Skip to comments.Are Schools Contributing To Skyrocketing ADHD Diagnoses? I’m A Pediatrician, And I Think So
Posted on 05/19/2022 11:51:21 AM PDT by Kaslin
We should stopping pushing 5-year-olds onto ADHD medication and start pushing them to get outside and play.
My patient was struggling in the classroom and at home. His teacher complained that he couldn’t complete his math worksheets without frequent interventions to refocus him. His parents were tired of the nightly struggle to get him to sit still long enough to finish his homework. The Vanderbilt forms confirmed what everyone already knew: a classic case of ADHD.
I filled out a letter for parents to give the school to start the formal process of getting him special classroom accommodations (extra time on assignments, special seating near the front, more frequent breaks, and so on). The parents wanted to pursue therapy, but their insurance wouldn’t cover it. I gave them the best tips I could on homework strategies.
We planned to see how the next month or so went with the extra classroom help, and then we would meet back up to see whether they wanted to proceed with a trial of medication. The parents were understandably reluctant, as was I, to start him on any daily medicine. After all, he was only five years old.
Taking the Garden out of Kindergarten
The first English language American kindergarten was opened in 1860 by Elizabeth Peabody. Peabody lectured and lobbied widely to spread the word about the benefits of early childhood education, with great success. Within 20 years of the founding of her first school, there were more than 400 kindergartens dotting the nation. Math worksheets, however, were not on the map.
As rates of early childhood ADHD diagnosis continue to rise, it is instructive to visit with our kindergarten pioneer. Peabody’s portrayal of our first kindergartens could not be further from the lives of America’s youngest students today. Kindergarten has not simply been changed into something different, it has become its own worst nightmare.
Kindergarten’s founding goal was to help children cultivate wonder, not complete worksheets. Peabody takes the name of her program quite literally: every school ought to prominently incorporate a real garden. In early childhood, the most important thing — “the first, second, and third thing” — is, quoting Wordsworth, to “come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher.” Through growing flowers, as well as other patient immersions in the gentle rhythms of the natural world, children will develop a more meaningful sense of nature’s God than they could ever hope to glean from a problem set.
Peabody is reluctant to use the word teacher. The true teachers are the child’s innate curiosity and sense of wonder, prompted by the lessons found within the natural world and his own conscience. Nature and imagination are key, and everything is done to encourage flights of fancy.
Storytime, for instance, is not an opportunity to evaluate reading comprehension, but a way of fostering a child’s natural delight and moral development through exposure to “beautiful creations of the imagination.” Herein lies the deeper meaning behind her embrace of the “child garden” model. One does not standardize a child into flourishing, anymore than one could lecture a flower into blossoming.
There was no need, in the kindergartens of our past, for testing academic progress, because academic progress was not the point. Time spent on academic study at that age is not only a counterproductive waste, but an opportunity lost: this is the time to help the children cultivate character and virtue, so that, when they do amass knowledge in the years to come, they will be able to make the most of it. Kindergarten was invented to help children be better people, not get better grades.
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Peabody’s most shocking statement to modern ears is yet to come. She explains that “a few hours of Kindergarten in the early part of the day will serve an excellent purpose, using up the effervescent activity of children, who may healthily be left to themselves the rest of the time, to play or rest, comparatively unwatched.”
Don’t let the modern embodiment of the institution fool you. Kindergarten was implemented by popular acclaim nationwide to give children a few short hours a day of valuable socialization and expose them to nature while stimulating their imagination, developing their moral sense, and hopefully burning off a little excess energy.
Read that last sentence again, let it sink in, and then read your local public kindergarten’s curriculum. Here’s a sample sentence from mine: “District assessments, which are aligned to our Mathematics and Language Arts Essential Units of Study, are administered throughout the year as one measure of monitoring progress on state standards.” Where have all the flowers gone?
If you already feel like you’ve stepped through the looking glass, you may want to stop reading now. Peabody depicts a world with not even a hint of the early childhood academics my patients know. After hymns and musical games, the main tasks of each day are playing more games, doing gymnastics, and dancing. No state standards to be met here, unless the state has legislated a standard for totally awesome fun.
Public early childhood education spread to cultivate the moral imagination and work off some wiggles for an hour or two. It is hard to imagine how modern kindergarten could depart any further from its founding promise. Its creators capitalized on a wave of public sentiment opposed to dull instruction and authoritarian taskmasters, promising instead a child-centered world of nature, dance, and song. Today, the only time a kindergartner is liable to encounter a flower is when his workbook asks him to spell r-o-s-e, and he better not start dancing or he’ll have to tango his way to the principal’s office (and then to mine).
Diagnosing the Child Instead of the Instruction
Children don’t change over the centuries, only our approach to them. In truth, school has always been changing. Anyone who has heard of the one-room schoolhouse, or the highly contrasting educations of presidents like Abraham Lincoln and John Adams (either one), understands that to speak of a universal, unchanging American pedagogy is nonsense.
Which brings us to the million-dollar – or, to more precisely reflect pharma company profits, billion-dollar – question: why on earth are we diagnosing children with mental illness based on their reaction to the latest educational fad? Oughtn’t we make the experiment fit the child, rather than the child fit the experiment?
There exists a world in which five-year-olds are encouraged to get dirty, dance, sing, and play while keeping as far as possible from anything redolent of rote recitation or enforced stillness. It is not conceivable that Peabody’s students would be diagnosed with ADHD, even if modern psychiatry existed in her day, because they are never placed in a situation in which the symptoms of ADHD could even manifest themselves, let alone cause impairment. In a world where nobody is expected to sit still, running is not pathological.
Today’s inattentive fidgeters — in high school as well as in kindergarten — are very real. The children I see struggling with ADHD daily are not fabricating their poor report cards. Does that mean ADHD as a diagnosis is legitimate? In the story of America’s first kindergartens, we see a clue that it may be, at least in part, a socially constructed disease.
Keep Peabody’s vision in mind the next time one of those subpar report cards makes its way home. Yes, bad grades might be a reason to doubt the capabilities of your child. On the other hand, they might just as well be a reason to reexamine the methods and purpose of her schooling.
ADHD and some autistic behaviors are actually normal reactions to tyranny. The school needs to identify these folks and medicate them so they won’t rebel against the state in the future.
They’ve stretched Austic to include just about every type of behavior there is.
My 2nd son was diagnosed with ADHD early on, and refused meds. He would put tests in his desk rather than turning them in. He got poor grades.
Even now (he’s a Computer Science major in college) he doesn’t know that Thurs comes after Tues or that June comes after May (”executive functioning issues”), but he’s a ranked chess player and fabulous coder and self-taught great ragtime piano player. It’s about pattern recognition. He’s “neurodivergent,” as they say.
I’m moving him out of his dorm tomorrow for the summer and I can’t wait to see him! ADHD is frustrating for him and others; it’s too bad he refused meds as they would have helped him I think but at this point he’s an adult and can make his own decisions. . .
there is no ADHD, there are only boys being boys, getting fidgety at the schools that were adjusted to make it easier for girls.
This began to escalate back in the 1990s. As I recall, schools got extra funding for each diagnosis.
Does that sound familiar in the Age of Plandemic ($13,000/diagnosis; $39,000/intubation)?
True, and for the past 25+ years nothing has been done.
Of course they are. They get more gubmint $$ for every indoctrinee diagnosed.
Hell, schools are contributing to an increase in gender-dysphoria
Why wouldn’t the contribute to something simple like ADHD diagnosis?
That is why I find Myers-Briggs useful: SP [Sensing/Perceiving] types do not like sitting still and passively learning via lecture. (The SJ [Sensing/Judging] types love it - and most teachers are SJs.)
SPs prefer being active, especially with their hands. The pure types go become soldiers, artisans, athletes, racecar drivers, airplane pilots.
SPs do much better in a trade-school environment, especially with apprenticeship. That approach was almost completely eliminated in America.
Because the FIX - as in so many things today - is ill and truly IN.
Public Schools are the 10th plank in Marx’s communist manifesto. “Why” is no longer taught.
Recently we interviewed a female student from the local high school regarding her grant submission. She told us she had been diagnosed with a learning disability. She also stated ‘well, everyone has a learning disability’. Her disability: she did not like to learn in a crowded environment.
This country is in real trouble.
My son with ADHD (I have it, too) started medication at the age of 9 at the doctor’s suggestion. By the time he was 15 he decided no more, and refused to take it. I had tried the meds, too. They were less effective than I had wished. I kept needing to increase the dosages, and then to deal with the anxiety it produced, upped the antidepressants, too. After many years of treatment, which never worked, I was weaned off of the antidepressant and the ADHD meds. I feel 100% better. Real life is real life, and there are no easy answers. Medication made things worse for both of us. So don’t fault your son, and don’t think that meds are a panacea. They are not. I’m so glad he has found ways to succeed that suit him.
Like racism. Like misogyny, like homophobia. Like...well. You get the drift.
They’ve been doing that for decades.
Your kid has ADHD/ADD….put them on meds
Want kids to listen more, fidget less? Try more recess... this school did
Four times a day, the doors of Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, fling open to let bouncy, bubbly, excited kindergarteners and first-graders pounce onto the playground.
Five months into the experiment, McBride’s fears had been alleviated. Her students are less fidgety and more focused, she said. They listen more attentively, follow directions and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything. There are fewer discipline issues.
Yep. When my brother enrolled my nephew in junior high at his new school the only thing they were concerned with was 1) was he low income and 2) was he special ed. When my brother said no to both, they more or less pressured him on the low income, telling him he didn’t have to provide any documentation, just say he was. He told them he can pay for his own kid’s lunches and informed them if anything, he’d be looking as Honor’s courses. And that was the end of that.
My son’s first grade teacher told us at a parent teacher conference that we needed to put my son on ADHD meds. Made a huge deal out of it because “he is always going.” Got school psychologists and Heads of Division people all involved.
We went to pediatrician for an opinion. The doctor said he didn’t have it and that teachers say it all the time to calm the classroom and because schools get extra money (even private schools like he was in) from government agencies if they report ADHD numbers.
She also said that first grade is far too young to even consider medicine. And not to give it to him.
We never allowed the meds.
Son became a 12 letter athlete in high school, Eagle Scout, President of Senior Class, Honor Roll student, and Boy’s State Scholarship winner in high school.
Got his Pilot’s License at 18.
Now a Dean’s List student at a Top 30 college and plays hockey where they won their D3 conference this past year.
Parents need to think long and hard before they allow people with an agenda to do that to a kid.
Some kids are just wired to run faster than others.