Communicating effectively about research on the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be quite challenging for professionals who work with the disorder. Accordingly, on the 21st of June 2021, a guideline for psychoeducation on ADHD was published by Sanne te Meerman (Hanzehogeschool Groningen, School of Education Department), Laura Batstra (University of Groningen, Department of Pedagogy and Educational Sciences) and their extended team.
The guideline is intended for people who write about or work with ADHD professionally. Through that, the ultimate goal of the team is to change the narrative and the way people think about ADHD, and how people interpret the research on it. Currently, many claims, for instance in academic textbooks, are reductionistic and deterministic and violate basic criteria for validity. The authors of the guideline argue that ADHD is just a behavioral classification that is based on often changing and subjective criteria and that we cannot rely on general group data to make reliable predictions about individuals who have been classified with ADHD.
According to Sanne Meerman, the main author, it is very problematic that the current discourse on ADHD is rife with deterministic claims, such as those with ADHD having a purported shortage of dopamine in their brains and ADHD being a brain disorder. Brain differences are very weakly associated with ADHD and many environmental and cultural attributes have stronger effect sizes. For instance, relative age in a classroom is a strong predictor as the youngest in a classroom are up to twice as likely to receive an ADHD classification for their oftentimes young but natural age-related behavior (Whitely, 2019).
When questioned about the reach and the potential impact of the guideline, Sanne admits it will be very complex to popularize it amongst the whole research community as well as the lay public. Particularly, ‘there is much human and economic capital tangled up in the ADHD concept’ as Sanne states. It is a larger system and narrative change that is needed, and it needs to happen also at higher levels of associations and policy-making. In order to disturb the current state of the system, Sanne says that their more realistic hope is to target municipalities, which are responsible for buying health care. They can address care-providers who rely on logical and methodological fallacies in relation to ADHD to change the information on e.g. their website to avoid unnecessary stigma. Furthermore, editors of (academic) textbooks now have a practical means to scrutinize statements made by authors on ADHD.
The link to the guideline and the full list of authors: Druk & Dwars website.
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