About Born to Explore
Hi, my name is Teresa Gallagher, and I've added this section because
people keep asking me who I am and why I wrote this page. The short answer is that I'm
just another schmuck with a website. I am not a doctor, nor any kind of medical
professional. My background is environmental science, which is why I view things from an
evolutionary perspective and why I'm very cautious about medications - natural or
otherwise. Natural history is a bit of a hobby for me, so for years I've read articles
about how the brain functions, natural diversity, how social species evolve, and the
reasons for human differences. Among other topics!
I became interested in ADD during my son's first year
in the mid-1990s. At
the time, he wore a bicycle helmet around the house and was nursing several stitches on
his forehead. I wasn't overly concerned about it, in fact, I admired his energy. But I
thought I should find out what the fuss over hyperactivity was all about, and bought a few
books about ADD. The books seemed to describe my son.
And my son was a lot like me as a small child; fidgety,
talkative and always getting into things. I remember a tearful episode when I was banned
from my grandparent's fishing boat because I wouldn't sit still, even though I begged to
go with them. They chose, instead, my calm cousin of the same age, who didn't really want
to go in the first place. A small thing, perhaps, but I remember that it really upset me
for a long time. According to my mother, as a child, I "never, ever, ever stopped
chattering." Well, I sure handed that trait down! And then there was the grade
school report cards that said "could do better, disruptive in class." But since
I had gotten through graduate school with straight A's, I wasn't ready to buy into the
"disorder" aspect of ADD. Maybe I had a lot of trouble paying attention in
class, but I'm pretty good at teaching myself something when I want to, and a lot of
When I got my computer connected to the Internet, I posted
a few messages on the Alt-Support group for ADD, challenging the assumption that
everyone meeting the diagnostic criteria for ADD had an actual
disorder. I argued that society had changed; kids didn't used to have to go to school, so
why should they be able to sit still? I received some real hate mail from people who
apparently preferred to believe that their child had a brain defect. I sent an email to a
psychiatrist with a web site on ADD, telling him that I thought he repeated the words
"neurologic defect" too many times in his site, and that I thought a
lot of what they called "ADD" was a
normal condition. His answer was that, when he gave a C student Ritalin, they became an A
student. Therefore, "there had to be something there."
What?! Has to be something there? A kid gets
better grades taking stimulants and that proves ADD is a brain defect?
I was appalled by his lack of logic. Back in the
60's, housewives everywhere were prescribed diet pills (stimulants). After taking
the stimulants, the women were thinner and had really, really clean houses. I guess
there was something there, too.
By the way, I am not entirely against medications.
But I don't think they should be used just to get A's or to make up for a boring class.
Anyway, that was the beginning of my obsession with writing
Born To Explore. The idea that some kids were being medicated just to get better grades
was too much. What is wrong with getting Cs, I ask? I got lots of C's. But if that kid's
parents were told "you're kid has a brain defect and MUST have medication," I can
see why they would go along with it. Many adults have complete faith in doctors. I decided
to write down my views in a webpage, and maybe some of those parents would see that their
kid might not be sick after all. Different, yes. Sick, no.
I realized my son would be going to school in a cultural
climate that might stigmatize him with a brain defect, and with no solid scientific
reasoning to back it up. While I am not a medical professional, I am
a scientist. And I recognize a lot of bad
science here! So I dove into this project with my son and his peers in mind.
Over the years I ran
across lots of information about things that could cause ADD or make it
worse that were not adequately being addressed, like sleep apnea,
allergies and nutritional deficiencies. I came to realize
that, for many people, it was a combination of issues that lead to
problems in their lives. It wasn't just temperament, for example, but a
certain temperament combined with poor discipline and bad sleep habits,
for example. Or it was a combination of allergies and temperament.
Or sleep apnea and adult intolerance to natural boy behavior. And, of
course, some people actually do have brain defects. This website
therefore evolved towards a more complete view of ADD, where it had
previously focused solely on the types of people who were classified as
ADD because of healthy temperament variations.
Over the years I have
incorporated many of the ideas that I've read about when dealing with my
children. Keirsey's Abuse it - Lose it strategy of discipline was
invaluable. I discovered, via a blood test, that both I and my son
have chronic allergies to nearly all food except meat, and a special
diet made a significant impact. I make sure the family eats salmon
or steelhead trout once a week so they get enough omega-3 fatty acids
for proper brain health. I learned about MBTI temperament types,
creativity and giftedness, and homeschooled for five years. I found
practical organizational tips useful. All of these things and more have
helped around our house, and might be of help at yours.
And so, I have shared
this info, with a fairly critical eye, as I am a natural born skeptic.
There are some alternative views out there that I think are nuts or
potentially harmful and I don't list them here.