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The Providence Journal, R.I., Mark Patinkin column

Providence Journal - 1/11/2017

Jan. 11--I probably should feel solidarity with Evan Speck, the Charlestown cop who is claiming he got PTSD because of ADHD.

Translation: He's suing saying he's got post-traumatic stress disorder because he didn't get disability for his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Speck, who's 34 and an 11-year veteran on the force, says it's all so stressful that he can't work.

To which the town asks: Then why have you been flying around the country competing in bodybuilding contests?

The reason I should feel solidarity is I have ADD myself.


At least I think so.

About five years ago, I was feeling distracted, so I decided to have it checked out.

I thought it would be kind of fun. It wasn't.

They put me alone in a silent room with a computer screen. At erratic moments, it flashed one of five shapes -- a circle, square, star -- like that. My job was to push the space bar as fast as I could when one of the five flashed, but not if some other shape came up. Jumping the gun got you demerits.

The test kept going. And going. Often with long seconds between shapes. I guess that was the point -- to see if I was so ADD I'd break. I basically did.

After a half-hour or so, I began texting people about how bored and distracted I was taking the ADD test. This did not help my performance.

My score put me firmly in ADD territory.

Which is why I should feel solidarity with the Charlestown cop.

But I don't.

It's one thing to be on the ADD spectrum. But asking for disability for being distracted? Get serious.

Yes, I get that being a cop is stressful. But so is every job. It's the definition of work. That's why they pay us to do it.

I'm also wary of rushing to call everything a disorder. Do we really want to medicate every normal 11-year-old boy out of being an 11-year-old boy? Is it possible Alexander the Great would have been Alexander the Mediocre if he'd been on Ritalin?

Before you pile on -- I'm the first to say that many kids and adults have legitimate brain imbalances, and need meds. I've learned that the everyday stress of anxiety, especially with younger folks, can be a dangerous syndrome, driving them to self-medicate in tragic ways if not treated seriously.

But it dishonors such real sufferers when others who are high-functioning claim a syndrome with hopes of the system supporting them.

Evan Speck may be a good example of that, because a doctor who examined him -- are you ready for this -- says he doesn't even have ADHD.

That was the finding of Dr. Paul Malloy, a clinical psychologist at Butler Hospital. Malloy is a laudable example of a rare doc who doesn't just rubber-stamp a patient's disability claims. You don't see that often, which is one reason government budgets and pension funds are under pressure -- because so many docs put able workers on tax-free disability.

To his credit, Dr. Malloy didn't.

But another one, named Dr. Paul Barratt, says Speck indeed has PTSD from being denied ADHD sick time.

So Speck will no doubt continue in his suit.

As he does, he should know that workplaces are full of folks who have truly grave challenges -- blindness, quadriplegia, PTSD from combat.

They soldier on, though.

Because they know the real honor is in overcoming, not putting a hand out.


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