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Indigo children is a label given to children who are claimed to possess special, unusual and/or supernatural traits or abilities. The idea is based on New Age concepts developed in the 1970s by Nancy Ann Tappe. The concept of indigo children gained popular interest with the publication of a series of books in the late 1990s and the release of several films in the following decade. A variety of books, conferences and related materials have been created surrounding belief in the idea of indigo children and their nature and abilities. These beliefs range from their being the next stage in human evolution or possessing paranormal abilities such as telepathy to the belief that they are simply more empathic and creative than their peers.

Although there are no scientific studies to give credibility to the existence of any indigo children, or their traits, the phenomenon appeals to some parents whose children have been diagnosed with learning disabilities and parents seeking to believe that their children are special. This is viewed by skeptics as a way for parents to avoid proper (and generally pharmaceutical) pediatric treatment or a psychiatric diagnosis which implies imperfection. The list of traits used to describe the children has also been criticized for being vague enough to be applied to almost anyone, a form of the Forer effect. The phenomenon has been criticized as a means of making money from credulous parents through the sales of related products and services.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Many children labeled indigo by their parents are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Tober and Carroll’s book The Indigo Children linked the concept with diagnosis of ADHD. Their book argues that the children are a new stage of evolution rather than children with a medical diagnosis, and that they require special treatment rather than medications. Robert Todd Carroll points out that labeling a child an indigo is an alternative to a diagnosis that implies imperfection, damage or mental illness, which may appeal to many parents, a belief echoed by many academic psychologists. He also points out that many of the commentators on the indigo phenomenon are of varying qualifications and expertise. Linking the concept of indigo children with the distaste for the use of Ritalin to control ADHD, Carroll states “The hype and near-hysteria surrounding the use of Ritalin has contributed to an atmosphere that makes it possible for a book like Indigo Children to be taken seriously. Given the choice, who wouldn’t rather believe their children are special and chosen for some high mission rather than that they have a brain disorder?”

Stephen Hinshaw, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, states that concerns regarding the over-medicalization of children are legitimate but even gifted children with ADHD learn better with more structure rather than less, even if the structure initially causes difficulties. Many labeled as indigo children are or have been home schooled.