Do Schools Cause ADHD?
What is behind the enormous increase in the diagnosis of Attention Deficit /
Hyperactivity Disorder? What can parents do to help?
There've always been kids who are
antsy, owly, itchy and distractible. They didn't need a wide range of
psychotropic drugs, therapy, special education classes and other expensive
interventions. They just needed some simple rules to follow with clear
consequences carried out if they didn't, a good diet minimizing pop and candy,
a strict limit on overstimulating TV watching, and most of all, an
understanding teacher and loving parents.
They grew out of it as their
interests focused in later grades.
But now we have all these kids
labeled as having ADHD, doing poorly in the classroom even though they have
normal or above-normal intelligence. What makes the situation even more
confusing is that these same kids, who struggle in the classroom, often excel
in other areas, such as dramatics or sports, that require superior
intelligence, discipline, focus and self-control - supposedly the things the
child is thought to be lacking in order to complete classroom assignments.
A growing number of people think the problem has a lot more
to do with the schools than the kids:
of gifted kids are remarkably similar to traits of kids labeled ADHD. Could
they just be bored? Intelligent, creative kids need good fuel for their
high-octane brains or they'll get "flooded."
kids labeled ADHD are boys. Most boys are abstract thinkers. Most grade-school
teachers are female. Most females are concrete thinkers. Could it be a simple
mismatch of teaching style and student needs? Abstract thinkers need lots of
structure in the early going - like phonics, traditional math and so on. Hardly
any schools offer them any more.
and noise of the overprogrammed school day with all its group activities does
nothing for any child's concentration, focus and memory. Even the way the desks
are often grouped, in clusters, makes it tough for most children to stay
focused on the teacher, sit still, and keep their hands to themselves.
and more people say that if children were taught to read, write and figure
correctly, ADHD would vanish.
There is no doubt that genetics and the environment
sometimes combine to produce a learning problem in a child that can make
schoolwork very difficult. But remember, there are countless examples of people
who did poorly in school or dropped out, but kept believing in themselves and
pursuing their dreams to rousing success. Thomas Edison? Winston Churchill? The
guy who started Kinko's? There are lots and lots and LOTS of them.
But many people say there are also lots and lots and LOTS of
children mislabeled as ADHD, when it's a curricular problem, not a problem with
the child. Parents should urge schools to teach reading with systematic,
intensive, explicit phonics in kindergarten through second grade, and make
other changes in the classroom as needed to quit labeling kids, and instead
help the, stop, look, listen and learn.
Homework: See www.adhdfraud.com and "Fifty Tips on the
Classroom Management of ADD" in the book, Driven
to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D.