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Dr. Richard Saul, a pioneer in the field of developmental medicine who attracted worldwide acclaim with his controversial 2014 book “ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder,” died Aug. 14, 2019 at the age of 82.
“Over the course of my career, I have found more than 20 conditions that can lead to symptoms of ADHD, each of which requires its own approach to treatment,” said Saul, whose diagnostic and developmental center helped children, young adults, adults, and their families deal with and resolve developmental issues, disruptive, educational and behavioral problems.
“He combined pediatrics, neurology and psychology. No one had done that,” said his son Jason Saul.
Saul, who lived in Highland Park and had offices in Highland Park, Northbrook and Lincolnshire, was also a renowned pediatrician who was widely beloved and respected by generations of families on the North Shore.
“Dr. Saul always put you at ease with humor. He had a very gentle manner and he was just the nicest man,” said Renee Kruss, whose three children went to him.
Saul received his B.A. in 1957 from Washington and Jefferson College and his medical degree from the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School in 1961. He served his residency at Children’s Memorial Hospital from 1962-1964 and began his career with the rank of Captain as chief of the department of pediatrics at DeWitt Army Hospital.
He was soon also assigned to be a consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army.
After being honorably discharged, he was appointed Chief Resident at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Saul became a partner in Associated Pediatrics, the renowned North Shore pediatric practice, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Highland Park Hospital from 1979-1982, and Medical Director of Highland Park Health Care Inc. from 1985-1994.
Among his many appointments and positions, he was Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University and Chicago Medical School, on the Board of Directors of Heath Systems Agency for Lake, Kane and McHenry counties, and a consultant for the Special Education District of Lake County.
Well into his 70s, Saul decided to write his book on ADHD because he had “a lifetime of stories” about cases where he felt that ADHD was too often a rushed, careless diagnosis or an excuse for behavior. In short order, he was featured on CNBC, Fox News, The Doctors and Good Morning Britain.
“I’ve come to believe based on decades of treating patients that ADHD — as currently defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and as understood in the public imagination — does not exist,” he writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times in March, 2014.
“How many of us can claim that we have difficulty with organization or a tendency to lose things; that we are frequently forgetful or distracted or fail to pay close attention to details?,” he writes.
While Saul’s book caused much pushback, he also received support.
“Those of us on this side of the psychiatry debate have been saying for decades that the condition known as ADHD is not an illness, but is rather an arbitrarily delineated cluster of vaguely defined problems that children have acquired in various ways” said Dr. Philip Hickey, writing in Behaviorism and Mental Health.
Saul was a loving family man deeply devoted to Yolanda, his wife of 53 years.
“He was so loving and kind,” said Jason Saul.
As a measure of that devotion, “he would always buy her a gift of Fathers Day because, he said, “if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be a father.’” In addition to Yolanda and Jason, he is survived by his son Eric (third son Brad died in 2015), and grandchildren, Zachary, Alexa, Gabrielle, Griffen, Brennan, Jonah, Max and Isadore.