Debi Pearl Thinks ADD is a Blessing or a Curse?

Debi Pearl Thinks ADD is a Blessing or a Curse? April 27, 2019

I don’t know if it is just the copious amounts of cough syrup I’m ingesting for this cold, or just that No Greater Joy’s Debi Pearl is loopy. I’m getting a large laugh out of Debi Pearl’s claims of studying the brain seven hours a day and how she’s learned all about it.

Debi starts off talking about hospital emergency rooms, some place that it’s likely she has only the most scanty knowledge off. She makes the bold statement that she thinks ER doctors and nurses have ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder – and that is how they all function so well in an atmosphere of chaos. It’s their brains, stupid..

Then Debi tries to explain the role of the basal ganglia as a switchboard. You can tell ‘basal ganglia’ is something that makes Debi feel oh so smart because she repeats it again and again and again in this piece with it’s dime store explanations of how the brain works.

All the areas of the brain, including the basal ganglia, function by responding to neurotransmitters, the chemicals and hormones that are released by our thoughts and actions. Knowing that we control their release by what we think and do is key to training your child to excel rather than being known as the lazy kid.

And just like that we’re back to that bedrock in Debi and Michael Pearl’s controlling theology- control  your thoughts to control your life. Control your kids thinking and harness their ADD and other conditions for good. If only it were just that simple, but we know nothing with humans is simple or robotic.

So much of what pulses through our brains is so incredibly trivial and harmless that I just have to reject without any more scientific evidence than Debi this idea of controlling your thoughts.

Debi  is so excited in this piece because she believes she’s unlocked the mystery of the ADD brain and making an ADD diagnosed child all better.

An ADD child who is trained to exercise self-control, self-motivation, and willpower will be a highly effective individual because his brain will produce neurotransmitters that create a biologically better brain.

And since this is the Pearls we’re talking of we know exactly what ‘training’ means. It translates into using a half inch plastic plumbing line to beat that child for every transgression, real or imagined, while ignoring all the real scientific based evidence that shows using this type of punishment on children does real lasting damage to their brains.

All of this is followed by Debi making increasingly ridiculous claims with buzz words you know she does not fully understand, ‘basal ganglia’ and ‘neuroplasticity’ and it turns out it’s all an ad for a book Debi has written on the brain. It’s to be published this summer.

I have to wonder if Debi went off the deep end trying to study the brain because of Michael’s stroke last summer? A stroke he had treated with a dubious treatment that can be dangerous.

A diagnosis of ADD isn’t the end of the world. More is being learned every day in how to function with all our various foibles in this world. None of it requires the type of ‘training’ the Pearls believe in. Sometimes conditions can be managed with therapies like physical therapies, or medications or simply doing things in a different way.


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About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 32 years. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tawreos

    She is trying to harness “science” into making her “beat your kids til you can stand them” philosophy more palatable to people. She will fail, like christians usually do, because she has no idea what science actually is.

    I hope you get over your cold quickly.

  • Jenn H

    An ADD child who is trained to exercise self-control, self-motivation, and willpower will be a highly effective individual

    She is basically encouraging parents to beat the ADD symptoms out of their children, because if they do that kid might become a doctor. More likely that kid is going to end up at the ER or dead, as non-neurotypical kids would face more punishment for their “bad behaviour”.

  • Matt G

    Some scientists have devoted their entire careers to studying (not understanding) the brain, and she figured it out in a week! Stupid scientists!

  • Mel

    I hope my face doesn’t get stuck in the “what the hell is this person talking about?” expression I got as I was reading Debi’s word salad.

    We really don’t control the neurotransmitter production or release in our brains. We can mess around with them a little by changing the amount of light we’re exposed to, by exercising, or by getting really good at meditation – but most of the time our brains are doing their own thing and we really are better off not messing with it. We’re getting better at having drugs to fix issues with neurotransmitter release issues (e.g. depression) – but there’s a whole lot of improvement to be had in the area of medical treatment of the brain.

    So….the basal ganglia is a group of structures in the brain, not a single brain bit like Debi implies it is.

    Also – and maybe I should have lead with this – the basal ganglia is not involved in ADD or ADHD. What the basal ganglia do is to send out the signals that help start muscular movements and stop movements by other muscles that are in opposition. Parkinson’s disease damages the basal ganglia and the loss of functionality is what causes the tremors, rigid movements and frozen facial expressions.

    The process of starting the muscle movements is known as facilitation and the tamping down of opposing movements is known as inhibition. Near as I can guess, Debi read those words and spun off into her own little universe instead of using the dictum from everyone around Cookie Monster on Sesame Street to “Stop and Think About It”.(My son is really into Sesame Street so that’s my point of reference now, lol).

    Can people with AD(H)D change their behaviors? Kind of. People can use various techniques to stay focused for longer (or to break their attention when it is overly focused) – but the basic condition will always be there. Some people do a lot better on medication. Personally, I don’t use medication, but I do need to plan some physical exercise before doing certain tasks that require me to sit still and focus. Even with that, I still have moments where I find myself staring off into space. Rather than stressing about it, I laugh at the mild absurdity of whatever I’m staring intently at and go back to what I was doing.

  • Nea

    Plus, it’s not like she and Mikey were able to beat the dyslexia or bipolar out of their kids. Not for lack of trying, I’m sure.

  • Nea

    But it’s a fancy brain word! Debi is using it and spelling it right, so she MUST be an expert, just as she is an expert on dyslexia because she read a couple of library books and on rape because she’s written books about it!

  • AFo

    I’ve taught kids with ADD. Unsurprisingly, Debi has no idea what she’s talking about. First of all, each child is different, and needs different strategies to manage their symptoms. Some kids need a strong medication, some need behavioral strategies, and some need a combination of the two. I’ve sat in enough meetings to know that ordering these kids to control their brain chemistry with their own willpower is just not a thing.

  • Saraquill

    By this logic, all the abuse I endured should have reversed my dysgraphia, dyscalculia and autism. I got seizures instead.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Thanks for letting us know, Mel! I knew you’d know. I’m no expert on any of this about brains, but knew it was all hog wash she was pushing. I have ADD and there are ways to deal that you pick up as you go along. Positive thinking is not one of those helping mechanisms. For me I have to push extra hard to stay organized or I get very overwhelmed.

  • paganheart

    Debi’s knowledge of emergency rooms is probably limited to what she experienced when Mikey had his stroke. Just like her knowledge of the brain is probably limited to whatever research she’s done on the interwebz, looking for natural and godly ways to fix Mikey’s stroke-damaged brain, like that bullshit, do-nothing stem cell infusion therapy. (Bonus points of course if those treatments are easy and cheap, since the Pearls don’t have medical insurance and thus can’t afford expensive, lengthy and complicated physical and occupational therapy regimens.)

    I wonder if Debi’s screed on emergency room doctors is also an indication that Mikey’s had a setback recently that required an ER visit? Hmmm….

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I am guessing that Debi did not follow the post stroke protocol diet and drugs either of blood thinners, blood pressure meds, cholesterol lowering meds and a salt free/low fat diet plus exercise.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    including the basal ganglia

    Which inhibits competing movements in motor function ensuring fluid, smooth movement.

    This has nothing to do with ADD/ADHD at all.

    An ADD child who is trained to exercise self-control, self-motivation, and willpower will be a highly effective individual because his brain will produce neurotransmitters that create a biologically better brain.

    I think the end result of her attempts would be a child who’s had the piss beat out of them because they don’t respond to her immediate demands — in part because they can’t.

    And that’s to say nothing of the comorbidity with other diseases. You almost never just have ADHD/ADD. It’s usually accompanied by something else, like anxiety or depression (all three of which I have: MDD, GAD, ADHD — my alphabet soup). And I’m fortunate, because I didn’t wind up with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I really don’t want to imagine what kind of hell a kid with ODD or Borderline Personality Disorder would have in Pearl home.

    Debi is toxic fucking fool, but then, water remains wet.

  • paganheart

    Of course not…all those things cost real money and are of the “sinful” world. Why do all that when you can just have quack medical treatment, take some herbs or essential oils, or pray to Jesus to heal you?

    /sarcasm

  • Nea

    Mikey doesn’t have the self-discipline to eat “bland” unsalted food even when his brain is functioning. Now? She’s likely got a tall, strong, violent toddler on her hands.

  • SAO

    The real trick of parenting is to figure out when accommodating your kid’s issues is supporting them and when it is preventing them from developing coping skills. (And, of course, when it is both).

    Throwing in fancy words like ‘basal ganglia’ and ‘neurotransmitters’ is just fog. It’s magic sparkle dust that takes your attention away from the fact that the message is the same old toxic Pearl message.

  • otrame

    It’s important to differentiate between what is called ADD and ADHD. ADHD is an actual disorder that, even with parents who are well-educated, loving, understand what is going on, and are determined to help the kid deal, can lead to tragedy, largely because the rest of the world can’t deal with their behavior. When the parents are ignorant about it and deliberately stay that way (usually because of religion or fear of what the neighbors will think, or often both)… Well, such situations often result in horrible child abuse. The drugs are getting better and understanding what is going on with those brains is improving, but not there yet.

    I was told by a pediatric neurologist that ADD is a real phenomenon but it is neither an attention deficit nor a disorder. It’s a cognitive difference that, in our current culture, puts some stress on kids that other kids don’t have to deal with. The truth is ADD people can and do focus their attention. They focus the fuck on things all the time. It’s just sometimes not what other people, or even themselves, want them to focus on. I’m ADD, and when I focus you can have WWIII going on around me and I won’t notice. The doctor (who was in the process of officially diagnosing my kid, for dealing with his school purposes) also said that the primary problem ADD people have is not with a variable attention, but with their intolerance of boredom. I can vouch for that. When I was a kid boredom was physically painful for me. As an adult, I have learned coping mechanisms and rarely have that problem (the iPod and sequelae were a blessing).

  • otrame

    A toddler who is unlikely to live much longer. All she has to do is sit back and be submissive to him, like a good girl.

  • Nea

    And then try to take care of herself in a world where she has shaped herself to his every whim, her husband has spent all the money on his whims, she can’t work for more because she told everyone women can’t preach to men, her children are too poor to take her in, and the family reputation is falling to insignificance and bad PR.

    She didn’t run from the abuse like she tells everyone else to stay, but it sure hasn’t guaranteed her an easy old age as she ends up single anyway.

  • persephone

    She’s in her own catch-22: Mikey dies and she no longer can say that she’s just repeating his words; Mikey alive was dangerous before the strokes, and can only be many times worse now.

    I’m wondering how much of the intern/slaves time is taken up with both guarding and avoiding Mikey.

  • Mimc

    I imagine that’s what this new book is for. Trying not to end up destitute in her old age.

  • Delilah Hart

    I really wish that Michael and Debi Pearl would personally supplement the advice from her book about the brain with advice from Linda Hazzard’s book on fasting.

  • Delilah Hart

    Debi Pearl knows as much about the brain as Tom Cruise knows about psychiatry.

    “You don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do!”
    –Tom Cruise in an interview conducted by Matt Lauer on The Today Show

  • Delilah Hart

    If Debi Pearl knew anything at all about ADHD, she would know that the impulse control issues associated with it can’t be cured with spanking.

  • Jenn H

    I’m not sure Debi (or anyone else in the family) is that motivated to make sure he eats healthy food and takes his meds, especially if he doesn’t want too.

  • Jennifer

    Great explanations! And yay you, conquering boredom!

  • Nea

    How are book sales these days, though, now that actual expert advice is a modem away, powerful evangelists who used to boost sales have fallen, “spanking” is falling hard out of favor, and the Pearl name is attached to dead kids?

  • bekabot

    There’s not much daylight between the Pearl and Miscavige philosophies of life and ways of doing things, except that Miscavige appeals to people with more money and more access to fame. For this reason, Miscavige has been the bigger crook. Miscavige has snuck up closer to the big time and has probably done more damage, if only because he’s had the larger opportunity. Aside from these two details the biggest difference between David Miscavige and Michael Pearl is that Miscavige has disappeared his wife and may have had her killed, while Debi is still Michael’s faithful accomplice. Debi better hope that Michael never takes the hint — though sometimes I wonder if she’s got something on him (if Debi has something on Michael, I mean).

  • zizania

    My son (now 33) has ADHD. He struggled and nearly failed in school, even after he was diagnosed. The meds definitely helped. He was able to pull himself together well enough to graduate top student in his carpentry class and has been a well-respected employee of a local residential construction firm for the last couple of years. He and my DIL have decided not to have children, though.

  • TLC

    Had to get a switch plate cover for an outlet this week. Had to walk past the plumbing supply line to get to it. Heart rate was up so high I thought I’d be able to count this trip as an aerobic workout. Ugh.

  • Finding Home

    She can always do like someone I know after her husband had a stroke, and feed him a steady diet of high-fat, high-salt foods so he’ll die quickly.

  • lady_black

    Actually, ADD or ADHD is characterized by an inability to focus on one thing and filter out extraneous stimuli, and an inability to control one’s impulses, and organize enough to understand what is priority.
    I’ve worked with people with ADHD, and they function very poorly in chaotic situations like a hospital emergency room (or really, any medical environment). That requires extreme focus, and the ability to prioritize, and filter out extraneous stimuli. You can’t focus on what you’re supposed to be doing if you’re distracted by what’s going on around you. That’s why stimulant medication is effective for people with ADD and ADHD.
    Debi Pearl has some pretty wacky ideas. This is one of them. ADHD is definitely NOT a blessing.

  • lady_black

    Before medication, even the evaluator pinning my son behind a table wasn’t sufficient enough to get his full attention. His level of attention, and lack of impulse control were simply problems for him learning that he was unable to control. He was very smart. He taught himself to read before kindergarten. He just had problems in the classroom staying on task. He did much better on medication.
    It couldn’t be spanked, or trained out of him. And contrary to what Debi thinks, people who work as doctors and nurses have to be people of tremendous focus, or they aren’t going to be good at it. Eventually, no one is going to be bouncing off the walls like a young kid with ADHD is. But, it’s a lifelong disability. My son has developed coping strategies, and no longer takes medicine. But it took medicine to get him to develop them.

  • 24CaratHooligan

    “An ADD child who is trained to exercise self-control, self-motivation, and willpower will be a highly effective individual because his brain will produce neurotransmitters that create a biologically better brain.”
    I AM an ADD child who was “trained” by physical and emotional chastisement. As a result I’m a completely fucked up, motivationless, repressed adult who is only at the age of 50 beginning to explore life…