DISCLAIMER: Tutoring 101 fully acknowledges that ADD and ADHD are real diseases that have real impacts and consequences on many people around the world. This post is meant in no way to insinuate that these diseases are “fake” or that people suffering from them should stop taking their medication. This post is intended to simply discuss the issues of over- and misdiagnosis; of understanding how to work with students who are entering the classroom at a variety of levels; and of recognizing the differences between creativity, teaching issues, and learning disabilities/dysfunctions.
A big question mark in many people’s minds today is the specter of ADD.
Students and teachers are coming together into a single classroom from a variety of backgrounds, from a variety of points in their lives, and with a variety of motives, goals, and assumptions. Because of this, it can be exceptionally difficult at times to adequately engage every student, to adequately appreciate and fulfill the needs of every teacher, and to accurately assess the performance of either party. Due to these difficulties, many have begun turning to things like ADD as a means of no longer having to accept blame or responsibility for said challenges or any resulting failures/issues.
Fellow blogger, Daryl Dominique, makes a particularly salient point regarding this in his post, “Attention Deficit Disorder & Education”:
“I very firmly believe that A.D.D and various other learning disorders are being used so education can blame its complete and utter inability to successfully educate to a variety of different learning styles on factors that they cannot control. Is there a student who can’t pay attention to the teacher reading from a textbook and is fidgeting or randomly doodling? Definitely A.D.D. How about a student who is always dismantling his/her pen or anything else near him/her instead of reading? Must be A.D.D right? The teacher is doing what they’re supposed to as a teacher, and the other students are learning, so therefore it’s his/her disability.
That drives me absolutely insane. A.D.D is an inability to pay attention, not an ability to selectively tone out their teachers. That ability to selectively tone them out is just because they’re not learning from what’s being done.”
In other words, as many teachers, parents, and students may agree, the expansiveness of the ADD epidemic in the U.S. is not simply due to a vast number of children being born with a new disease, but to a vast number of teachers, schools, and other social systems that are failing to educate larger and larger numbers of children across the country.
Much of this problem can be avoided simply by parents having frank and honest conversations with their children, their children’s teachers, and their primary care doctors and pediatricians. After this, if it is determined that ADD is not the problem (if your students are even having problems/struggles in the first place), parents still have plenty of avenues for helping their students meet their creative and unique learning needs, whether through requesting new/different teachers, seeking out professional tutoring for their children, moving their children to a new school entirely, or so on, and so on, and so on. There are also plenty of cases wherein children simply need a change of habits or hobbies in order to help them improve their education and academic performance:
- Exercising more can help burn off endorphins, and thus help children have an easier time of concentrating when they sit down to schoolwork
- Work in smaller increments, and recognize that you (like everyone) have to work hard to make yourself concentrate—seeking out distractions is natural, and not always a sign of some larger problem (and, frankly, isn’t even always a bad or detrimental thing to begin with)
- When sitting down to do homework, try removing distractions such as music, talkative friends or family, televisions, cellphones, and computers
Long story short? Don’t go jumping to conclusions one way or another, however tempting that may be. These issues, like the children and families they affect, are full of nuance, and the detailed, nit-picky nature of Nuance always requires a wide-open mind and a willingness to speak openly and honestly with others.
-Talk with your child’s teachers
-Talk with parent-friends
-Talk with your child’s doctor
Also, check out Rafael Casal’s Slam Poem dedicated to the issues of over and/or wrongfully diagnosing children with ADD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-2UnriOjVE
(Casal’s performance is definitely worth the time!)