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I read with interest Sarah Vine’s parenting article in The Daily Mail  today about  ADHD.

But is she right?

“Fascinating stuff in yesterday’s Mail from paediatric neurologist Dr Richard Saul, who argues in a new book that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is wildly over-diagnosed and that thousands of children are being identified as victims and treated with drugs they do not need.

Instead, their behaviour is often a sign of simple, resolvable problems such as poor diet, lack of sleep, hearing loss, learning difficulties — even just old-fashioned boredom. 

He quotes the case of one boy whose inability to concentrate turned out to be caused by anaemia and a girl whose disruptive behaviour in class was down to extreme short-sightedness.

Their symptoms disappeared once the underlying problems had been solved.

In other cases, the diagnosis of ADHD invariably masks something far more serious: depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia. 

And because some of the symptoms of ADHD — irritability, listlessness, memory problems — are similar to those present in youngsters taking drugs or abusing alcohol, such harmful social habits are often allowed to take hold instead of being addressed.

As a parent, I know how tempting it is to become frustrated with a child’s behaviour and to look to the medical profession for answers. 

We’re all busy people: so much quicker and easier to give a problem a name and treat it with a handy little pill. 

But the first place any parent should head when a child starts to play up is not their doctor’s surgery, but the bathroom mirror. 

Saul’s analysis presents us with an inconvenient truth. He is telling the mums and dads of children diagnosed with ADHD (of which there are approximately 400,000 in Britain) what many of them perhaps suspect, but don’t want to hear: the problems lie not with the children but with the paucity of their own parenting.