With his book, Speed Up & Sit Still: The Controversies and ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment, Martin Whitely is not trying to make friends or offer easy answers. It’s a book that raises a lot of difficult questions about the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.
Whitely’s background as a school teacher and politician is evident in the perspective and angles he takes.
First as a teacher, he was concerned for some of his students who were diagnosed and treated for ADHD and he was uncomfortable with the attitudes displayed by parents and school staff towards those boys.
Second, as a politician, he had constituents with concerns that their children were being misdiagnosed and given unnecessary treatment, and he had an insider’s knowledge of how the political world and public funding works.
Third, he acknowledges in his introduction that he knows what it is like to be a “square peg in a round hole” as an adult. His answer was to find a career that better suited his shape.
Whitely is clearly angry. Some of the stories of his constituents are very distressing. Social and educational issues are being ignored by treating children’s difficulties as a medical issue, and often the resulting drug treatment makes things worse. We should all be angry.
A review of this book by Dr Anthony Zehetner on the Australian Medical Association website https://ama.com.au/ausmed/node/1811 is instructive. This sort of response from an ADHD expert within the medical profession, while aiming to sideline Whitely’s argument and denigrate the author, could also be said to be a perfect illustration.
Zehetner states: “Whatever your standpoint, this book won’t change it” and it clearly hasn’t changed his at all. No surprise there.
I can’t say it changed my standpoint either, but I was already looking at ADHD from a bio-psychosocial viewpoint. I found the range of Whitely’s experiences and the Australian political background provided in the book interesting. The research presented on ADHD is extensive and broad.
For parents with niggling doubts about their child’s diagnosis, this is a book that will provide you with a broader picture of the issue and some ideas that you can include as another piece of the puzzle. For teachers and other professionals wondering about some of the children in their care, it could do likewise. For everyone, it could help them assess alternative explanations and pathways to help children.
For me, the most interesting aspect raised by this book is the politics: the tricky balance of communicating between worldviews, the lobbying by those with vested interests, and the institutional hostility to challenge. ADHD is much more than a medical issue.
We owe it to our children to give this book careful consideration.
This book will be confronting to many, not just the professionals under scrutiny but also to parents and carers who put their faith in experts and institutions. We owe it to our children to give this book careful consideration.
Speed Up & Sit Still: The Controversies and ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment
Publisher: UWA Publishing