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Connecting the Dots

Yisroel Besser

Dr. Michael Steinhardt believes it’s unfair to simply label a child with a medical acronym and fill a prescription, or chase after a “surefire” alternative remedy. The leading neuropsychologist says identifying underlying causes of a child’s difficulties sets the stage for a healing action plan.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Every now and then,Dr.MichaelSteinhardtsurprises you with a flash of passion. Like the colors in his office, everything about the neuropsychologist is gentle: voice, appearance, manner of speaking.But when discussing the chinuch self-help industry — purveyors of herbs and other remedies for a variety of childhood ailments — or the number of children misdiagnosed with ADHD and other behavioral issues, you see the glint in his black eyes, hear the edge in his voice.“Let’s say a child shows signs of being ADHD, so the parents get a prescription for Ritalin. Simple, right?”Dr.Steinhardttells me animatedly. “But really, it’s not so simple. More than half of all children with ADHD are affected by another comorbid condition, which means, in layman’s terms, that ADHD doesn’t usually come alone, but along with other issues.“Now, if a child has ADHD plus, but is only treated for ADHD, it’s almost as if he hasn’t been treated at all.”The stakes are too high,Dr.Steinhardtsays, to get it wrong. So for the last six years, he has quietly changed the way kids with behavioral issues are diagnosed, applying a comprehensive exam, plenty of patience, and the full picture of a child’s life to assess the symptoms so prevalent in schools today that every child knows the acronyms by heart.A prominent menahel describedDr.Steinhardt’s methods this way: It’s like when you take your car to the mechanic for an oil change, and he notices an unrelated problem with the fan belt. The extra expense and bother is a nuisance, but you are nevertheless grateful for the information. Smart mechanics suggest an all-points inspection just to uncover these kinds of hidden problems. In much the same way,Dr.Steinhardt assesses children’s behavioral problems, looking for the obvious symptoms, the hidden causes, and all the while uncovering unexpected ailments.For anyone familiar with Dr.Steinhardt’s family, his accomplishments in the realm of education should come as no surprise. Because along with the unruffled professionalism, the impressive résumé of training and accomplishments, there is also his yichus, a family tradition that imbues him with a streak of advocacy and spirited defense for the rights of every child. And while he learned medicine in university, he learned chinuch at the feet of a master.

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