No matter what the owner of the Washington football franchise says, the team will someday not be named the Redskins. It’s not that a once-honorable name imperceptibly morphed into a racial slur. It’s always been derogatory, but now a sizable majority admit that it’s derogatory,
ADHD is a very inconvenient, largely inaccurate name, so there are often calls to rename it. Since there’s no convenient place to register medical name-change requests, these discussions serve mostly to arouse the creative juices of whatever online forum they arise in. The proposals are generally terrible, but at least they give a little extra insight into a complex syndrome:
Attention Surplus Disorder
Executive Dysfunction – Ineffective Type
…Huh? Oh! Sorry Syndrome
In my book, I referred to ‘Teacher Nuisance Disorder’, but that’s only a riff on a popular stereotype that describes one small subset of kids with ADHD. It’s easier to capture one aspect of ADHD than to sum it all up in a couple words.
Some renaming attempts come out of the academic/research community and reflect the increasing knowledge base and rapidly improving understanding of ADHD. Dopamine Deficit Syndrome refers to dozens of actual studies that show less dopamine activity in ADHD brains, but that’s only one of a host of differences that are turning up with each new brain-probing technique that comes along. We’re learning so much, so quickly, that it’s probably too early to rename ADHD from a causality viewpoint.
Probably the main impetus behind the calls to rename things are the negative connotations that attach themselves to names over time. One “Rename ADHD” forum poster put it succinctly: “I feel bad for doctors always having to invent new names for things whenever the old ones get co-opted as insults.”
Indiana University researchers interviewed adults about their attitudes toward a hypothetical new neighbor moving in next door. Naturally, it’s called the National Stigma Study. They didn’t use any labels–only descriptions–of four different hypothetical new neighbor children: one with characteristics of depression, one with ADHD behaviors, one with asthma symptoms and one with “normal troubles”, i.e. typical adolescent adjustment issues.
By a significant margin, the interviewees did not want their children to make friends with the glum or the bouncy new neighbor kid. There was very little hesitation about associating with the asthmatic or “normally troubled” neighbors. The stigma with mental health disorders does not reside in the label. Rather, the label is attached to stigmatized characteristics. Professionals who “prefer not to label kids” aren’t saving anybody from anything. They are just leaving the job to frustrated adults and socially insecure playmates.
When the Washington football team is renamed, they will remain the talented, storied football franchise they have always been. When ADHD is renamed, the new name – however deftly it avoids any critical tone or bias – will immediately become the newest epithet for the person who forgets or does something random and impulsive.
Let’s not rename ADHD. Let’s continue figuring out how to empower kids with better self-control so their behavior doesn’t inspire ridicule.