- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

Armchair psychologists

As a parent with a child diagnosed with attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, I strongly disagree with Armstrong Williams’ “Drugging children” (Commentary, Nov. 6). His skepticism is dangerous.

Four years ago I hesitated getting psychiatric care for our daughter, then 11 years old, fearing ADHD wasn’t a real disorder or that it was a case of bad parenting, spoiled kids, etc. I also feared she might be incorrectly medicated or caught in a gray medical area.

I missed the forest for the trees.

ADHD children have a four times greater chance of substance abuse than the general population. Their chances of getting into legal trouble are higher, too. Our daughter has been diagnosed with drug addiction and has been in the legal system since she was 13. Believe me ADHD is quite real.

Girls have additional problems because they often don’t have the hyperactivity component of the disorder, so remain undiagnosed until later, after academic failures have ravaged frail egos which can lead to self-medication using street drugs and misuse of over-the-counter medications.

When our daughter became involved in the legal system, my husband and I attended an invaluable parents support group for children who act out, led by Fran DeLoatche at the Fairfax County Juvenile Court Building. A shockingly constant statistic we heard over and over, from an endless stream of parents, was the ubiquitous ADHD diagnosis.

No school social worker alone would make an ADHD diagnosis in the Fairfax County Public School system. We paid for expensive testing our family physician used to determine an ADHD diagnosis.

If anything, the school system was too cautious with our child who manifested borderline ADHD symptoms. I agree that school educators must change their approach to ADHD. Such children can do well in small groups, tailored to their learning styles, but rarely do well when mainstreamed in classes of 25 or more pupils even with accommodations — the current practice.

Better advice for the seemingly mysterious surge in the ADHD diagnoses is for parents to find a psychologist and psychiatrist they trust. All medical care is only as good as its practitioners.

Learn about the complexities of this disorder. Parents must learn how they can best help their child. Whatever they do, don’t depend on armchair psychologists to fearfully set a narrow course.

This is not a pharmacological conspiracy. All medications have risks. Even peanut butter can be life-threatening to some people. The answer is not to ban peanut butter.

The noteworthy December 1999 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry concluded from a groundbreaking study that children given medication combined with behavioral therapy had the best prognosis.

I wish I’d heard of that study earlier.

Please don’t dismiss this disorder as a new name for merely boisterous, bored or distracted children. They are all of those things, but unfortunately they manifest many more complex symptoms as well. Thinking a simple approach is at hand will not help attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder children.

CAROL MITCHELL

Centreville

Atheists in foxholes?

Stephen A. Myrow repeats the often-quoted — and never validated — quote that “there are no atheists in foxholes,” (“A question of faith,” Forum, Sunday). I wonder how he’d feel — as a Jew — hearing from myopic Christians that “there are no Jews in foxholes.”

Incidentally, from what I understand, everyone in a foxhole keeps his head down. Many may certainly hedge their bets with prayers to their respective gods, but the fact that they don’t feel secure enough in their beliefs to simply stand up (and rely on their deity’s protection) suggests to me that there are a whole lot more atheists in foxholes than writers such as Mr. Myrow are willing to admit.

MIKE NEWDOW

Sacramento, Calif.

Battling diabetes

I read with great interest the Nov. 14 editorial(“Of diabetic mice and men”), on Dr. Denise Faustman’s diabetes research and the efforts of the Iacocca Foundation to support her work.The editorial stated that the Iacocca Foundation has raised the $11 million necessary for the first phase of the clinical trials. Unfortunately, that is not true. We’ve made a good start and we are well over $1 million raised, but we still have a long way to go. I’m sure we will get there. If you would like to join our efforts please go to www.joinleenow.org.

LEE IACOCCA

Chairman, Iacocca Foundation

Boston

A ‘sad commentary’

Your reviewer Bruce Fein gave an unfavorable review of my book “Seeking Justices: The Judging of Supreme Court Nominees” (Books, Oct. 10) which is about the appointment of U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Mr. Fein’s review is deficient in three respects.

First, he failed to disclose that he is one of the authors whose writings I criticize in my book.

Second, he distorted one of the claims I make in my book. According to Mr. Fein, I implied that public opinion should play an outsized role in the appointment of Supreme Court justices.

I never wrote that. I wrote only that senators may legitimately consider their constituents’ opinions, among other factors, when deciding how to vote on Supreme Court nominations.

Third, other than the distorted fragment about public opinion, Mr. Fein failed almost entirely to give a synopsis of my book, which claims that the modern confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees has worked well in almost all modern cases.

Mr. Fein’s “review” of my book is a sad commentary on the state of contemporary political discourse, in which ideologues such as Mr. Fein trash anything that challenges their — and their readers’— cherished beliefs. It is certainly not a balanced and reasonably complete account of my book.

MICHAEL COMISKEY

Associate professor of political science

Penn State Fayette

Uniontown, Pa.

VOA broadcasts radio, not TV

It appears that The Washington Times is yet another victim of the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) manipulation of the facts (“VOA tops election viewership,” Nation, Nov. 8).

First of all, the Voice of America does not broadcast in 44 languages on television. VOA, first and foremost, is the U.S. government’s international radio service that broadcasts in 44 languages on radio. The Voice of America does not have a television network. The few TV shows that VOA produces are largely feeds generated by a handful of language services for foreign television networks.

It appears that the BBG has taken the estimated viewership of overseas television networks and claimed them as its own. This sort of creative number crunching is a constant problem for the board, especially with its pet projects to the Middle East: Radio Sawa and al-Hurra television.

A recent report by the State Department Inspector General’s office points to the many failings of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and particularly called into question its inflated audience research claims.

Our experience has been that the first casualty in dealing with the BBG has been the truth.

TIM SHAMBLE

President, AFGE Local 1812

GARY MARCO

President, AFSCME Local 1418

Washington

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