Behavior issues have plagued Jack since he was a little boy. Before he headed off to school, his parents took him to a psychologist to have him checked for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. After only a couple of hours of questions and observation, the “expert” assured Jack’s parents that he wasn’t hyperactive. So off to school he went, presumably just needing some extra discipline.
But every teacher conference for the next six years went about the same. “Jack can’t stay on task.” “Jack is easily distracted.” “Jack is disruptive and impulsive.” Every time the parents heard this, they told the teacher about the psychologists determination but suggested that the teacher had seen many more kids than the parents and asked for their opinion. Of course, the teachers can’t possibly suggest to a parent that there may be something wrong with a child for fear of legal ramifications. And, of course, they aren’t trained to diagnose or treat disorders. But they often spend more time with a child than the parents and they certainly have more experience with children. What Jack’s parents would have liked to have heard was a suggestion that he be tested by the school district’s psychologist.
Finally, during Jack’s seventh grade year, as Jack’s grades began to plunge, Jack’s parents called his pediatrician. He was the one that finally told the parents that the schools could have the child tested. So the parents made the initial contact. Sure enough, that psychologist also determined that Jack was not hyperactive, but he does have Attention Deficit Disorder. Jack was started on medication and showed immediate improvement. The school set up some plans to help Jack that should have helped. But as Jack adjusted to the medication, he began to realize that it wasn’t going to do the job for him by itself. And Jack just isn’t capable of doing it himself without help. His parents tried to set up a better system at home for him – checked with him to see if he had done his homework daily, tried to make sure he was working in a good environment and hoped that the school would keep on top of his plan there.
But the teachers are busy, the support staff is overworked and the kids with Attention Deficit Disorder are so much work. In middle school, Jack’s plan called for Jack to write down his assignments in every class, for the teachers to sign off on it and for someone to check the assignment book daily to make sure that these steps were being followed. That way, Jack’s parents only had to check the book to find out if Jack had assignments that needed to be done that night. This worked for about two or three weeks. Then one day a teacher was too busy at the end of the day to check the assignment books. Another day there was a substitute that didn’t know about the plan. The person responsible for checking the book quit doing it. When Jack reached high school, a new plan was developed that called for his teachers to email his parents weekly to let them know how he was doing and what assignments were upcoming. This worked for a few weeks. Then the teachers got busy, the semester ended and new teachers weren’t advised of the plan, and the person in charge of Jack’s plan didn’t follow up. Jack failed class after class despite his parents’ constant attention and calls to home from his teachers.
The answer to these kids problems seems simple. Set up the plans and stick with them. Really stick with them. We don’t set up programs for the “gifted” kids and then forget to teach them the advanced work. We don’t forget to make sure the kids with other learning disabilities are given the extra instruction they need. But the kids with Attention Deficit Disorder don’t seem to fit into either of these groups for school purposes, even though a great majority of them are very intelligent and they do actually suffer from a learning disability. It is a lot of work for a teacher to try to remember to check assignment books, email parents, check every half hour or so to make sure the student is still on track. But wouldn’t that take much less effort than dealing with a student who has gone off task and is now disrupting others? Much less effort than having to call a parent and deal with the fallout of a child who is simply not turning in any work? With so many children, particularly boys, now being diagnosed with this disease, it’s time for the school systems to step up to the plate. These children are going to be running things one day. We owe it to ourselves to make sure they are capable of doing just that.