Noah is sitting in the school office for the fourth time this week. He was instructed to leave the class because of his disruptive behavior.
Noah has a hard time staying still, especially during social studies, which he finds to be absolutely mind-numbing. Noah is bright and has so many interests that sometimes focusing on just one can be an uphill battle for him. Even though he’s sitting in the same classroom as 16 other kids, you cannot compare the education he’s receiving.
Noah has ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Noah is creative and intelligent, but it doesn’t always come across. He’s different than his peers. More active, restless. How much can his school be expected to do?
Each child deserves an education. School mandates started with the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) in 1974, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stipulates such. But what if one child’s inability to behave negatively impacts other children in the classroom? How far does or should the school’s responsibility extend?
Each year more students are diagnosed with ADD and/or ADHD. A growing number of kids are on psychotropic medications to aide in alleviating symptoms associated with a wide range of behavioral and emotional concerns.
Should parents expect schools to increase their efforts and ability to accommodate these students? Do school mandates necessitate as much?
Many parents would argue that the answer is yes. With more and more children being diagnosed with ADD and ADHD (and a host of other academic and emotional issues), some would even argue that schools need to examine and adapt their teaching style. Medication can only do so much.
So how can we effect change in our schools?
Parents of children with ADD and ADHD, however, must do their part too: They need to seek resources outside of school in order to increase the likelihood that their children will achieve academic and emotional success. It’s a timely and often costly venture, but an effective approach to ADD and ADHD is manyfold.
As with most challenges in life, there is no magic bullet, no panacea. We may not always be able to change our schools. But we should strive to choose the best one possible. Be sure to look for the following traits:
- A school should be your ally, not your adversary. Finding strategies that work involves brainstorming and a team that works together.
- Look for a school that will differentiate learning and is approachable to trying different interventions. A wide range of behaviors exists within ADD and ADHD. There is neither one specific profile nor one exact solution.
- Teachers need to not only be skilled at their craft of teaching but also the ability to manage behavior in the classroom. A teacher that can do both is beyond a measurable asset.
- Harsh punishment rarely works if at all. No one wants to be yelled at or embarrassed in front of others. Look for an educational atmosphere that models the desired behavior expected of students. “Children may not always listen but they will never fail to imitate.” When misbehavior occurs, look for a school that not only identifies the misbehavior but also emphasizes teaching positive behavior to replace negative behavior.
- Attention to structure, routine and intermittent breaks helps all students gain awareness of expectations. It also helps them become more adept at transitioning from one subject to another.
- Going to school involves learning but also learning how to learn. Study skills is a class in and of itself. Find a school that has this attitude. The lessons learned can be used throughout one’s academic career and become the true benchmark of success.
Above all: A child should feel safe. Before a child can develop a sense of self-esteem and grow, he or she must feel safe. This is true of any child, but especially one who has ADD or ADHD. These children need to know that they are in a caring and supportive environment. We try our best to make this true in school. It must always be the case in the home.
Amy Burzinski, LISW, is a school counselor and private practitioner. Amy provides workshops and professional training on bullying prevention throughout the U.S. and maybe be reached through her website www.BullyingPreventionInJDS.com.