cover image A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic

A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic

Marilyn Wedge. Avery, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-58333-563-5

Part exposé, part advice manual, this accessible text rails against the proliferation of Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder diagnoses in American children. A family therapist and author of Pills Are Not for Preschoolers, Wedge argues that “ADHD is neither an unnatural condition of childhood, nor illness that requires medication” but a “normal childhood response to stressful situations.” However, due to shifts in the last 50 years—including the reconceptualization of ADHD as a biological disorder, a pharmaceutical industry with the “dream of medicating large numbers of healthy children with amphetamines,” and parents and educators eager for a quick fix for troublesome tots—typical childhood behaviors have been pathologized and deemed worthy of heavy-duty medication. Wedge notes tartly that “society today would label [Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer] ‘mentally disabled’ and give them drugs to make them behave like normal children.” She offers parents a range of environmental solutions for modifying behavior, which include trading in “fast-paced cartoons” for PBS, maintaining a positive home environment, and carrying out dietary changes such as avoiding food dyes. Buttressing her arguments with patient case studies and descriptions of positive outcomes from social interventions in European countries (particularly France and its envy-inducing bébés), Wedge has produced an eye-opening and compelling manifesto. (Mar.)