Are Hyperactive Kids the ‘Indigo’s?

Are They Here to Save the World? “If you have not been in an alternative bookstore lately, it is possible that you have missed the news about indigo children. They represent “perhaps the most exciting, albeit odd, change in basic human nature that has ever been observed and documented,” Lee Carroll and Jan Tober write in The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived (Hay House). The book has sold 250,000 copies since 1999 and has spawned a cottage industry of books about indigo children.

…Indigo children were first described in the 1970’s by a San Diego parapsychologist, Nancy Ann Tappe, who noticed the emergence of children with an indigo aura, a vibrational color she had never seen before. This color, she reasoned, coincided with a new consciousness.

In The Indigo Children, Mr. Carroll and Ms. Tober define the phenomenon. Indigos, they write, share traits like high I.Q., acute intuition, self-confidence, resistance to authority and disruptive tendencies, which are often diagnosed as attention-deficit disorder, known as A.D.D., or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or A.D.H.D.” (New York Times)

As readers of FmH know, I have treated ADHD for a long time in my psychiatric practice but have been appalled by its burgeoning and unsystematic, laughably faddish overdiagnosis. It is now a wastebasket diagnosis comprising some children with a characteristic set of hardwired neurocognitive deficits in the regulation of attentional processes (who deserve the diagnosis); some with other psychiatric causes of inattention, distractibilityor impulsivity (warranting other psychiatric diagnoses), some children at the mercurial, impulsive or energetic end of the temperament spectrum; and some children whose difficulty paying sustained attention, avoiding distraction or maintaining decorum are shaped by sociocultural rather than internal influences. These latter two groups of ADHDers really do not warrant a psychiatric diagnosis at all.

While I have no affinity for diagnosis by aura, I think Carroll and Tober may be overcompensating for the overpathologizing with an equally silly lionization of the ‘ADHD child’. On the other hand, I do think that some children come to be seen as having attention deficit disorder in the classroom because the stultifying curriculum does not hold their interest and they are all over the map seeking stimulation. In my children’s school system, the townwide parent interest group for gifted and talented children is full of the parents of children with different, and often difficult, learning styles, and it is no accident.