Spongebob Causes ADHD?

I recently did some testing with a second grade boy because his dad was concerned about his impulsive behavior.  The boy’s father had a conference with the Palm Beach Schools teacher and the teacher said the boy talks excessively, rushes through his school work, finishes so quickly that he walks around and disturbs other children, and slides out of his chair.  If you have a son does this sound familiar?  The types of behaviors the teacher and dad described could be related to ADHD.  After all, they sound like ADHD types of behaviors since impulsivity and lack of attention to detail are characteristics of ADHD.

The dad continued to say the boy has a short attention span at home, bounces from activity to activity, and does not complete tasks.  The boy does enjoy TV and especially Spongebob.  What surprised me was that the boy’s father asked me, “Does Spongebob cause ADHD?”  I replied, “No.” There is no direct link to Spongebob causing ADHD.  There was a study in 2011 that suggested watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.   Sixty kids were assigned to groups that watched Spongebob, Caillou, or drew.  The kids that watched Spongebob performed lowest on measures administered immediately after the activity.  However the study was severely limited in that it did not test kids before watching TV.  Thus, we don’t really know if these kids were lower to begin with or if it was something about the TV program.

In preparing for and writing my book, “Raising Boys with ADHD”, we found no strong evidence to create a direct link between TV shows causing ADHD.  The message here is don’t let your son watch endless hours of TV.  Continue to use common sense in limiting your boy’s access to TV, videogames, and even iPad apps.

I offer comprehensive testing for ADHD/ADD.  It should include more than just a behavioral checklist or rating scale.  When I test a child for ADD/ADHD it includes neuropsychological tests of attention and executive functioning.  Most kids with ADHD have significant difficulties on these types of tests.  Thus, it removes the subjectivity of a person’s opinion on the rating scale.  Direct testing, observation, interviewing the teacher and parents, are all just as important as any one rating scale.  If you are concerned your boy or girl may have ADHD then contact me to get testing.  Most parents believe the insight gained in testing gives them peace of mind and specific direction for helping their child.  They don’t waste time and resourses doing things that don’t help the child.