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 people aren’t.
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.