Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Real World Wednesday


ADHD is commonly thrown around by some educators as a way of getting around dealing with behavioral issues. Yes, it's true that people have different ways of learning...but calling some of these styles a disability does not necessarily serve a positive purpose.

WebMD offers a down to earth description of some of the symptoms of ADHD:

  • Are in constant motion.

  • Squirm and fidget.

  • Do not seem to listen.

  • Have difficulty playing quietly.

  • Often talk excessively.

  • Interrupt or intrude on others.

  • Are easily distracted.

  • Do not finish tasks.

  • Is it just me, or does that describe just about every child on the planet at one time or another? And, perhaps, just about every grown man. And that list, with the possible exception of not finishing tasks, also pretty much covers my personality, and I've survived just fine without ritalin, thank you very much.

    How is this worthy of an RWW post, you ask? Well, the New York Times just happened to have an article on "bad behavior" and its long term effects on a student's potential for success.

    A study discussed in the article had this to say:

    Kindergartners who interrupted the teacher, defied instructions and even picked fights were performing as well in reading and math as well-behaved children of the same abilities when they both reached fifth grade...

    So, disruptive kids are doing just as well on tests as the children who sit quietly at their desks, following all the rules and doing all that Big Brother asks of them.

    Furthermore, ADHD, in these studies, was found to be little more than a slower, but still normal, development process in the brain. You know that whole thing about boys being about two years behind girls? Well, the same logic applies with ADHD kids, according to this study. It's not a developmental disability, it's just a slower process. Most of the kids will get there eventually, wherever "there" is.

    So, why label at all?

    Why not just work with teachers to show them how to work with kids who work at different levels? In fact, I'm quite sure that's happening already (and I know there are more than a few teachers out there who could let me know the truth behind that).

    What is the value in labeling a kid as ADHD? And why must we all develop at the same rate? What's the big hullabaloo with making sure that all twelve year olds can accomplish the same things? What's wrong with a little bit of an individual learning style?

    In my family, the value meant that my aunt could take a step back and say that this "wasn't her fault," pump my cousin full of ritalin and hope it worked. Later, it meant researching whether or not the ADHD was actually Asperger's. And you know what, I don't think it's anything. I think my cousin likes math more than reading, has a knack for computers and now, thanks to his girlfriend, is a pseudo-goth. He's also twenty and stuck in a small town.

    Other than getting a kid some one-on-one time with a counselor, which that student may or may not need, what does the label provide?

    What about you? Were you ever rambunctious? Did you ever talk too much in class? Or were you perfect angels who always did what you were told?

    Organizations that make it a point to study ADHD:
    Eli Lilly and Company
    Kid's Health
    National Institute of Mental Health
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    More on the recent studies:
    Brains of Children with ADHD Mature Later (from Canada!)
    US News
    Time Magazine


    AKA said...

    "Is it just me, or does that describe just about every child on the planet at one time or another?"

    That's exactly it! It's tough for any kid to be confined to a desk and chair all day long and they're bound to be squirmy and distracted - they're bored! And we're so quick to find a quick fix to the problem, but getting them onto Ritalin, rather than try to understand some other difficulty they MAY be having in understanding what's going on in class. It may not even be a comrehension problem, but simply of boredom. I'm sure Ritalin has been helpful to some kids who have really needed it though.

    But these days it's being misused. Not only by parents giving it to children without real grounds, but by university students and people with busy jobs, to help them concentrate and focus on their work. During my exams last semester, I remember a number of people popping these pills while pulling an overnighter. The consequence was that they couldn't sleep at all and started behaving erratically after a few hours. What happened to good old coffee?

    brandy said...

    I have to say, I'm so split on this. As teacher I've seen Ritalin given to kids who really needed it- kids who without it were out of control, a hazard to teacher and a safety concern for the rest of the class (throwing staplers while running around the room anyone?). But I've also seen it misused, because people have been too lazy or uniformed to realize that it's just a bored child. My grade 6 teacher was convinced I was ADHD and wanted to get me tested. My parents fought back saying it was because I was bored. The school implemented an 'extra project' class where I skipped language arts/social studies and did my own thing with the mentoring of a retired teacher. After that, I was fine.