Leon has been taking Ritalin – known as the ‘chemical cosh’ – since he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was six. He’s not alone. According to data obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, there has been a 65 per cent increase in spending on drugs to treat ADHD over the past four years. Such treatments now cost the taxpayer more than £31million a year.
Over the past 40 years or so, child advocates have given a good amount of lip service to the view that adults, especially educators, should respect children’s “individual differences.” In theory, this recognizes the fact that every trait is distributed in the general population in a manner represented by the bell-shaped curve. Whether the issue is general intelligence, sociability, optimism, musical aptitude, artistic ability, or mechanical skill (to mention but a few), relatively few people are “gifted” and relatively few people are disadvantaged. Whatever the characteristic, most folks are statistically “normal.” That is, they possess an adequate amount, enough to get by.