elitefts™ Sunday edition

Unleashing The Fury, ADHD Part 1

Here is another article sent to me from the Special Education Meathead – Dave Tate

Note from the Editor: This is a guest “Under The Bar” post by The Special Education Meathead. This person remains to stay anonymous due to special education policies, parents, administrators and other teachers. This person intends to tell things they way they are so parents are better informed of what their real choices are.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a significant issue impacting countless children. I’ve been torn about even touching on this issue and how it fits into the Angry Birds series. The reality is this is one topic that can light a fire under people’s asses quicker than anything when it comes to vilifying teachers and public schools.

Contrary to any anecdotal story or friend-of-a-friend example, you think illustrates how terrible and ill-equipped schools are, schools are not in the business of medicating kids. Throughout my lengthy teaching career I only saw one crusty old ass teacher demand that a kid be medicated. The best comparison I can make with people spouting off with these examples is the moron in the gym who tells you squatting is bad for your knees. So, it's with hesitation I even move forward writing this and open Pandora’s box. There are readers out there who truly need and desire to understand how to best help a struggling child. I decided to move forward for that reason – and that reason only. This is a topic that will span several different articles since there's so much to discuss.

There's a Problem

Let’s face it, no parent wants to hear their child is struggling in school. It sucks when the teacher delivers news you weren’t expecting, or you knew deep down, but just don’t want to face. Hearing it by an outside person is  a slap in the face with a heavy dose of reality. Instead of hearing what the teacher is trying to say (oftentimes the teacher cannot be completely direct) people get pissed off and blame the teacher. The teacher is a bitch, he/she doesn’t really understand your kid, if he/she knew how to deal with kids nobody would be in the situation to begin with, the teacher is just targeting your kid because he/she doesn’t like your kid, etc. The issue becomes about the teacher NOT about the struggles your child is experiencing.

Guess what? Teachers get it that you're uncomfortable hearing there’s a problem. Chances are they're having a hard time telling you and finding a way to do so humanely because they know that you'll get bent-out-of-shape and go on the defense. It sucks for all of us. In the interest of your kid, we have an obligation to start the dialog. This dialog often starts early in school and you’re working hard at home to make it not true. Due to the nature of the difficulty, it often takes years of different teachers communicating the same information to parents before acceptance comes. The part that sucks for all of us is when there's a parent who gets pissed off because trust, cooperation and collaboration for your child’s best interest go out the door.

If you have a child struggling with ADHD, in the younger grades you were probably faced with getting feedback centering on hyperactivity and not being able to sit still, keep his/her hands to themselves or follow multi-step directions. As your child gets older, the issues might start changing a bit. It may look like a tornado hit their desk and it’s a dungeon of chaos, your kid leaves a trail of shit and mess behind them, their handwriting sucks, they make careless errors in their school work, etc. Once a student transitions to the intermediate grades and junior high and the teacher isn’t holding their hand anymore, they can’t keep up. Their head is in the clouds, organization is horrible, assignment completion is mediocre at best...and at this point the kid hates school. For them school is hard, and in their mind nothing they do is good enough.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to pay attention to what teachers are telling you. After you’ve heard the same shit over and over for a couple of years, there’s likely something ADHD-related that you need to start paying attention to. Sometimes it is difficult to truly understand how your child is doing in school, despite what the teacher does or does not tell you. Take the teacher out of the equation and start gathering information to develop a big picture of your child and his/her school experience. Be open to honesty and truth.

Student Success

Before you evaluate your child’s success in school, you must take time to think what the final product or expectation for your child is when he or she is grown. That's the marker for which you need to gauge school progress and define success. School is not just about a grade on a report card. Success is individually defined based on ability, intelligence, personal experiences and preferences.

Questions to ask:

  1. What is my child’s school performance? This includes grades, standardized testing and informal assessments. Gauge this information in relation to grade level peers. Some teachers can be harsh graders, while others give everyone A’s. Gain an understanding of the evaluation-style of the current teacher.
  2. If your child’s classroom or grade level is involved in ability grouping, understand what group your child is in for each content area. Is it the high group or the low group? An A is an A on a report card. However ,an A in the high group has different meaning than an A in the low group.
  3. How is your child relating to others? Is he or she kind, have friends and can get along with others?
  4. Does your child have discipline issues involving the school administration or visits to the principal?

Family Support

A child who is struggling with ADHD in school is also struggling at home. The odds are high that you fight that battle every day ,but you don’t use the term ADHD. In an effort to help support a struggling kid, many parents work very hard at home to support what’s happening in school. It can cause battles and more chaos than sometimes is appropriate. Here are some guidelines for you to support the school issues at home.

  1. Be careful with setting expectations for your child. Do not create expectations that he or she cannot live up to. This includes unrealistic expectations, but also assessing the current classroom your child is in. If the teacher grades harshly, expecting all A’s and B’s may be unrealistic. Some teachers have more latitude for behavior than others. Understand the culture within the current classroom. Reassess your own expectations against the teacher’s style.
  2. School issues are school issues. If you are beating yourself and your child up at home, STOP. Ask yourself if the struggle you are engaged in supports the long term school outcome for your child. If it does not, stop. If there is an ongoing discipline issue or difficulties with the teacher, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t always have to give consequences. Support your child, express you would like them to make better choices but do not drag your kid into a situation of punitive punishment at home in an effort to back up the teacher.
  3. School is only one aspect of who your child is. Not all children excel at school. Average isn’t bad in school and average is the biggest part of the bell curve. Remember that. Not all children like school. If your child dislikes school, chances are that it is challenging for your child in one way or another. Figure out what area that is. Support it at home in a positive and loving way.
  4. Do not extend the torture of school into home. Home should be a safe place to relax, decompress and be loved. Support homework and school behaviors. If you're getting into a power struggle over school issues, stop. Figure out solutions that support your outcome-based goal for your child. If you’re spending an excessive amount of time on homework, STOP. Talk to the teacher and figure out a different arrangement.

The next installment will discuss the educational diagnosis versus a medical diagnosis of ADHD and how special education or a 504 plan might be appropriate. The final installment will be medication. I’m not going to drag out what my thoughts are on medication and make you wait. There's a point in time when medication IS appropriate and there are times when it's not. I just hope that in the meantime, I don’t have to read through a thousand comments talking about what bullshit schools and medication are, or how your neighbor’s Great Aunt Ginny cured her out-of-control kid by feeding him exotic fruit from some craptastic country none of us ever heard of. Be patient.