. became the most studied of all childhood problems by this decade.
  • 1990 - ADHD was considered by most professionals to be a chronic, handicapping condition. Strong belief that there was likely hereditary factors took hold. (Martin, The Hyperactive Child)

So where does that bring us today? No doubt, there is still massive debate on the topic. The history of Attention Deficit Disorder is wide and varied. However, most would agree that A.D.D. at least includes the traits of

hyperactivity, impulsivity and attention difficulties

- although one or more of those traits may be in the forefront.

Although medication may be the Doctor prescribed "treatment of choice" for many children, unknown short and long term side effects cause many parents to look for alternatives.

The impact of diet as well as structural boundaries in the home and school should not be overlooked in the treatment of A.D.D.

Go from History of Attention Deficit Disorder to A.D.D. Diagnosis

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