Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Attention abundance...

I've been taking a class for my teacher recertification.  The title of the class is ADHD:  Focusing, Learning, Teaching.  I'm familiar with the diagnosis of ADHD as both an educator and a parent.  I don't usually talk too much about it on this platform, but I thought I would today.  I had to write 16 pages of content for my coursework, so I figured I might as well share some thoughts here.  I guess you could consider this impulsive and random...a bit like ADHD itself.  

It does seem like everywhere you turn, someone has some sort of medical acronym attached to his/her name, ADHD being among the most popular. In my personal experience, I have seen many children diagnosed with ADHD, but I do not believe them to be over-diagnosed instances.  This being said, why does it seem that more children are being diagnosed with ADHD?
Is this increase in diagnosed instances of ADHD because schools that once lacked identification resources are now officially diagnosing more children?  I think perhaps there is a combination of things going on.  Those students once thought to be behavior problems and underachievers were probably struggling due to ADHD and/or some other disability.  They were never officially diagnosed and therefore they struggled to be academically and socially successful in an environment that expected them to conform to a very narrow set of standards.  In these such cases, there were actually many children, who are now adults, who did exhibit the characteristics of ADHD, but were never officially given that title.  In this year, 2014, there are now also other factors to consider such as an increase in outside distractions, such as social media and video games.  Video games can provide children with ADHD a sufficient amount of stimulation to be engaged for lengths of time, but the effects of these games can often result in unpleasant situations, such as addictions and increased hyperactivity.  These types of stimuli did not always have such a presence in one's childhood, so the effects were not seen.  Finally, there seem to be increased demands at a younger age, including formalized testing, such as MCAS.  This has resulted in children having to conform to standards at an earlier age, making it more evident that not all children are capable of such rigid learning and evaluation.  When the bar is set higher, it becomes more evident where the struggles exist. 
I am not certain that there is necessarily an increase in the number of students with ADHD.  Perhaps the changes that exist with not only educating our youth, but also raising them, make us more aware of the struggles of those diagnosed with ADHD.  Twenty-five years ago, the hyperactive child was told to go play outside.  Now he can be found stimulating his brain while sitting on the couch playing video games.  So, is there really an increase in the number or a difference in today’s world that just makes the instances more evident?
 Is it important that the child with ADHD be labeled?  It is only important so that we, as teachers and parents, can best help our children to become the best versions of themselves.  The label is given not so the child with ADHD can be provided with an excuse for not completing an assignment or making loud noises in class.  Instead, it helps us to understand and have a clearer picture of how the child can be successful.   Although there are specific criteria that we are expected to teach to all our students, each child should be viewed as an individual, each capable of learning in his/her own way at his/her own pace.    They should be given the opportunity to learn and show their understanding in ways that best suit their own learning style.  Nowhere in life are we expected to “fit into such a small box”, so we cannot expect developing young children to be able to do so either.

 As part of my coursework, I was required to read this article.  Well worth the few minutes it will take you to read it.

"I prefer to distinguish ADHD as attention abundance disorder. Everything is just so interesting . . . remarkably at the same time.” Frank Coppola

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