Another principle discussed in the soon to be released “School Struggles,” is the notion of the “Soup Pot Theory” of everything.  With the Soup-Pot theory kids are less seen as “this” or “that” (e.g., ADHD or LD), but as a mixture of variables interacting to create challenges in children.

Young Jack, age 13 illustrates this clearly.  For years, Jack has been on an ADHD medication, as a physician along the way determined (based on a 20 minute interview with parents and child) that Jack was “ADHD.” 

As the parents review their stories and concerns with me about Jack, I certainly hear that Jack struggles with being impulsive and showing questionable judgment, characteristics of ADHD.  However, when I hear more about the family dynamics and how his parents’ divorce has affected Jack, there is a new wrinkle to consider.  Additionally, when Jack is evaluated I find that he has difficulty understanding certain language-based questions which affects his comprehension and capacity to process information.  School would be hard for him as a result.

Additionally, when getting to know Jack more, my sense of him is that there is anger in the soup pot, but that nobody seems to have recognized it.  Jack's anger has been like a simmering pilot light, present but largely ignored. 

So instead of seeing Jack as “ADHD,” it seems that Jack has a helping of ADHD, with a sprinkling of difficulty processing information, mixed around in a stew of angry feelings.

The takeaway point is that labels, while they may be comforting to you on one level, don’t often describe the many variables interacting with a child. 

With Jack, there has been too much of an emphasis on medicating and not enough of an emphasis on understanding.