Driving Me To Distraction!

Dr. Darcy-

I’m writing about my 11 year-old son who was diagnosed with ADHD this year. I’m writing because he is having great difficulty in school, mostly with remaining seated for 37 minute-long classes. His inability to sit quietly has caused great distractions within his class and his teacher is at her wit’s end.  The school is telling me that they may not be the right fit for my son, which would mean that my wife and I would have to personally finance his education through private school.  He’s on Ritalin and it’s made a difference, but we just can’t get him to sit for extended periods of time.  Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER

Get your son out of that school.  It’s going to kill him slowly and he’ll spend the rest of his life realizing that what appeared to be a disability when he was a child is really a gift that his unsophisticated and lazy school administrators were unwilling to learn how to tap into.

Let me explain something to you:  The accommodations that help ADHD kids to succeed actually help all kids to succeed. Unfortunately, many schools resist making those accommodations because making them requires creativity and flexibility on the part of the teachers. But there’s something that they failed to tell you:  If they are unable to ‘accommodate’ him, they are responsible for funding his private school education ~ not you. That’s the good news.

Remember when he first began learning how to walk and talk?  Do you remember how he expressed himself with his entire body?  He probably did a fair amount of moving around from activity to activity, almost always had a toy to fidget with and an area that he could explore independently. That isn’t just how your son began life – that’s how all children begin life.  This is the natural way that humans develop, learn and process information.

Do you know what happens when we’re in motion? Our cognitive functioning soars.  Do you know what happens when we’re forced to sit without moving?  Our brains slow down to accommodate the executive order to be still.  But it’s not just our physical body that slows down – every aspect of brain functioning slows down.  Remember in school when kids would fidget with pens, doodle while the teacher was speaking or shake their legs (seemingly nervously) under the desk?  That was their way of trying to meet their need for movement in a socially tolerable way.

Take a look at the average American classroom where students, regardless of age, are seated at desks devoid of fidgets, are expected to control their natural inclination to move around and are expected not to speak unless called on.  In the first 2 years of life, every adult who we come in contact with encourages us to emote, walk and talk.  Then after we’ve mastered these abilities, we spend the rest of our public school careers trying to surpress them.  But only until we enter the workforce…

When we are employed, we’re rewarded for tapping into the very creativity that we’ve spent the majority of our lives ignoring.  We’re told that we need to be skilled socially so that we can work as a team and build relationships with colleagues.  We’re expected to take calculated risks, a skill set that most of us never developed because as students we were rewarded for following rules.  We’re expected to be critical thinkers although we were never encouraged to question authority during our formative years.  Talk about a disconnect.

Count your blessings that your son is ‘different.’  There are sophisticated schools that allow movement during class time, that tap into students’ strengths and that encourage creativity. This is one of those moments that you’ll eventually look back on with gratitude.

Writer's Stats: Female, Lesbian.