The Spectator

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The Spectator on Attention Deficit Disorder

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There’s one present a parent can give a child in modern Britain that they will prize above all others. It’s not a Playstation or a puppy or even an iPhone. If a boy today has any sense, he’ll instead insist on having a certificate diagnosing him with the popular personality syndrome Attention Deficit Disorder. This has evolved from an excuse to behave badly in the classroom to the real-life equivalent of one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. Earlier this week it came to light that under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act, a doctor’s note proving you have ADD allows a girl or boy to jump to the front of the queue at theme parks, and to bypass hungry friends in the line for lunch at school on the grounds that it’s too painful for a jumpy child to stay still. No wonder one in 20 British children now claim to have ADD; no wonder this syndrome is mysteriously on the rise. Any child with a spark of initiative will now be devoting their energies not to learning how to concentrate but to persuading parents and teachers that it’s impossible for them to do so. And the fact that theme parks now have a legal duty to kowtow to badly behaved children is both laughable and horrifying. It can only be a matter of time before Alton Towers finds itself hauled up in front of the European Court of Human Rights for failing to let some fidgety tot push his way to the front. More seriously still, children who have never learnt the art of self-control grow into adults for whom self-control is impossible. It goes some way towards explaining why British society has become quite so broken.