Dr. Russell Barkley: AD/HD Theory, Diagnosis, & Treatment Summary
Read highlights from Dr. Russell Barkley's powerful and poignant lecture on AD/HD.
By Diana Moore, M.L.S.
Russell Barkley, Ph.D., is a leading expert on the subject of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). He is currently a professor at the State University of New York (Upstate Medical University) and has written over a dozen books and more than 150 scientific articles related to the nature, assessment, and treatment of AD/HD.
Dr. Barkley speaks eloquently and passionately about the need to recognize the complexities of the disorder and to treat it properly. He delivered this lecture on June 17, 2000, in San Francisco, California.
Download a transcript containing highlights of Dr. Barkley's lecture (40 pages).*
*Note: You need Adobe Reader/Acrobat Reader software to download the files.
In his lecture, Dr. Barkley conveyed three primary messages regarding Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder:
- AD/HD is real.
- AD/HD can greatly affect the lives and futures of children who are identified with it.
- There has never been a better time in our history to have this disorder. There are currently effective therapies for kids with AD/HD; and the volume of research being done on treatment and causes is large, with breakthroughs near.
The Diagnostic Dilemma
Dr. Barkley believes media distortions of over-diagnosis and over-medication - combined with poor diagnostic criteria - contribute to below-par identification and treatment of kids with impulse and attention issues, leading to risk factors ranging from school and work problems to criminal activity and risky sexual behavior. Recent studies have also linked AD/HD to poor driving, and increased risk of accident.
While he does point out problems with the American Psychological Association's current diagnosis criteria for AD/HD, he strongly defends the existence of the disorder - and its current medical treatment - which has critics as diverse as the Church of Scientology and Hillary Clinton. He cites the existence of hundreds of research studies that show AD/HD causes harmful dysfunction in development of behavioral inhibition. His own 1998 article in Scientific American outlines not only the major issues involved in AD/HD, but also much of the current brain science around it as well. Since it was published, there have been numerous studies linking specific genes to AD/HD, and more are expected in the near future as the Human Genome Project progresses.
While genes and heredity are the strongest predictors of AD/HD, Dr. Barkley also discussed sources of "acquired" AD/HD. Three of the strongest (and most preventable) are Strep infection, pre-natal exposure to cigarettes, and alcohol.
Citing his own scientific research of the disorder, Dr. Barkley argues that the Inattentive subtype of the disorder has been under-researched, and for which current AD/HD treatment is largely useless. These inattentive kids - whose symptoms include spaciness, under-activity, and dreaminess - are polar opposites of the better-researched aggressive, impulsive, hyperactive kids. However, they are the group for which attention deficit is truly the core issue.