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by Russell A. Barkley
Guilford, 1999
Review by Christian Perring on Jun 10th 2008

New Look at ADHD: Inhibition, Time, and Self-Control

This 39 minute video sets out some of the basic features of ADHD and presents Russell Barkley's theory to explaining it.  Other experts also share their perspectives in short extracts.  The video includes short parts of interviews with people who have ADHD; they describe their experience and some of the typical features of their problem.  Barkley sets out his theory as an analysis of executive self-control, or inhibition, which involves

·         Working memory

·         Internalized speech

·         Emotional control

·         Creative Problem solving. 

He shows how these develop with illustrations of children developing these abilities, and he also shows diagrams of the brain.  He argues that ADHD is centrally not a problem with attention but rather with inhibition.  One needs a sense of oneself across time in order to be an executive agent, and a person with ADHD suffers from a kind of time blindness, according to Barkley.  He suggests that this gives a better explanation of the symptoms, and helps treatment. 

Barkley proceeds urges the importance of correct diagnosis, patient education, and then medications.  He also suggests that the environment should be adapted to better suit the patient.  For example, large tasks should be broken down to smaller components, and then a person with ADHD will be better able to focus on each component rather than getting lost in trying to attempt to conceptualize the whole task at once.  It can also be helpful for children with ADHD to be reminded of the passage of time so they are better able to budget their time.

This video is of course just a taster for Barkley's theory, which he has explained at far greater length with more scholarly backing in his 1997 book ADHD and the Nature of Self-Control.  However, this video, which is accompanied by a 40 page pamphlet, is a useful introduction to his theory and can also serve as a helpful summary of the basic nature of ADHD. 

Abnormal psychology has yet to confirm Barkley's theory, but he at least makes it sound plausible on this video. 

Link: Russell A. Barkley home page

© 2008 Christian Perring

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.