I have an extremely active son. He's two-and-a-half. He's been active since I began feeling him move around inside me when I was five month's pregnant. Like, non-stop. Did this fetus ever sleep? He certainly didn't sleep when I tried to sleep, and he was especially roused by my everyday activities, such as drinking water, walking and playing music. Olin wanted to run before he could walk. And he got bruises on his head trying. He is, by his very nature, an active kid.
Short Attention Spans in Toddlers are Normal
Being active is really different from having a short attention span. Having a long attention span is a function of age and training. Even toddlers who don't run around all the time like Olin does tend to have really short attention spans. That's because the neurons in the brain that allow us to pay attention for long periods of time are still developing, according to Lise Eliot in What's Going On In There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. In other words, it's really normal for a toddler's attention to flit around like a hummingbird among sweet flowers.
When other parents of toddlers worry that their child has ADHD, I dismiss the idea — not their concern, but the idea that a child so young could be diagnosed with such a condition. ADHD is a relatively new phenomenon in the world of psychiatry/psychology. It has only been a diagnostic possibility since the 1970s, and criteria for accurate diagnosis were not solidified until 1998. Childcare guru Penelope Leach, in Your Baby and Child, says that the hormone present in kids with true ADHD, serotonin, is not even present until around age five. So how could a toddler be said to have this condition? And even if s/he did, might it not be treated with something other than medication?
Why Do We Start with Drugs?
Our culture abounds with the suggestion that we should catch this condition early and treat it with, among other therapies, medication. But side effects are rampant, and the effectiveness of medications is questionable, especially as a long-term solution. So why do we start with drugs?
Full disclosure: I'm not sure that I believe in ADHD as a true diagnosis, at any age. For 20 years, I've taught writing to freshmen in college, and many have had what seemed to me like very short attention spans. Some have diagnoses of ADHD, and some do not. But all benefited from a teacher's attention and careful analysis of their work. Every single student, medicated or not, happy or not, became more focused when we collaborated on learning how to do so. The effort to cultivate an attention span resulted in.... a greater attention span. This is no big surprise, until you consider the lengths we take to medicate short attention span as a "condition."
Do we medicate kids for ADHD only as a last resort, or do we try to speed up the process of learning concentration and focus by calling the condition a pathology and using medication as a shortcut?
Let's bring this issue into the light, and not just assume it is a medical condition that can only be transcending with drugs.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.