Friday, 24 September 2010

Blog 17 - ADHD

I have to have a rant.

Years ago, when you had a naughty kid, he was known as a naughty kid. He was naughty at school and the teachers told him off, he was naughty playing out in the streets and a policeman would cuff him on the ear and send him home, he was naughty at home and the parents would probably do nothing which is why he was naughty in the first place. It was simple. Some kids would stay naughty and end up in prison. Some would grow out of it naturally and grow up all right. And some, by becoming known as naughty kids, would shame their parents into taking an interest and the family would develop together.

Nowadays nobody has to bother. If you have a naughty kid, you don't have to discipline them. If you're a school, you do a quick referral to a specialist who then sends them to a doctor who diagnoses ADHD in 5 seconds flat following a series of tests that 95% of the population would find makes them an ADHD "sufferer" (More of this later). If you're a policeman and Little Johnny is attempting arson at the age of 8 you don't cuff him because you'll get sued, or take him to the parents because if they had any sense he wouldn't be out firestarting at 8, so you take him to the station, get a referral to Social Services who pass him onto a doctor to diagnose ADHD. And if you're a parent of a naughty child, rather than admit they're naughty and that might reflect poorly on your parenting skills, you take the quick fix option. "Doctor, as soon as I've finished pouring a gallon of Sunny Delight down Johnny's throat when he gets home from school he goes a bit mental and runs around bouncing off the walls". 5 seconds later there's a prescription for Ritalin in Mummy's hand. A doctors endorsement that you're not a crap, lazy parent. It couldn't possibly be your fault that whilst you're watching back-to-back Jeremy Kyle, Little Johnny is busy feeding the hamster a months supply of Cillit Bang.

The worst thing is that some people genuinely have ADHD. They have my deepest sympathy. Because whilst they struggle with concentration issues and the frustration of completing tasks that most of us simply find a dull chore, they must know that virtually everyone they tell that they have ADHD is thinking, "bollocks, you're just a naughty kid making excuses".

I'd love to see some statistics on the socio-economic status of those diagnosed with ADHD. If ADHD were correctly diagnosed every time you would expect it to be as prevalent in every social grouping. How many people on a higher income have children with ADHD? In a social class where there is still a stigma surrounding these things, I suspect that there are far fewer occurrences of ADHD. That's not to say their kids are any better behaved than those raised by families on low incomes, just that the stigma of the class is likely to mean that they are less likely to want to label their child with "the naughty disease". The further down the economic ladder you go, the more likely you are to find families with ADHD children. The stigma of having an ADHD child is less if you already know other families who have ADHD children. And thus it becomes the norm rather than the exception. If nobody at the school has a go at Little Billy's Mum when he scribbles on the classroom walls because he's got ADHD, then why can't Johnny have ADHD too? Then they'll stop moaning at me when he repeats what he saw on the hardcore dvd's that I can never be arsed to put away at night. I might even get him diagnosed with Tourette's as well! Wonder if the Social will give me disability money for that?

Read through some court reports. We now have a generation of people in their late teens starting to emerge as petty criminals. Usually minor incidents involving drink, drugs, violence, criminal damage. And look at how many of those claim to have ADHD. Instant excuse. Get out of Jail Free Card. "I can't possibly be held responsible for my actions, M'Lud. It's this disease I'm cursed with that makes me an arsehole". And all the while genuine ADHD sufferers struggle with their condition trying NOT to use it as an excuse and make the best of their lives.

More work needs to be put into the diagnosis of ADHD. The doctors who diagnose it so quickly and easily aren't doing so because they want the current situation to be perpetuated, but because they're under pressure to get through all the appointments that are thrown at them, and the current ADHD tests are so broad and non-specific that virtually anyone can come out with a positive ADHD result. I've done an online test, as have friends of mine and we all came out with scores in excess of 75% positive for ADHD. Mine was 87%. I have an honours degree, have had several jobs where I've managed people and held considerable responsibility, have never had any run-ins with the law, or had any issues concentrating. I am however, a lazy bastard, and at times I can be a feckless twat, particularly when under the influence, and be driven to acts of minor mischief. I'm perfectly aware of this, and although I might not act like such a berk when I'm sober, it's not alcohols fault for whatever I get up to. It's mine for being a greedy bastard and drinking too much of something that I know has the capacity for sending me loopy. But according to the online test, I could easily blame it on ADHD. I'm not saying the online test is an exact match for that administered by a doctor, but from what I've been told by a friend whose child was tested and diagnosed and has taken the online test themselves, it's actually more in-depth than the doctors. We now have a generation of people who think they have an easily acquired licence to break the rules.

Blog 16 - Dad Stuff - Swearing

Anybody who knows me knows that I love a good swear. Is it because I'm an emotionally stunted man-child that uses adult language to cover up his developmental failings in an attempt to seem more mature than he is? Fucked if I know.

However, nowadays I'm a Dad, and so I have to take a view on swearing. Is it something I want my kids doing? How do you police it? Do you allow some words and not others? How much do I allow myself to swear around the kids?

I know the accepted view of society is that swearing is bad and kids should neither do it or be exposed to it. The problem is that I don't subscribe to the theory. Never have, never will. Swearing, for me, is wonderful. I love language, particularly the English language which is so rich in it's breadth and variety, and anything that can add to that is increasing something that's already brilliant. How many variations are there on the word "pissed"? "He pissed in the toilet", "I got so pissed last night", "I am so pissed off with my friend" "I didn't bring my umbrella and wouldn't you know, it pissed down". Marvellous.

The important thing with swear words is that they have power. Far greater power than the millions of mundane words that make up the bulk of normal language. Stand in the middle of a W.I. whist drive and say "profiterole" and nobody bats an eyelid. Even "bomb" or "fire" wouldn't make much of an impression unless you screamed it. But say "Piss-stained cuntflaps" and you'd better believe you have an audience. Instant power.

Which is not to say that I support using random swearwords for attention (although god knows, that's fun on occasion). In fact, I'm actually opposed to swearing too much because the more powerful words are used, the less effect they have. If I say "fuck" people are less surprised than if my Mum, who very rarely swears, does, and so when she swears it has far greater impact. My problem is that I can't help myself - I'm a swear glutton. I'm the Vanessa Feltz of cursing. I can't help myself.

Which begs the question then, how do I deal with this around the kids? The one thing I don't believe in is the hands-over-the-ears "la la la if I just say those words are bad then they won't swear" method which a lot of parents seem to subscribe to. It's naive and it's a parenting cop-out. The fact is that swearing is a part of the world around us. As soon as they get to school the kids all begin passing round new words they've learned and the coolest kids are the ones who know the most swear words. The fact is that my kids are going to swear. To them it's cool and grown up. I was the same at their age. Plus I still swear now, so it's hypocritical to say there are words I can say but you can't.

Recently we had the situation where during a car ride we played "I-Spy" and I saw a parcel. Nobody guessed it and when I announced "It's a parcel", Kerry (half-asleep) misheard and said "did you just say 'arsehole'?" in hushed tones. Bailey (3) overheard that and shouted "IS IT AN ARSEHOLED?" which she thought was hilarious because everyone else in the car fell about laughing when she said it. I've since answered questions from the eldest two as to what an arsehole is, but to be honest I was actually only confirming what they pretty much knew. Any child who has grown up with 2 parents who haven't had a break from changing nappies at all hours of the day and night for the past 7 years will have heard the phrase "stinky arsehole" on at least a few occasions I guarantee.

Rightly or wrongly, the view I'm following is that I'm going to allow them to swear in front of me. My reasoning is that I don't find swearing offensive, and they're going to do it anyway, so why have the pretence that I had with my parents? The only rules I'm going to apply to the situation are that a) they need to understand what the words mean and b) they need to know when and where they can use these words. At the age my kids are (6,5,3 and nearly 1) they don't know many swear words anyway, but they're picking them up all the time. Take "Shit" for example (and anyone who's worked for the government knows that you have to do that on a regular basis anyway #littlebitofpolitics). My kids know what shit means. If I was to ask Lauryn (6) whether her baby brother had done a shit, she's sniff his bum and tell me the answer. The fact is that I don't use that terminology and neither does she on a general basis because we usually refer to it as "poo" or "poo-poo". Because we have Bailey (3) who has not long been potty-trained, we've spent a considerable amount of time talking about "poo" in the past few months and as a result it's... well it's kind of stuck. I wouldn't have a problem if the kids were to say "Shit" in front of me because they know what it is, they know the right context to use it in, and they are aware that it's a swear word and that they shouldn't say it in front of certain people. I just don't think they need to make an effort not to say it around me.

The sexualised swear words are somewhat different. My kids (hopefully) don't have a clue what a Wanker is, and it's not something they'll understand for a few years, so I'd question them if they said that in front of me, and likewise I try not to use that in front of them myself. Cunt is one that I'll allow (although hopefully that won't come up for a few years), because at the end of the day, it's only a reference to a part of the body. The codicil with this is that they have to understand that society regards this as the "Nuclear" swearword (for reasons I've never quite understood) and that they have to be exceptionally careful when using it. Fuck however, is a tricky one. It's regarded as one of the worst swear words (The F-Bomb), and it is a sexual swear word, but it's also one of the most prevalent. People are always saying "I hate my fucking job" but unless they work in the pornography industry, they're not using the word in a sexualised way. "Fuck You" is an insult, not an invitation.

Cee Lo Greens new song "Fuck You" is about to explode when it's released. It's all over the internet already and it's one of the catchiest tunes I've heard in years and it's sweetened all the further by liberal sprinklings of swear words. If you haven't heard it already, check this out:

Fantastic song, right? And although a tame version has been released for radio play ("Forget you" substitutes for the title, and "Ain't that some shit" is replaced by "ain't that some shhhh"), you know that EVERYONE will sing the rude version regardless of which one they're listening to. My kids will become exposed to this and will sing it because that's the media age we live in. The song is going to be huge and will be everywhere. So do we pretend it doesn't exist for children, like a BFG that only adults can see or hear? Or do we be honest with our children, let them know that some words are swear words which will upset some people, but let them join in the fun of a catchy song that they'll hear about regardless of whether we like it or not? I'm letting them hear it, dance to it anhd even sing along to it if they want. They know they mustn't sing it at school or to anyone outside the house, but pretending it doesn't exist is a far bigger crime to me than saying a few words that other people don't like around people who don't mind them.

I'm sure many people will disagree with me on this, and to be fair I don't think my view totally reflects the Mrs' but it's my view all the same. I think most parents seem to make a lot of fuss about swearing when kids are young but as they gradually comprehend that they can't stop their kids awareness of swear words or the fact that they use them every day at school or around friends, they simply stop making the effort to correct them and allow it to happen in a gradual malaise of their own standards. I prefer to take the long-term view now and be open about it, but a lot of people will probably think this makes me the worst parent since Joseph Fritzl. However, a lot of people are fuckwits so I'm not that fussed.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Blog 15 - NFL 2010-2011 Season Preview

As you may or may not know, American Football has become a recent passion of mine and with the new NFL season starting this week, I thought I'd do a quick season preview for anybody else with similar interest.

I got into it a couple of years ago, but this is the first year that, since the Superbowl, I've stayed in touch with what's happening with the teams offseason, and with the draft, and so I'm fascinated to see how the Rookies perform as it's my first real draft class I'm watching.

So without further ado, here are my season predictions:

AFC East

1. New York Jets - The favourites for the division should win out. They've added some strong firepower in the offseason and moved some older names out. I can't see them going far in the postseason though and they'll be lucky to get a repeat of last years Conference Final.

2. New England Patriots - Have lost ground in the last year or two and a lot will depend on whether Brady can revitalise his passing game and if Wes Welker can get fit enough to make an impact. They're too good not to be a threat however and they've got a shot at a Wild Card.

3. Miami Dolphine - A lot of experts have them as dark horses within the division but I don't think they're quite there yet. Won't roll over for anyone but breaking teams down will remain a problem.

4. Buffalo Bills - If they're not selecting first in next years draft I'll be very surprised. Their team has more holes than a pikeys cardigan. Unbelievably when given a prime opportunity to sign a franchise quarterback in Clausen or Tebow in the draft they instead went for RB C.J. Spiller providing cover in what was not one of their biggest areas of weakness and ignoring the fact that they have the weakest selection of any team in the NFL in the most important position on the team.


1. Baltimore Ravens - Always strong, I can't see past them in the division and could be a good outside bet to win the whole shebang. They've managed to keep hold of good players and have probably the strongest backroom set-up of any team in the NFL.

2. Cincinnati Bengals - I fancy them to make it to the postseason as a surprise package. The Batman and Robin antics of Ochocinco and T.O. will take the headlines but it will be the consistency of Cedric Benson and Carson Palmer that will make or break the season.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers - The Big Ben kerfuffle has overshadowed the whole club and I'm surprised they haven't attempted a trade to give both parties a fresh start. The first four games without Rothlisberger will be tremendously difficult as they don't have quality back-up. I think it's going to be a messy season for the Steelers and I can't see them getting past the normal season this time.

4. Cleveland Browns - Mangini already looks like a sitting duck and I'd be surprised if he was still in a job at Christmas. The Browns are not untalented but they struggle with consistency over the course of a game let alone a season.


1. Indianapolis Colts - Efficient, professional, rarely over elaborate, and always in the mix at the end of the season, the Colts are to the NFL what Germany are to the World Cup. Probably one of the reasons I find no affinity with them at all! Led by the Iceman, Peyton Manning, with metronomically regulated passing, they will undoubtedly be playing long into the postseason.

2. Tennessee Titans - They have the best running back in the league and if Vince Young can produce the kind of season he is capable of at QB, then I can see them being a surprise package. My Wild Card for a Wild Card.

3. Houston Texans - Another team that experts are expecting big things of and I can't see it myself. Any team that signs Leinart has to be at a lower ebb than was first thought!

4. Jacksonville Jaguars - The line appears to have been drawn in the sand now and the Jaguars are not going to make too much of an effort until they're in a new city with a fitting fanbase. Del Rio is a good coach and they have some decent players but they drafted on conservative wages rather than on talent and they can't expect to be a competitve force as a result.


1. San Diego Chargers - A no-brainer in this division. Drafted well and Ryan Matthews looks set to have a huge rookie year. Could feature at Conference Final level but not sure they have enough to go all the way.

2. Denver Broncos - Tebow. You can't look past him when it comes to the Bronco's even if most observers believe his role will only be peripheral this season. A marmite character, I think he'll be the biggest thing in the sport within 4 years. Equally I agree that his contribution will be limited this year, but he has a galvanising presence and the club is on the up, and they have an underrated team which should do well.

3. Kansas City Chiefs - Quietly improving as a franchise, the signing of Eric Berry will be a long term aquisition of high value. They won't trouble the playoffs but should hold-off the Raiders in the Division.

4. Oakland Raiders - Had one of the best drafts of any team in the NFL and finally put Al Davis' wacky ideas on the back-burner. It will take a while for it all to gel however and next year will be one of slight but noticeable imporovement.


1. Dallas Cowboys - Could go all the way if they keep key men fit and if Romo can pull out a big season. He has the tools and Dez Bryant could be a major player if given a chance.

2. Philadelphia Eagles - Second best in an uncharcteristically weak division for me this year. I think the once-formidable Eagles are slipping and I can see them struggling to make the post-season.

3. New York Giants - Started last season well only to collapse down the track, I can't see things getting better before they get worse for NY. Not enough tools to mount a serious challenge.

4. Washington Redskins - Big changes at work and they look a million times better than they were a year ago. However, the changes will take a while to settle and it's a season of consolidation rather than dramatic advances in DC.


1. Minnesota Vikings - Favre's back for last season number 63, but equally the Vikings remain a force to be reckoned with. A really tight division between the top 2 teams, I fancy them to win out by a short head, although it'll be equal opportunities in post-season.

2. Green Bay Packers - Should comfortably make the play-offs and if things go their way a Conference Final or a Superbowl are not impossible. Consistency the key.

3. Detroit Lions - Traditionally amongst the worst they have been clever in recent seasons with the quality of player they have brought in. Franchise QB Matt Stafford has a decent rookie year under his belt and Ndamukong Suh has shown the kind of form in pre-season that could earn him a Pro Bowl call-up in his rookie year. They're still light years away from a play-off shot but one year at a time they're getting better.

4. Chicago Bears - With no 1st Round Draft pick they went all out in free agency and made some high profile signings, not least Julius Peppers. However there are so many issues that need addressing that even Peppers will be a band aid over a gaping wound.


1. New Orleans Saints - The team to beat now they're reigning Superbowl Champs, they'll find it an awful lot more difficult defending the trophy than winning it in the first place. I can't see them repeating and I think they'll do well to win a playoff game, but they're good enough to win in a weak division nonetheless.

2. Atlanta Falcons - Another fancied darkhorse, they'll have a shot at a Wild Card but they're very much a work in progress and don't have the personnel or determination as yet.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Fancy them for a better run this season but still a long way from challenging within the division. McCoy is an excellent addition but they have too many holes and not enough matchwinners.

4. Carolina Panthers - An average team of average players who should perform average at best. If ever a team needed a marquee player to come in and act as a catlyst, this is it.


1. Arizona Cardinals - My team. They've lost some big names since last season and mostly replaced them with adequate if unspectacular alternatives. The draft was a success and the addition of Dan Williams is a cause for excitement. However the cloud over the club is the retirement of legendary QB and leader Kurt Warner, the implosion of the ever-disappointing Leinart as his aire-apparant, and the aquisition of the boom or bust Derek Anderson as the new leader of the offence. Personally I have enormous doubts about Anderson but I would love to be proved wrong. We still have the best defensive lineman in the league in Darnell Dockett and the best receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, but the QB hole is simply too big for us to get any further than the first round of playoffs. Only the lack of strength in the division will see us progress.

2. San Francisco 49'ers - Most people have them as the probable winners after a few years of Cards dominance, and they have worked the pre-season well in terms of personnel changes. However, as always, changes take time to implement and they will still have work to do to catch the Cards this season.

3. St Louis Rams - Another team with a world of improvement neccesary but if Bradford can perform they could have an unexpectedly average season.

4. Seattle Seahawks - A difficult fixture list will see them struggle and I think the Rams may even squeeze them out into 4th. Lots of work to do.

I think the winners overall will come from the Ravens or the Colts in the AFC and the Cowboys, Vikings and Packers in the NFC. At a push I'll plump for the Ravens to beat the Cowboys in the Superbowl. Although if the Cards want to surprise me, that's fine!