ADHD or 'Indigo'? Parents flock to new theory
Friday January 13, 2006
By John Leland, The New York Times

At a coffee shop in New York one morning two weeks ago, David Minh Wong, 7, was in constant motion. He played with quarters on the table. He dropped them on the floor. He leaned on his mother and walked away.

"Tell him I'm strong," he said to his mother, Yolanda Badillo, 50. She sat in a booth with a neighbor.

"I woke up at 2:16 this morning, and it wasn't raining," he said. "I'm getting bored."

At David's public school, where he is in a program for gifted and talented second-graders, a teacher told Badillo that he is arrogant for a boy his age, and teachers since preschool have described him as bright but sometimes disruptive. But Badillo, a homeopath and holistic health counselor, has her own assessment. To her, David's traits -- his intelligence, empathy and impatience -- make him an "indigo" child.

"He told me when he was 6 months old that he was going to have trouble in school because they wouldn't know where to fit him," she said, adding that he told her this through his energy, not in words. "Our consciousness is changing, it's expanding, and the indigos are here to show us the way," Badillo said. "We were much more connected with the creator before, and we're trying to get back to that connection."

If you have not been in an alternative bookstore lately, it is possible that you have missed the news about indigo children. They represent "perhaps the most exciting, albeit odd, change in basic human nature that has ever been observed and documented," Lee Carroll and Jan Tober write in The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived (Hay House). The book has sold 250,000 copies since 1999 and has spawned a cottage industry of books about indigo children.

Hay House said it has sold 500,000 books on indigo children. A documentary, Indigo Evolution, is scheduled to open on about 200 screens -- at churches, yoga centers, college campuses and other places -- on Jan. 27 (locations at www.spiritualcinemanetwork.com).

Indigo children were first described in the 1970s by a San Diego parapsychologist, Nancy Ann Tappe, who noticed the emergence of children with an indigo aura, a vibrational color she had never seen before. This color, she reasoned, coincided with a new consciousness.

In The Indigo Children, Carroll and Tober define the phenomenon. Indigos, they write, share traits like high IQ, acute intuition, self-confidence, resistance to authority and disruptive tendencies, which are often diagnosed as attention-deficit disorder, known as ADD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Offered as a guide for "the parents of unusually bright and active children," the book includes common criticisms of today's child-rearing: that children are overmedicated; that schools are not creative environments, especially for bright students; and that children need more time and attention from their parents. But the book seeks answers to mainstream parental concerns in the paranormal.

"To me, these children are the answers to the prayers we all have for peace," said Doreen Virtue, a former psychotherapist for adolescents who now writes books and lectures on indigo children. She calls the indigos a leap in human evolution. "They're vigilant about cleaning the Earth of social ills and corruption, and increasing integrity," Virtue said. "Other generations tried, but then they became apathetic. This generation won't, unless we drug them into submission with Ritalin."

"A Sham Diagnosis"
To skeptics, the concept of indigo children belongs in the realm of wishful thinking and New Age credulity. "All of us would prefer not to have our kids labeled with a psychiatric disorder, but in this case, it's a sham diagnosis," said Dr. Russell Barkley, a research professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. "There's no science behind it. There are no studies."

Barkley likened the definition of indigo children to an academic exercise called "Barnum statements," after P.T. Barnum, in which a person is given a list of generic psychological characteristics and becomes convinced that they apply especially to him or her. The traits attributed to indigo children, he said, are so general that they "could describe most of the people most of the time," which means that they don't describe anything.

Parents who attribute their children's inattention or disruptive behavior to vibrational energy, he said, risk delaying proper diagnosis and treatment that might help them.

To indigos and their parents, however, such skepticism is the usual resistance to any new and revolutionary idea.

America has always had a soft spot for the supernatural. A November 2005 poll by Harris Interactive found that one American in five believes he or she has been reincarnated; 40 percent believe in ghosts; 68 percent believe in angels. It is not surprising then that indigo literature, which incorporates some of these beliefs along with common anxieties about child psychology, has found a receptive audience.

Annette Piper, a mother of two in Memphis, Tenn., said that she had planned to go to medical school until she realized she was an indigo, able to tell what was wrong with people by touching them. Like a lot of others who describe themselves as indigos, she also was sensitive to chemicals and fluorescent lights. Instead of going to medical school, she became an intuitive healer, directing the energy fields around people, and opened a New Age store called Spiritual Freedom.

Her daughter Alexandra, 10, is also an indigo, she said. They play games to cultivate their telepathic powers, but at school Alexandra struggles, Piper said. "She has trouble finishing work in school and wants to argue with the teacher if she thinks she's right," Piper said. "I don't think she's found out what her gifts are."

Problems in school are common for indigos, said Alex Perkel, who runs the ReBirth Esoteric Science Center in New York. "A lot of people don't understand the children because the children are very smart," Perkel said. Stephen Hinshaw, chairman of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, acknowledged that "there is a legitimate concern that we are overmedicalizing normal childhood, particularly with ADHD." But, he said, research shows that even gifted children with attention-deficit problems do better with more structure in the classroom.