Join host Marianne Russo with a special co-host, Rebecca Bank author of Bright Not Broken and host of Bright Not Broken on our network.

We have a great guest coming up, Dr Enrico Gnaulati, a veteran clinical psychologist who exposes why doctors, teachers, and parents incorrectly diagnose healthy American children with serious psychiatric conditions.

In recent years there has been an alarming rise in the number of American children and youth assigned a mental health diagnosis. Current data from the Centers for Disease Control reveal a 41 percent increase in rates of ADHD diagnoses over the past decade and a forty-fold spike in bipolar disorder diagnoses. Similarly, diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder, once considered, has increased by 78 percent since 2002.

Dr. Enrico Gnaulati, a clinical psychologist specializing in childhood and adolescent therapy and assessment, has witnessed firsthand the push to diagnose these disorders in youngsters. Drawing both on his own clinical experience and on cutting-edge research, with Back to Normal he has written the definitive account of why our kids are being dramatically overdiagnosed—and how parents and professionals can distinguish between true psychiatric disorders and normal childhood reactions to stressful life situations.

Gnaulati begins with the complex web of factors that have led to our current crisis. These include questionable education and training practices that cloud mental health professionals’ ability to distinguish normal from abnormal behavior in children, monetary incentives favoring prescriptions, check-list diagnosing, and high-stakes testing in schools. We’ve also developed an increasingly casual attitude about labeling kids and putting them on psychiatric drugs.

So how do we differentiate between a child with, say, Asperger’s syndrome and a child who is simply introverted, brainy, and single-minded? As Gnaulati notes, many of the symptoms associated with these disorders are similar to everyday childhood behaviors. In the second half of the book Gnaulati tells detailed stories of wrongly diagnosed kids, providing parents and others with information about the developmental, temperamental, and environmentally driven symptoms that to a casual or untrained eye can mimic a psychiatric disorder. These stories also reveal how nonmedical interventions, whether in the therapist’s office or through changes made at home, can help children.

Back to Normal reminds us of the normalcy of children’s seemingly abnormal behavior. It will give parents of struggling children hope, perspective, and direction. And it will make everyone who deals with children question the changes in our society that have contributed to the astonishing increase in childhood psychiatric diagnoses.

Listen to the interview Sunday, November 3rd 8pmE

2 Responses to Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar, Aspergers and LD

  1. Pingback: Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar, Aspergers and LD | For Special Needs Children

  2. Jeff Zorro

    Dr. Enrico Gnaulati points are well taken. His sensible approach will help protect children from poor psychiatric treatment.

    The discussion identified an area rich in potential. The differences between boys and girls and the protective role of estrogen are not minor matters. The doctor pointed out some of the social differences between boys and girls, such as boys “saying things as they are”. Estrogen appears to improve dopamine function; this has both immediate and cumulative effects, many of them discussed during the show. Dopamine helps make connections between cause and effect. It also serves to delay impulses. Thus on average, when we say “girls mature faster”, I think we mean on average, girls learn the effect of their behaviors on others sooner. And they use that knowledge to predict future events, and attend to the cues that help make those predictions (like the information needed for a correct answer, please a teacher, etc.) At the same time, they are able to resist the impulse to “blurt out” whatever comes to mind.

    One piece that confuses parents and clinicians is the “equivalence” of medications. Meaning, a child on “meds” means something. But it really means nothing, because the medications prescribed to pediatric patients (as well as adults) have such vastly different effects. It’s like calling ice cream and brussels sprouts both “food”.

    When stimulants are side by side with anti-psychotics and both are called “meds”, the gap of information for the lay person is enormous. One medication’s standard of safety is better than aspirin, with very high positive effect sizes, the other a list of side effects a couple of pages long, with dubious benefits. When discussions around “fitting” classroom environments to student needs, what really was being discussed was alternatives for children that poorly tolerate or are negatively reactive to the “typical” classroom – their “impulses” take them away from learning. So impulsivity is more common than dandelions in a lawn. And stimulants are very effective in reducing impulsivity. Compare that rate with bipolar disorder, which Stuart Kaplan (“You’re Child Does Not Have Bipolar Disorder”) shows that the research supporting pediatric bipolar disorder is scant and flawed, and naturally the “treatments” for this non-disorder show poor results.

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