For the past 40 years I have worked extensively with behavior disordered children with an emphasis toward ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and RAD (reactive attachment disorder) children. Recently I had the opportunity to consult with a father who was visiting the US and had a child had school behavior issues. Upon further discussion I asked if his had been diagnosed with ADHD. The parent looked at me with a curious expression and said, “In France we do not look at children in the extreme but less severely and often view it as normal behavior of children with the hope they will grow out of it. Of course, we consider many options like nutrition and so forth.”
As a result of our discussion I researched the major differences about diagnosis and treatment of ADHD children in the United States and France.
To my amazement the differences between the two countries were shocking.
For example, the incidence of ADHD of U.S. children has risen over the past 20 years from 3-5 % to 11% (Wedge, M., 2012). However, in France, the percentage of children diagnosed for ADHD is less than .5 percent. Why the difference?
I researched an excellent article written by Dr. Marilyn Wedge called “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD.” The article listed some major differences about the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD Children in France versus the United States.
For example, one major difference is that the French do not view ADHD as a biological-neurological disorder. She explains, “the U.S. MD’s view ADHD as a disorder with biological causes and the popular treatment by U.S. MD’s is biological and treated with psycho-stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall etc.” (Wedge, Psychology Today, 2012) Dr. Wedge goes on to say: “In France, MD’s do not view ADHD as a medical condition but rather as a psycho-social and/or situational cause and as a result they rarely recommend stimulant medication. (For information regarding the harmful effects of stimulus medication please see Dr. David Sortino Blog – Santa Rosa Press Democrat). Another significant difference and one echoed by my conversation with the father is that French children are not diagnosed pathogentally. In other words, French psychiatrists do not treat someone as psychologically abnormal when the behavior is often normal.
Also, French psychiatrists do not use the same classification system of childhood emotional problems as American psychiatrists or what is called the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of MentalDisroders). Interestly, the French Federation of Psychiatry developed an alternative classification system as a resistance to the influence of the DSM. France’s version of the DSM or the CFTMEA. The CFTMEA identifies and addresses the underlying psychosocial cause of children’s symptoms ad not on finding the best pharmacological band-aids with which to mask symtoms (Wedge).
Another significant difference associated with the French holistic psychosocial model has to with nutrition. The French system connects ADHD-type symptoms or with behavior caused by easting food, for example, with artificial colors, certain preservatives, and/or allergens.
Further, in the US, the focus is on pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD and often encourages clinicians to ignore the information of dietary factors on the child’s behavior
Lastly, from the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a “structure.” That is, children are not allowed to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. Readers can reference P. Druckerman book “Bringing up Bebe,” which offers excellent information why the diagnostic and treatment of ADHD French children are so much lower than children in the US.
The purpose of this article is not to accuse U.S. parents of negative parenting. Rather to identify those with the knowledge and power who are not providing parents of ADHD children with a more intelligent and professional direction.