ADHD is real. So is humiliation.
A few days ago this story broke in the community where I live.
Simply put, the ACLU is suing a school resource officer for using handcuffs to restrain a child with ADHD, other unnamed disorders, and a history of trauma.
The school video recorded one of the incidents and that video was eventually released on the Internet.
The sheriff’s office that the school resource officer works for stood up for its deputy’s actions. Attorneys have argued the type of restraint used is perfectly legal in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Maybe so. That’s for the court system to decide.
And though I can’t speak to every detail in this case, I can say that legal doesn’t necessarily make the actions of the resource officer right.
The video makes me uncomfortable for some very real reasons and brings back a host of unpleasant memories.
You see, I remember teachers sitting me in corners, locking me in a coat closets and turning over my desk when I was in elementary school because I could not (a) be quiet or (b) sit still.
I was also often told that if only I “tried a little harder” I could do great things. I showed flashes of brilliance, sometimes. Usually, it was when I was either really excited by something or really scared of someone. When those feelings would pass, and they always did, I would quickly lose interest and focus.
Do you see where this is going?
Yeah, I too have ADHD.
I don’t talk about it much though, mostly because I’m kind of embarassed to admit I was only diagnosed with it, and a couple other learning “disorders,” when I was 38 years old.
I was facing being let go by a boss who constantly breathed fire down my neck because I kept making typos and other mistakes in my work. I tried a million ways to focus, but constantly faultered after brief periods of improvement when I felt the pressure was lifting.
By the way, I picked the WORST environment to work in for someone who has trouble focusing. It involves listening to police scanners, people yelling at one another, and no real safety net of having someone else catch your writing mistakes before they are turned over to the public.
The diagnosis and a few approaches to treat my ADHD helped me to improve at work in a sustainable fashion. I really know it works because I never told my boss what I did. He just said, “Wow, you’ve really improved.”
I’m still constantly stressed and after years of badgering and falling short I often think less of myself (again, another trait of someone who lives with ADHD).
I thought of all my self doubt and loathing, and all of my neuroses that are a direct result of how others treated me, not to mention the frustrations ADHD itself creates, when I saw the kid in the video.
The level of powerlessness and humiliation ADHD brings is not good for anyone’s psyche. And I get that you can’t have constant disruptions by one student while trying to teach a class of 20-plus children. But handcuffs and recording the kid, really?
In the long run, how does that help anyone? I don’t think it does. The video is an extreme of “if you buckle down, you can be better.” Restaining the child fundamentally misses the point that this kid has a condition that puts part of his mind outside of his own control.
You are now only reinforcing how powerless he really is by doing what you’ve done to bring him under control.
If that kid is anything like me, he’s going to be dealing with that lesson he was taught in school for the rest of his life.