On Thursday 23 January, my team at the Babylab at Birkbeck, University of London, together with similar teams from across Europe, is launching a new study of infants with older siblings with autism or ADHD. For infants with an older sibling with autism or ADHD, the chances of also having one of the conditions may climb to 20%.
As the wealth gap grows, schools remain one of the few shared factors of the next generation. I think schools should be institutions of education but also a place of opportunity and equality. Governments should ensure time outside is incorporated into education to guarantee no child is denied the access to nature that is so essential for their development.
The reality is that most parents just want their children to fit in, to be socially acceptable, thrive at school and yes, be 'normal'. The idea that any difficulties might be due to a labelled syndrome, or 'special needs', is a frightening prospect for most. So, how can you tell if your child is 'normal'?
The most worrying new leniency in ADHD diagnosis is the fact that to be diagnosed, symptoms no longer need cause significant impairment; they just have to be present. For example, in DSM-IV, symptoms were required to cause some impairment (i.e. undermine the child's functioning) in at least two settings.
ADHD is being grossly overdiagnosed in the USA and in some other countries for a range of commercial and social reasons. For millions of children to be taking powerful drugs which can have dangerous side effects is an example of the sort of pharmaceutical scandal that emerges every few decades, usually as a result of lazy and lax prescribing habits by doctors.
Having a child who suffers from ADHD or Aspergers is a complex and difficult thing. On the one hand it requires patience and as a parent, you have to devote a great deal of time to teaching that child things that may come naturally to others. On the other, it gives a rare insight into a beautiful mind and opens your eyes to a whole new perspective.