I’m writing in response to a post by Diane Duff on Best Tools For Schools today on the increased diagnosis of children with ADHD, the apparent increase (anecdotally by teachers such as herself) in children presenting symptoms of ADHD and the new guidelines from the American Pediatric Association recommending screening for ADHD now begin at age four. I think she has some good, thought provoking points but I think she also has some misinformed ideas that perpetuate myths about ADHD.
Diane asks the following, which I think is a great dialogue-starter:
Do you think the increasing number of children being diagnosed with ADHD is merely the result of our being more knowledgeable and having better diagnostic tools?
Or, do you think there are other factors at play? (more…)
I have two boys with ADHD and articles like this one about kids with ADHD – and there are lots of them – drive me bonkers. There are these common misconceptions that really get my back up, and this article touches on two of them. It’s one thing for another parent or someone I meet casually to be uneducated about Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder – although if that’s you, for heaven’s sake keep your opinions to yourself until you read up a little – but for a major newspaper to run a piece with absolutely zero fact checking is completely inexcusable. This article, and the inflammatory and offensive comments that follow, only further they myth that ADHD is a factor of bad parenting and not a medical condition. (more…)
Three weeks ago, I entered the world of homeschooling with my eleven year old son. This decision was not made lightly, but unfortunately school is not a safe place for him to be and for various reasons transferring schools or boards wasn’t the best decision for him right now. So he’s learning at home for the remainder of grade six, and just like that I find myself a teaching parent. It’s not a perfect solution, but he’s a good independent learner and I think it’s going to be a very positive experience for him. He’s also “twice exceptional” in that he has ADHD (primarily inattentive) and is exceptionally intelligent, and I think having an education program tailored to his specific needs is going to be hugely beneficial.
In the last three weeks, I feel like he’s really learning, not just going through the motions of schooling. I love having the flexibility to spend time where he needs it – long division, which his classroom has moved on from – and less time where he doesn’t need it – reading, which is above grade level in both languages. But the best part is giving him the opportunity to learn things that normally aren’t taught in a traditional classroom. He has learned how to set up and maintain a WordPress blog which is how he is submitting much of his work, he has created and edited a video in iMovie, taught a phonics lesson to the daycare kids, cooked dinner and prepared a weekly meal plan to my guidelines. He is also in the process of learning cursive writing, which he missed out on when he switched schools in the third grade. And he’s doing all of this and more in less time than a traditional school day, leaving him more time for practicing his guitar, playing with his younger siblings and helping Mom around the house. And, no homework! Our stress levels have plummeted, my son is happier than I have seen him in years and our house is much more peaceful now that we’re not dealing with bullying and academic challenges on a daily basis.
Thankfully there are many resources available online for teaching parents, and I haven’t had to invest huge amounts of time in preparing curriculum materials or lesson plans. There are many styles of homeschooling, and I have cobbled together my own program with a combination of store bought workbooks, online learning sites and resources from our public library. I am hugely thankful for our library, which has an amazing selection of books, dvds, ebooks and computer software on a variety of topics. I have everything from a cursive writing program to an aboriginal kids tv show with study guides to a french documentary on Michael Jackson checked out from the library right now, it’s amazing. I’m also very grateful for the information and support from my homeschooling Twitter friends and the community at the Association for Bright Children. I imagine that years ago homeschooling was an isolating experience, but thanks to great internet resources and social media I already feel more connected than I did at our local public school.
If you homeschool (especially in Ontario) I’d love to hear about your experiences, and if you have any great resources to share please leave them in the comments. I’m teaching but I’m learning too!
The last few weeks have been so busy, I don’t know if I’m coming or going. I mean, it’s always busy, with four kids, a home daycare, this blog, a side business, two exceptional kids and all their related appointments… the list goes on and on. But the last week or two have been particularly busy, even for us. The end of the school year has brought a ton of extra homework, including a big project for my second grader that has been a ton of work and is due after report cards have been written (really, what’s the point?), and I have spent so many hours reading up and making notes for two IEPs [Independent Education Plans] that I feel Ike I’m back in school. Everything about the public school system is so mired in bureaucracy, it’s a wonder anything ever gets done. Can you believe at this point in the school year we’re still having issues with what is and is not allowed to be sent in school lunches?! But I digress… Our IEP meeting for our eldest son is today, and I’ve been cramming like it’s my final exam.
Interestingly, although ADHD is recognized under the Ontario Human Rights Commision as a physical disability, the Ministry of Education does not consider it a physical exceptionality. This means that children with ADHD do not have an automatic right to an IEP, and that even if they are granted one, they will be identified under the “behaviour” category and not under “physical”. Never mind that ADHD is a biological disorder, and legally recognized as a disability, I have to ask the school to please accommodate my children so that they can hope to have a measure of success at school. The school may or may not grant my request, despite the fact that refusing to accommodate the kids is in violation of their human rights under the Code. There is at least one case in litigation in Ontario at the moment, but not all of us have the resources for that. So I have been researching and preparing and making sure I have all my stuff in order for this meeting. As angry as all this policy and official in-your-face discrimination makes me, I’m fortunate that my kids go to a pretty good school with a really experienced and caring principal, and I’m hoping for the best. Although I’m still really peeved that they could end up being labeled as having a behavior disorder, as if sheer willpower will change their biological make up, until the Ministry of Education catches up with current laws and medicine, my hands are really tied.
All that to say, I’m stretched a little thin these days, both physically and emotionally. I will be glad to have these meetings out of the way, in addition to Julian’s asinine family history project with a family tree diagram that our family doesn’t fit on, squabbles with lunch monitors and daily battles over homework. Is it almost summer break?
School field trips can be an exciting change of pace for kids, giving them a break from the traditional classroom setting and a chance to learn in a fun evironment. But as a parent of kids with ADHD, every field trip brings a certain stress. It builds in the days leading up, culminating with me spending the entire day of the trip on the edge of my seat, waiting for the phone to ring.
My 8 year old is gone on an all-day field trip today, and I will spend the whole day with one ear open, cringing every time the phone rings. I’m lucky in that my boys are very well behaved and don’t have any of the behaviour disorders that can accompany ADHD, but even still, the excitement of the trip, coupled with the lack of routine, can make it difficult for him to control himself. Add to that that I took him off his [3rd] ADHD medication on Saturday due to side effects (that’s a post in itself), and I’m particularly anxious about today.
That’s part of life when your child has an invisible disability. There’s no just signing the permission form and sending it back. First, I have to decide if he should participate at all (the answer is almost always “yes”, the social stigma of being left behind doesn’t help already-challenged kids), then there’s the debate of whether or not a parent can and should attend. This is challenging because both my work and his father’s don’t allow for a lot of flex time. Then there’s at least one call to the teacher to find out exactly what the children will be doing, and to review with her that my son may need extra reminders about behaviour and rules in a new and exciting setting. And that these reminders come best from her, and not from a parent volunteer who knows nothing about him. Thankfully, he has a wonderful teacher who ‘gets’ him, and who will keep him close all day today. She has assured me that the outing will be filled with hands-on learning and the kids will be kept very busy. I am optimistic.
In my heart, I’m sure he’s going to have an excellent time; he’s been to this museum many times before and it’s one of his favourites. Plus, he learns best in a hands-on environment and it’s going to be much more stimulating than a day at school, so I’m sure he’ll have fun. Hopefully he has fun at an appropriate volume level, and brings back everything he takes with him. I wish I could fast-forward to the end of the day, when he comes home full of stories about the bus trip, the science experiments, the fun he had with his friends, all delivered in his highly enthusiastic and animated chatter… but until then, I’m not far from the phone.