Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hot Docs: Four Letters Apart – Children in the Age of ADHD

It is frightening to know that according to the documentary Four Letters Apart – Children in the Age of ADHD, directed by Erlend E Mo, Ritalin, the most popular medication to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, has increased by 2,400% in 15 years. As many would probably agree, it is over-prescribed and carries a number of side effects that have warranted parents to re-think medicating their child/children and to seek out other methods of treatment.

Lindevangskolen is a special needs school in Denmark which treats kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This particular documentary follows three kids at the school who suffer from a myriad of problems; Marino who has a viscous temper, Martine, a girl who is highly emotional, doesn't like being touched and regularly has tantrums; and Victor gets into fights and often states, “I’m horrid.”  Truly a sad way for any child to feel about themselves.

The film follows these kids over the course of a year as they learn to cope with their ADHD in a completely new way; by using an alternative treatment method that helps them with their emotional and sensory motor development skills.

Along with a full assessment, some of the exercises involve spinning, rocking, and balancing. The best part is that everyone, especially parents, caregivers, and teachers, is involved, and the acceptance, support, and effort to follow through with this program can really make a huge difference.

Three vital aspects that this program hopes to achieve include learning, well-being, and neurological development.

Programs like the one offered at Lindevangskolen are not always readily available for kids diagnosed with ADHD and some even question the validity in the long-term. And rightfully so. While Ritalin may work in some cases, before writing the next prescription, deal with the whole person, keeping in mind factors such as emotional, environmental, social spiritual, etc.

So do they have ADHD? Maybe, but there is more to each of their stories that raise the question whether this diagnosis is totally accurate or whether other factors have contributed to their behaviours.

You can clearly see the improvements without Ritalin or any other medication. Although there is still much debate on this specialized therapy, more research will have to be done. However, the proof, for now, is in the difference that you see in these misunderstood kids.

You can see the happiness again, the willingness to interact with other students, and the potential to be more than what a label has stigmatized them with forever.