by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
Most readers here probably acknowledge the existence of ADHD: as something they themselves suffer from or as something they know as “true” from its presence in a family member or close friend. Yet it is interesting that a case needs to be made for the existence of this problem. Dr. Perri Klass does so in a New York Times “Well” article on December 13, 2010 where he also interviews experts about the genetic and neuropsychological aspects of the condition. Klass also offers some other interesting information.
“Perhaps eager to make clear that A.D.H.D. is far more than a metaphor for the distractions of modern life, scientists love to point out examples that date to well before the term was invented.
“Dr. Urion invoked Sir George Frederick Still, the first British professor of pediatric medicine, who in 1902 described the syndrome precisely, speaking of a boy who was ‘unable to keep his attention even to a game for more than a very short time,’ and as a result was ‘backward in school attainments, although in manner and ordinary conversation he appeared as bright and intelligent as any child could be.’
“Dr. Muenke brought up “Der Struwwelpeter“ (“Slovenly Peter”), the 1845 children’s book by Heinrich Hoffmann, which contains the story of “Zappel-Philipp,” or “Fidgety Philip.” (One English translation was done by Mark Twain, that great chronicler of boys.)
“The circumstances of modern life can give rise to the false belief that a culture full of electronics and multitasking imperatives creates the disorder. ‘People have this idea that we live in a world that gives people A.D.H.D.,’ Dr. Urion said. Of course one shouldn’t drive and text at t’e same time, he continued, but for “a harbor pilot bringing a huge four-masted sailing vessel into Boston Harbor, paying attention was a good idea then, too.’
Thank you, Dr. Perri Klass, for these historical examples that will be news to many of us.