These headlines are REAL indicators of how important it is to RESEARCH everything we offer to our children. As an adult -- I see my own difficulties with being easily distracted.
Please note: ADD & ADHD ARE, IN FACT, REAL NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS. Their causes however, create the debates. I would rather not take time to debate because I am action oriented. So, this information is intended to serve only as a guide for parents who are faced with the difficult choice of placing their child(ren) on medication in order to achieve academic success. Work WITH educators and medical personnel in solving this concern. These ideas are NOT meant to replace sound medical and clinical advice for treating your child. As with all practices, please consult with your child(ren)'s physician and conduct extensive research until you feel comfortable using anything you have learned with your own child(ren) or in your own classroom.
I believe in educating the whole child, inside and out. This means making sure his or her little machine is in good working order. This is imperative for the brain to function properly. We are a hypocritical society at best... We spend billions on the war on drugs yet quickly sanction the use of prescription medications for a number of issues children experience, even sleep disorders, which can easily treated with natural remedies. I encourage parents to engage with this process in order to look at all options in order to make the best decisions for their child(ren).
When Tyler was in the second grade, a well meaning teacher encouraged me to put him on Ritalin because he had difficulty "staying still" in class. She was convinced he had ADHD. New research finds that maturity has a lot to do with millions of misdiagnosed ADHD cases. Tyler was a young second grader. I conducted some research to learn more about the symptoms and also observed Tyler holding his attention for normal periods of time while participating in favorite activities at home. I believed that an issue requiring medication would be present at all times as it it were beyond the control of the individual. That was one condition for even considering medication. I concluded his attention problems had more to do with interest level than illness. I committed to increase my attention and any needed correction and guide him toward interventions that could help him learn how to maintain his focus, even on activities and lessons he doesn't particularly care for.
I look back on that experience and am glad I listened to my heart and refused the idea to place Tyler on medication. He was chatty, like his mother was in school, but he was reading better than most of his classmates and was doing quite well. He had difficulty focusing but was not disrupting the entire class. He was, however, much younger than all of the students in his class because he had skipped kindergarten. He had been attending Montessori school since the age of 3 and was already reading at the level of a second grader when he was to enroll in kindergarten. I was not going to put him into a half day kindergarten because I was concerned it would upset his full day work ethic. Today, as a high school junior, he is in accelerated classes and his doing wonderfully. He is still chatty (he's a social center of his friendships) but he has learned that there is a time and a place for his socializing and that the classroom is not the appropriate time. In his courses, he maintains a 3.8+ GPA. For us, this worked.
In addition, he has asthma. As a younger student, Tyler's asthma medications made him jumpy but he couldn't express that to us! We have worked very hard to keep him away from steroidal inhalers and this one single step also helped to improve his attention span. He is also on a regular asthma and allergy prevention program -- I was not going to medicate him further with Ritalin.
Has a teacher requested that your child be medicated? Get a MEDICAL opinion first! Then, begin to conduct research regarding this issue.
1. First of all, is it ADD or sleep deprivation? Dr. Green.com provides excellent information on this particular issue in addition to a chart of sleeping guidelines.
KIDS ARE PLUGGED IN ALL DAY. According to Indiana Occupational and Physical Therapist Annette Chiddister, "They work their brains all day but not their bodies. At the end of the day, the brain is tired but the body is still ready for some action! Kids have to have physical action to encourage a restful sleep. This is why gym class was so important in school."
What time are you making certain your kids are in bed at night? Kids need to be
put to bed at a scheduled time every school night in order to be able to focus
properly at school. Children are still growing and need a minimum of 9 hours of
sleep. In addition, there is an increased pattern in the growing problem of sleep deprivation in children. According to Bruce Bower, author of Slumber's Unexplored Landscape, "By the time they enter sixth grade, many middle-class children sleep
so little during the school week that daytime drowsiness may compromise their
ability to pay attention and learn, a new study suggests" (University of Michigan Health System, 2000).
Advantages of improving sleep patterns:
a) If a regular routine of getting to bed at a scheduled time is put in place during the early grades, you won't have such a great struggle in middle and high school.
b) A regularly scheduled bedtime provides a regularly scheduled meeting time for parents to communicate and relax- a necessity for a healthy relationship. Sleep deprivation can look a lot like ADD and/or ADHD.
2. Take a look at natural alternatives to Ritalin.
Ritalin is effective but it isn't the ONLY way to battle ADD or ADHD. Several parents have been successful in fighting their children's' focus problems with diet and nutrition changes and rest. Learn to respond to your own child's individual needs - no one knows them any better than you do. I took my own son off of Pop-Tarts as a very young child because we immediately noticed a marked change in his behavior. My husband and I suspect he had an allergic reaction to some of the ingredients.
3. RESEARCH. Look at what other parents are doing. Here is a great web page dedicated to ADHD and Nutrition.... AVOID HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
Avoid processed foods and start eating within season. Use farmer's markets and local dairy farmers to find food that is free of pesticides and growth hormones. Once you begin a healthy food habit, you will love the many creative ways you can provide healthy, whole, real foods to your family. Check back to the Coffeehouse for Fiscal Cliff Busters designed to help families feed encourage academic success on a tight budget!
4. What does the law say about schools forcing parents to place their children on medication?
Legislatures continue to hammer away at bills designed to end the practice of forcing or coercing the medication of children as a condition of attending school. Parents across the country are being forced to choose between medicating their children and removing them from school.
Remember -- No two students learn alike; no two people parent alike. You must find a parenting and advocating style that is most comfortable for you. Join the conversation on Facebook: Education Coffeehouse: Encourage, Engage and Educate
Marsha Kay Bass, ABD
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"It is easier to raise strong children than repair broken men. ~Frederick Douglass
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March 15, 2016 update