The Struggle is Real!

Tick..Tock…Tick…Tock…BANG…Scuff…Screech…Tap, tap, tap….Bang. These are just some of the background noises I hear sitting in my summer classroom as the teacher spouts his speech. We are supposed to be focusing on the lecture; however, each time these noises present themselves my focus diverts to them, and each time it is harder and harder for me to pull my focus back to the lecture. I live with a disability known as ADHD, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and I always will. This is a disorder that impairs a person’s ability to learn in a classroom, communicate with others, and cope with life. Most do not know this is a rapidly growing disorder in today’s world.

So I ask you, have you ever been in a similar circumstance as the ones I mentioned? Have you ever had a hard time focusing during a meeting? Or, have you been easily distracted by something passing by your desk at work? Have you ever been so scatter-brained, that you could not even organize all the thoughts in your head? These are just some of the things that people with ADHD deal with on a daily basis.

ADHD is not a disease! However, people treat it like it is some infectious virus that one can catch. ADHD is merely a different form of living. Even though people with such a disorder tend to struggle in the classroom, they tend to thrive in intellectual thought and creativity. Geniuses such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Paul McCartney all had a hard time in school, and debatably if they were kids in today’s society they would be diagnosed with ADHD, and medicated for having this disability.

Brain Herbert, a Science Fiction & Fantasy writer, once said, “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice” (Herbert).

From a very young age, each and every one of us is required to attend some sort of educational system, whether it be public schooling, home schooling, or some other kind of institution. Since, teaching is the basic for understanding and learning, each day we are given the opportunity to expand our knowledge and our ability to understand new things. ADHD children our not acceptation to this, they have the same abilities as normal kids does to learn and understand. Yet, due to the symptoms of ADHD, these children tend to lack the attentiveness and focus needed to achieve as well as a normal child in day to day life. As most know, there are three different styles of learning; visual, kinesthetic, and auditory. Most modern teaching methods rely heavily on auditory teaching and learning. However, children with this disorder generally struggle with traditional teaching methods, due to their short attention span and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. So, I propose that teaching methods used in school systems must change immediately, from traditional methods, to techniques more suited to the ever growing number of children struggling with ADHD. Without these changes, these children will fall behind, which would be detrimental to their adult education and lives.

Studies have shown that, on average, in a classroom of 30 students, 10 of them are expected to have and be diagnosed with ADHD. This disorder in generally recognized and diagnosed in children between the ages 4–17.

Some typical symptoms of ADHD include, the inability to focus, hyperactive behavior, impulsive behavior, daydreaming, disorganization, easily distracted, fidgeting constantly, speech is fast, overly impatient, etc.

We tend to see these dilemmas with ADHD children ultimately due to traditional teaching styles does not appeal to these type of children, due to their inability to focus and short attention spans. So, they then tend to either be disruptive or daydream in class. In that case, they are often perceived, by educators, as being extremely lazy or difficult to deal with. As a result they are then labeled as a problem children instead of their disability being acknowledged, resulting in bigger issue to come. Due to this fact, these children normally go undiagnosed, they then struggle to keep up with the classroom pace.

Furthermore, some might argue that these kids are just not being disciplined.

Mary Beth Holcomb, a writer for The Huffington Post and Salon.com, has dealt with this first hand. Holcomb has a daughter, who struggles with ADHD, and after seeing yet another person post a judgmental comment on Facebook about the parenting style of families with kids with ADHD, “’In my day we didn’t have ADHD. We had parents who weren’t afraid to discipline, and kids who were sent outside to play until the lights came on’”(Holcomb). Mary mentioned, how she had to re-frame herself from commenting back, due to being offended by the comments nature. However, unable to hold back any longer, due to such brutality, she decided to write an article addressing the issue. In the article she mentions an instance were a teacher remarks on A’s unusual learning style:

“Some things came easily-the lyrics to a song, a script in a play, the plot of a novel-whereas others-the locations of countries on a map, verb tense in a foreign language, mathematical equations-seemed virtually impossible for her to retain…It wasn’t as if A were slow; she was bright as a button…She could hold her own in any debate, write short stories in her sleep. come up with witty retorts on the spot. Her intellect and her work product just didn’t match up. Nor was she lazy. She would memorize items for a test, then inexplicably, a mere 12 hours later, be wholly unable to access these answers” (Holcomb).

This young girl was struggling with a bigger issue than just not trying or not paying attention. Mary also mentions that at one time she did not realize that A was struggling because she had a disorder, “It pains me to think of the times I said ‘Just pay attention!’ or ‘You’re not trying!’ because she was desperately struggling to do both. As far as she was concerned, I was really saying, ‘Why are you too stupid to get this?’” (Holcomb). Originally, Mary was ignorant, just like the guy who posted the judgmental comment on Facebook, about what was going on with her daughter. Though, once she understood the severity about what was really going on with her daughter, she was better able to analyze how she must have been being perceived by A.

One can never truly understand what someone else is going through, until you put yourself in their shoes, and see things and experience things through their eyes.

The next question asked by an outsider looking in is:

“Are children being over-diagnosed?”

A further reason for speculation by these people consists of them asking isn’t that normal child behavior to be active, hyper, and impatient? They then ask, “won’t they grow out of it”? The answer is yes and no, that normal kids are hyper and active. However, kids with ADHD theses behavior tend to more prevalent and intense from that of normal kids and they will never out grow this disorder.

Tim Sutton, Alamance county Commissioner, is concerned for our children, “’They are claiming that there are thousands of kids in this country who have got attention deficit disorder and I’m not saying we don’t have some but the ratio I think probably is higher than it would be because I think there is too much of an effort to push families and children into it””(Lavender).

Sutton, believes we have an inaccurate record on how many children actually have ADHD today. He suggests that we need to change our point system to determine if a child has ADHD, and make sure it could give us a more accurate results. It is likely that some kids are diagnosed with ADHD that do not truly have this disorder, there is always room for error in everything. We could make a system that was more accurate, though I ask would there be some kids who had mild ADHD that would not get diagnosed because of such a system? It is actually known that ADHD effects girls and boys differently. It was recorded that 11% of boys are diagnosed with having AHDH. While on the other hand only about 4.8% of girls are diagnosed with having this condition. Girls tend to be quiet and daydream, while boys with this disability tend to me more disruptive. Similarly, both genders have equal difficulty focusing and being attentive.

So do we really not believe that some kids, mainly girls, are not falling through the cracks, and going undiagnosed? With altered teaching systems we would not have to worry about students falling through the cracks because teachers would be more hands on with students, and be able to assist children on a more one on one level.

You may not know but there is no cure for ADHD, but rather there is medical treatment available to assist with primary symptoms. A majority of doctors believe though that the best solution for ADHD is to prescribe the child affected with medication, such as: Ritalin, Metadate, Concerta, Mehylin, or Daytrana. In hopes that these medications will help manage the primary symptoms of ADHD.

Across the board, ADHD is a daily perception, in which the patient must take two to three capsules in the morning, and in some cases repeat dosage later in the day.
Susanna Visser, from the Division of Human Development and Disability Acting Associate Director of Science, once mentioned, “The number of U.S. households impacted by childhood diagnoses of ADHD is growing. When children diagnosed with ADHD receive proper treatment, they have the best chance of thriving at home, doing well at school, and making and keeping friends” (Visser).

Many doctors think medication is the solution. However, I do not believe that shoving medication down our children’s throats is the best option we have! Medication for this disability has major side effects, such as: moodiness, tics, headaches, stomach aches, decreased appetite, sleep deprivation, and delayed growth.

Now, I’m not speaking out of term or out of ignorance here. I am speaking from personal experience! I have been struggling with ADHD for about 19 years now. My disability affects me each and every day. When I was a young child, in elementary school, I used to perch myself up like a bird on my chair, while the thoughts in my brain were a scattered puzzle just taken out of its box. In an single instant my eyes would flick from one object to countless others. The doctor prescribed me Ritalin to help me organize that scattered puzzle in my head. Though, the medication dulled my awareness, and I always felt drowsy. Then more severe side effects kicked in…I had a severely decreased appetite. As the clock ticked by, about to release us from the classroom, to spill us out into the cafeteria. My tummy would rumble with hunger and as the bell “dinged”, I headed down the hallway towards the solution to my hunger. But, with each step closer to my destination, I grew less and less famished until the point where my stomach warned me that if I was around the wafting smell of food, I was going to get sick. This scenario repeated itself every time I was around food. I started losing weight from not eating. I lost so much weight that my mom took me off the medication completely. Ever since then, my late 7th grade year, I have had to learn how to cope with my disability. It took a fairly long time to figure out what I needed to do to coincide with my disability, and luckily I have figured out how to manage. Medication, even though it helped with the primary symptoms of ADHD, it presented risks of side effect that were just too immense.

Also, in an article written by Marilyn Wedge, a writer for Time magazine and a licensed therapist, she evaluated a little boy named Aiden, who was seven years old, and his struggle with ADHD. It was mentioned that his teachers had a hard time dealing with his inability to focus, and disruptive nature. Due to Aiden’s behavior in school Aiden’s parents, Scott and Ava, took him to a pediatrician who told them he had multiple signs of ADHD and prescribed Adderall. However, even thought the drug might calm Aiden down, and help him focus, his parents Scott and Ava were worried it might dampen his creativity. Ava and Scott consulted Marilyn Wedge for more help on the matter. She suggested that the medication would calm him down, but there was alternative routes one could take. Ava and Scott worked with Aiden’s teacher and instructed them to sit him away from his friends, near the front of the classroom, and to do such things as have him water the plants, and clean the chalk boards. While Ava changed Aiden’s diet to contain less sugar, gluten, and artificial coloring. They also, signed Aiden up for tee-ball, and had him participate in many outdoor activities afterschool. They mentioned that by having a routine like this for Aiden, he has been doing significantly better in school, is calmer, and is still just as creative without the use of medication. Clearly, with hard work and dedication, one can learn to work with their disability and thrive just as a normal kid can, without the use of medication.

NutritionFacts.org researched the amount of prescription stimulants we have been giving out each year, to help with ADHD and mentions a better solution to medication, through the use of exercise.

If teaching methods were altered to be more interactive, children, like myself and Aiden, could learn how to deal with their disability without the assistance of such drug. Medication does not come without consequences, and it even has its limitations.

Jon Weinberger, 5th Grade Teacher, from the Lawrence School interviewed with Dr. Jonas Bromberg, from insideADHD.org, about some on the things he does in the classroom to keep students who have a hard time focusing, another outlet, while still not taking away from their education.

Even though ADHD children are highly intelligent, they tend to struggle with school due to the traditional teaching methods, of a teacher standing up at the front of a classroom just reading off of a slide. ADHD kids would rather learn things hands on or by visually watching real live demo’s. Now this kind of teaching style is not impossible, it just harder to do. It would have a greater impact on a child’s ability to learn because it would be more interactive and one can only try and succeed the best way they have been presented with.

Perfection: the state of being flawless
No one person on this planet is perfect. Perfection is simply an unachievable desire of the human race. Everyone has their strengths, that they excel at, and their weaknesses, they lack in. Basically, everyone has struggles they encounter in life, at one time or another.

It is our society’s responsibility to modify our current teaching methodology, and to construct a conducive learning environment to our ever growing ADHD student population, to allow them the best chance possible at grasping classroom material. The children of today are tomorrow’s future, and it is important for them to learn the vital basics of English, Math, Science, History, etc., which ultimately are taught in the school systems in the kindergarten and elementary level. If kids do not pick up these skills at a young age, each year they go without learning theses vital points, the harder it will be for them to comprehend the material in the future.

The mind set of our children today is evolving, and subsequently so should our teaching methods. If we refer to the meaning of survival of the fittest, it states that if one hopes to survive they must grow, or cease to exist and consequentially perish. If our current educational facilities choose to dig in their heels, about not changing their teaching methods, a majority of the student body will end up suffer these consequences.

In the words of the wise, Albert Einstein, a renowned physicist, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid” (Einstein).

Instead of expecting every child to be an ideal perfect “cookie-cutter” child, I think we need to treat our youth as individuals, and help them to thrive in the best way suited for them.
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