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Compared to the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, attention– deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been a recent issue for debate in Italy. Before the early 2000s, the ADHD diagnosis was still not recognized by many Italian child psychiatrists and psychologists, and it was mostly unknown to the general public. Moreover, no medi­ cation to treat ADHD was available in Italy’s phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal market ­until 2007.­ Things have since changed rapidly; ­ today, ADHD is a recognized diagnosis among the majority of Italian child psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers and it is a well-­ known disorder among laypeople. In this chapter, we frame the ADHD phenomenon within the Italian context, outlining the contingencies of its emergence and development, stakeholder activism raised around ADHD-­ related controversy and debate, social and school policies developed for ADHD, the condition’s epidemiology, and the type of treatments available in Italy. Fi­ nally, we trace some cultural ­ factors related to the discourses constructed and circulating around ADHD in Italy, and we discuss their influence on the subjective positioning of ­ children with ADHD and the key adult stakeholders who interact with them. 11 ADHD in the Italian Context­ Children in the Midst of Social and Po­ liti­ cal Debates Alessandra Frigerio Lorenzo Montali ADHD in the Italian Context   209 Controversy and Debate: The Emergence of ADHD in Italy The evolution of public discourse on ADHD in Italy is linked to the activity of associations and advocacy groups that are prominent voices in the Italian debate. Such groups produce and disseminate specific discourses and forms of knowledge about ADHD as well as attempt to influence social policies and legislation. On the one hand, the Associazione Italiana Disturbi Attenzione e Iperattività (AIDAI), which is composed of professionals such as child psychiatrists, psychologists , and pediatricians, and the Associazione Italiana Famiglie ADHD (AIFA) aim to promote the social acceptability of ADHD. They do so by creating supporting networks for parents, organ­ izing trainings for teachers, countering critical perspectives (especially ­ those based on psychodynamic and psychoanalytic approaches), and supporting the use of medi­ cation to treat ADHD. More specifically , the early 2000s saw the emergence of the proj­ ect “Parents for Parents,”1 which led to the formation of the parental association AIFA. On the association’s website, parents state that this collective proj­ ect started from the recognition of a diffuse absence of institutional responses to ADHD and the need to strug­ gle against a scrutinizing and stigmatizing social context, which tended to blame parents for their ­ children’s be­ hav­ ior and did not recognize the validity of the ADHD diagnosis. In 2002, the association published a book, Vorrei scappare in un deserto e gridare (I Would Like to Escape in a Desert and Shout), which presented personal stories of many parents of ­ children with ADHD; the book’s aim was to sensitize public opinion with re­ spect to parents’ experiences and difficulties related to ADHD. On the other hand, a number of associations and committees launched education and awareness campaigns criticizing the conceptualization of ADHD symptoms and the use of psychopharmacological treatments. Specifically, the organ­ization Giù le mani dai bambini focused on the potential abuse of medi­ cation in childhood, and the campaign “Perché non accada anche in Italia” (“Let’s Stop It from Happening in Italy”) criticized the so-­ called pathologization and psychiatrization of ­ human be­ hav­ ior and difficulties (Marzocchi, Re, and Cornoldi 2010). The debate about the validity of the ADHD diagnostic category and the use of medi­ cation for its treatment was characterized by the stipulation of a number of statements of consensus, supporting dif­fer­ ent perspectives. In 2003, a consensus was written as the result of a national conference on ADHD (ISS 2003) held by a number of scientific and clinical experts on ADHD. The founder and 210   Global Perspectives on ADHD representative of AIFA also participated in the conference. This consensus, entitled “Indicazioni e strategie terapeutiche per i bambini e gli adolescenti con disturbo da deficit attentivo e iperattività” (“Therapeutic Indications and Strategies for ­ Children and Adolescents with ADHD”), was approved by a number of professional socie­ ties and organ­ izations in the fields of pharmacology, psychopathology , and pediatrics. The consensus promoted the notion of ADHD as a chronic neurobiological disease and a specific approach to diagnosis and treating ADHD based on the revised fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of ­ Mental Disorders (DSM-­IV-­R) (APA 2000) and cognitive-­ behavioral intervention . The consensus...


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