About 7.5% of children in America are medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The rate of ADHD diagnosis in children has increased drastically in recent decades. This issue is highly controversial given the subjective and variable nature of the disorder. There are currently no known bio-markers of the disorder, and symptoms in children include things like difficulty sharing with others or keeping track of homework. Many people argue that these “symptoms” are simply common attributes of children, and teachers and parents use medication to make their energetic children more manageable and better suited to the traditional school environment. Some parents choose to educate their children in a more active, less structured environment when they do not believe medication is the right choice.
The SOAR program is designed mainly for children with ADHD. The students spend most of their time outdoors pursuing adventure sports like rock climbing. They are also taught “normal” subjects like history in an active fashion rather than through traditional classroom-textbook methods. The educators in the SOAR program believe that ADHD students will be the most successful if they focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses. The traits of ADHD arguably make individuals with ADHD better suited to adventure and discovery; they are often more comfortable in hectic, complex environments and are more apt to take risks. Some research has shown that individuals with genetic mutations associated with ADHD tend to cluster in remote areas like Australia and Siberia, indicating a potential relationship between ADHD and adventurousness. Furthermore, environmentalism heroes like John Muir and Ansel Adams described disliking school, and in hindsight, displayed some characteristics of ADHD as children.
Overmedication of ADHD could lead to a population crash in the next generation of adventurers. Furthermore, unnecessary medication of ADHD symptoms in children is an attempt to control and influence them. Parents and doctors should pay closer attention to whether a child actually has ADHD, or if they are simply not well-suited to the traditional school environment. Risk taking and hyperactivity are just part of the child’s initial conditions, and attempting to medicate these traits may not be the best way to align the child for happiness and success later in life. Programs like SOAR recognize that every child is important to the event, and they focus on the child’s strengths rather than trying to “fix” their weaknesses. Because the child’s initial conditions are already set, it doesn’t make sense to try and modify them, and any attempt to do so is bound to be unsuccessful. Children should be accepted for who they are, and adults should not try to make them be someone else.