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ADHD numbers: Wriggly boys or more?

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Culture & Entertainment

ADHD numbers: Wriggly boys or more?

There's news out of the United States that "nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]." (New York Times) Before my son entered grade one, I'm not sure this article would have captured my attention. Now, it's a must-read. I have known both children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, whose impulsivity and inability to focus really impacted their lives and who were very grateful for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment, including taking Ritalin and other drugs. But my son spent several years in a Montessori classroom and did not have a lot of trouble with focus, so ADHD was not something I worried about, even though I can usually worry about just about anything. Then his teacher complained about his inattention.  I admit that I first I had that reaction: My kid? I know, from my brief stint as an educational assistant, how often teachers hear "but he's not that way at home!" and how skeptical one becomes. But...my child really wasn't that way at home. What was more, he hadn't been at his previous school. I think if I had not had that experience of a different educational structure I might have been exploring ADHD. There was still a lot of truth in the teacher's concerns. My son had not learned the rhythm of a traditional classroom where everyone does seat work at the same time or has to stay on the carpet discussing a topic. He will always, I think, be a child who is most engaged by what he is interested in and not by the expectations of those around him. But what he, like many boys, needed was both help in learning how to manage that and behave appropriately, and some flexibility and wriggle-around time on top of the 40 minutes in the morning we spent running him around on the way to school. We also learned (and I am in no way saying that this will work for all school-age children) that for my kid, a very strict bedtime and two breakfasts before leaving the house (seriously...one when he gets up, and one on the way to school) are important if he is having to go against his grain that way. This year in grade two, I am pleased to relate that through a combination of a slightly differently run classroom and a year of maturity, he is off the ADHD watch list, at least for now. And that experience, while unique to our family, really does make me wonder about these numbers. I cannot tell you what the US numbers mean for sure, but I can tell you that as a mom I have gotten more skeptical about the prevalence of ADHD.  I know there are school-age children who genuinely need the help and who don't the deserve the occasional knee-jerk reaction many of us have to assume that a lack of attention or impulsivity is a discipline problem and not a biochemical one. But there is a third option: It can be a developmental issue, and our young kids, particularly young boys, may need some specific accommodations (oh yes, that most Canadian of words). It is possible to learn while wriggling, and to channel energy in a way that doesn't disrupt others. I know our teachers work very hard as a group and that not every single one of our school-age children can be met with the ideal situation for every moment of learning, nor do I think that's a goal that's even good for kids. But if one in five boys is hearing that his way of behaving is pathological...I think it's worth seeing if there are some changes that would help.
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ADHD numbers: Wriggly boys or more?

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