FEATURED LETTER: Maternal combustion

By on April 23, 2013

FEATURED LETTER: Maternal combustion

By Penny Mohan

Jake Nichols, are you out of your mind?? Reading your columns over the years, I have long thought you were insufferable and opinionated; now I know you are ignorant as well. Saying ADD and ADHD are not real disorders of the brain is like saying diabetes and cancer are not real diseases of the body. Just eat different – bingo, no diabetes. Cancer? Just think good thoughts and your tumor will dwindle and disappear.  I’m sure the sufferers of these diseases would love it if that simplistic, uninformed thinking was true.

Do you have any children of your own? I can’t imagine that you do. I have raised two sons and two stepdaughters who are all contributing admirably to their society, and six grandchildren who are well on their way to a six-way tie for Happiest Children on the Planet. But my brother, Mr. Middle America, and his wife, Mrs. Salt of the Earth, had a son who by first grade was obviously not able to control his own behavior. My brother and his wife are kind, loving, centered, and moderate  people. They set reasonable limits and consistent boundaries for their son and his younger sister. Yet he frequently attacked his sister whenever she displeased him, often drawing blood. Any desirable food in the house – Oreo cookies, fresh fruit, pastries – had to be locked in a foot locker or he would simply take it all and eat it. Many, many behavior plans were tried with varying success at his local schools. His brain simply could not connect behavior with consequences. Like most two year olds, he could not contain his own impulses. Except he was six, and then 12, and then 18. Once in his late teens his mother asked him to chew with his mouth closed at the family dinner and 20 minutes later, because of his size, the police in their small town had to be called to restrain his behavior.  I watched this boy first hand from infancy to adulthood be well- and reasonably parented; I saw the effort and heart ache of his parents as they tried everything science and behaviorists could offer, including medication, to help their son have a life. Have a few friends, be able to stay in public school with his sister, hold down a job at McDonald’s. It is their opinion and mine that this boy would be dead or in jail by now without the combination of his medications and their care. They are quite sure if it hadn’t been for the skillful and thoughtful medication regimens he was on throughout his childhood and is still on, he would not have any sort of independent life.

So how dare you dismiss my brother and his wife’s intense and enduring and often heartbroken efforts to help their son have a life as succumbing to hustle and hucksterism! How dare you lump all acting-out children as suffering from too much expensive day care and too many nonchalant nannies! My brother and his wife are two of the most intelligent people I know. Far from day care and nannies, his mother decided to leave a lucrative job as a para-legal to stay home with her two children, and the family lived on my brother’s Captain in the National Guard salary for years, even while he went back to school for a graduate degree in his late thirties.

Their daughter, by the way, was Valedictorian of her high school class of 400, and is now a sophomore in college.

As many causes as I care about, this is the first letter-to-the editor I have ever written. Your callous and casually superficial opinions about this heartbreaking and sometimes crippling disorder simply enrage me. Ask any parent in  this valley with a child with this diagnosis if they wouldn’t trade it in in a nano-second for just an ordinary kid! Ask any teacher in any of our valley’s very good schools what it is like to try to manage a calm learning environment in his or her classroom with an ADD or ADHD child in it. Your column of April 17 – 23 reveals you to be a fool and an ignoramus.

I will be very interested to see if you reply to or print this letter.



By Jake Nichols

I appreciate you taking the time to write us. I especially appreciate the way in which you chose to deal with something written in our paper that you did not agree with. Others have threatened to boycott JH Weekly or worse whenever they read something that doesn’t fit their personal value system. Your mature approach is what we would like to see more of. We encourage dialogue.

Yes, I am opinionated. Having opinions and being able to state them – sometimes in a provocative manner – is the very essence of a column called “Props & Disses.” I hope you know I am also a professional journalist. I can and would just as easily write a feature story highlighting the ADHD epidemic and leave my personal feelings out of it.

Regarding your brother and sister-in-law and their son: It was not my intention to dismiss or cheapen their child-rearing efforts. From your description I would say there is something much more serious than ADHD going on with their son.

Regarding the classification of ADD/ADHD: Diagnosis of cancer and diabetes is obtained by indisputable blood test results. Diagnosis of ADHD or any other disorder is purely clinical guesswork.

I suppose we will not ever see eye-to-eye on this. We’re coming from disparate places. You are have personal experience in this matter. I have no kids, and I can be a bit of an ignoramus as you suggested. Nevertheless, I hope one day I write something that delights or enlights rather than enrages. Please keep reading.

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