Tag Archives: attention span

ADD For ALL

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“She’s flighty.” “He’s a dreamer.”

Should these children be diagnosed, labeled and medicated to make them conform? Are they abnormal, or just marching to the beat of a different drummer? Perhaps she’s flying somewhere and he’s dreaming of something far more interesting than the worksheet of the day. Are we creating standardized children to excel on our standardized tests? Our culture values achievers. Does enduring the weariness night after night that many children feel at finishing their homework count as an accomplishment? How does a child who continually fails, who is labeled as a troublemaker, who never gets the shiny sticker awards, or the stellar grades, develop belief in himself?

When, in the United States, approximately six and a half million of all school age children, one in five of every high school boy, and over ten thousand toddlers are taking powerful medications after being diagnosed with ADHD, it’s time to change the system, not the children. How do we teach both the child and the teacher the difference between bouts of creative distraction, when one thought is allowed to pinwheel into a beautiful display of many thoughts, and distractions that are indications that the child is not connecting, for any number of reasons, to the subject being taught?

It is not likely that the educational system will soon change to accommodate different types of learners, but individual teachers can. It is a teacher who often is the one to bring up the possibility of ADHD to the unsuspecting parent at the first parent/teacher conference. Although the diagnosis is purely subjective, there being no definitive test, either psychological or physical, for this condition, parents assume that the teacher must be right. Of course there are teachers who may be right, who with much serious forethought have made the difficult decision to approach this sensitive issue. But, more often than not, the teacher is wrong and herself a victim of the aggressive pharmaceutical marketing campaigns that are truly shameful considering the grave side effects and the unknown impact on brain chemistry that can afflict a child taking Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, or any of the other potent psychotropic drugs. In the last 20 years the number of narcotized children skyrocketed from approximately six hundred thousand to over 3.5 million:

Psychologist Dr. Keith Conners, Professor Emeritus at Duke University, who was one of the first researches to bring ADHD to the public’s attention as a neurobiological disorder, states in a 2013 NY Times article, “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous. This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.” In the same article Roger Griggs, the pharmaceutical executive and entrepreneur who coined the term “Adderall” after his Orwellian idea of combining “A.D.D.” and “for all”, calls these drugs, “nuclear bombs that should be prescribed only in extreme circumstances.”

Teachers, as first responders, must begin to see that celebrating diversity in the classroom means more than creating an environment that respects those of all cultures and colors.   It means creating an equal opportunity classroom in which differences of all kinds are not labeled as deficits. Mastery of a subject often requires perseverance and repetition, but must it appear to the child as boring and without purpose? Most children, even those with diagnoses of ADHD, are able to concentrate with surprising tenacity if a subject interests them. Watch a child build a tower over and over in order to get it to balance, or fathom out a complicated puzzle. What motivates a child to work at these high levels of concentration? This is the subject that we should be exploring, and that all teachers should be striving to understand. How can we spark curiosity and create stimulating lessons that inspire creative and attentive students? Has our society gone so far wrong as to believe that a child not sitting quietly over schoolwork is a deviant who must be drugged into submission? It is time to stop ostracizing the atypical and eradicate the illusion that our childrens’ learning problems can be alleviated with meds. Instead, let parents and teachers unite to do the hard work of examining our current educational system and find solutions that do not label our children as the problem.

Read for Health

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While no good parent would feed a child nothing but junk food, unfortunately, many parents do not pay attention to what their child is ingesting through the seemingly always accessible electronic media. We all know that entertainment has become increasingly violent. It is not as often addressed that it has become alarmingly superficial and mean spirited. If a child is being fed these messages for many hours a day it becomes a daunting task to undo the damage. The average American child uses some kind of electronic device for 7 hours a day while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour per day for 3 to 5 year olds, two hours for 6 to 18 year olds, and none at all for children under the age of two.

Studies show that immoderate use of television and video games lead to attention deficits, anxiety, and difficulty with concentration. It is very important that parents monitor the time and the quality of all electronics their child is engaged in. Take the time to determine if your child, through this media, is being encouraged to develop the kind of character traits that you hope she will begin to emulate.

Books offer a respite against the frenetic world of electronic entertainment. They introduce characters that are more than just vehicles designed for bouts of combat. Books slow your child down and increase his attention span. They nurture imagination and creativity and, unlike passive screen time, make demands on your child to think deeply. They are an important part of a healthy diet for your child’s mind.

Words Connect Us

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The phrase “Use your words” in relation to encouraging children to express themselves has been around long enough to have become an iconic idiom. Normally it is used in conjunction with reminding a child that hitting, biting, throwing one’s self on the floor, etc….are not effective ways to communicate. But have you ever thought about saying to a child who is behaving properly,“Use your words”?

This blog is about the importance of establishing a love of literature early in life and the connection that reading has to the developing mind. Curiosity, creative thinking, imagination, attention span, and even social skills are all heightened through early exposure to books. Words connect us. Conversations, whether with a 3 year old or an 80 year old, inspire us and help us to see from different perspectives.

After all, what are books if not voices on the page…voices communicating stories to anyone who cares to listen. The author’s voice may tell stories of fairies, baby animals, princesses, dragon fighting, how to make a kite, or what lives under the sea…whether fiction or non-fiction, a book explores new thoughts that expand the heart as well as the mind.

All day long children are bombarded with peer pressure, expectations to perform, to obey, to excel, to be quiet when they feel like talking, to talk when they feel like being quiet. They are enticed with glossy packaging and advertisements designed to convince them that happiness lies in material possessions. Reading is free of all that. A book takes a child to a simpler, less intrusive  world. It sets their mind to dreaming and makes them smart.

What a beautiful gift to give a child, and it is as simple as using your words.