Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Quest for a Decent Program for ADHD

Having taught gifted for several years, I have seen amazing things created in the name of gifted education.  There is creativity training with the Taylor talents.  There are menus, acceleration, compacting, differentiation....and I am only just scratching the surface.  My older, gifted child has many options and with him starting at a magnet school with thematic units I can breathe for a minute and feel that for the next year he will have a decent year in school.

My younger son has ADHD.  I fought the label for years, avoided the testing, and tried diet, behavoral alterations, etc. but ultimately I tried medication and his life was transformed overnight.  He was finally capable of concentrating and focusing when he wished.  He is still energetic and excited.  He still gets fascinated by animals, creative endeavors like acting, costuming, and dance, athletics, and science fiction.  He doesn't eat as much during the day, and he can have moments when he gets frustrated at night as the medicine is wearing off, but he does benefit and he is doing well.

That said, there is NOTHING to help him at school.  If he tested as gifted, he could receive that range of services.  However, even looking at the range of educational tools we have for gifted, I have begun to discover there is nothing equivalent for ADHD.  Most of the guidelines they have for ADHD fall under the ESE umbrella and they are things like: Make a list so the child can refer back to it. In short, they are accomodations of the sort one would use for a disability.  However, one thing I have begun to discover about my own child (and if it affects him, I am certain there are others the same way) is that the ADHD mind has huge advantages and abilities, as well.  For example:

He can memorize a script almost upon reading it.
He can look at a room and see if anything has been moved or changed.
He can empathize with almost anyone, seeing things from their point of view so he can predict their actions
He is extremely aware of the world around him, especially animals and environmental concerns and how they affect him.

There are also difficulties:
He is extremely emotional/sensitive and takes every criticism to heart
He gets extremely frustrated by alterations to routine or expectation
He is easily distracted and pulled in varying directions
Even on medication, he is impulsive and will act without thinking

Although there are educational accomodations that are suggested on many of the sites, there is not a comprehensive educational plan for teachers to take advantage of the huge potential of these children.  Some test as gifted.  Most don't, however all of these children have high IQ's and immense potential.  However, there is not anything available to challenge these students specifically in their areas of strength.  These students are many of the ones who will drive a teacher to distraction because they are so easily distracted and so difficult to anchor.  However, they have the potential to be immensely successful and valuable in future life.  Studies have shown that adults with ADHD have difficulty finding employment and tend to end up in positions that are less than their capabilities because of their difficulty remaining focused.  I cannot fathom this happening to my child, and I refuse to believe there is nothing that can be done to harness his creative and investigative potential.  If I have to, I will create a program that can be used in schools for him and others like him.

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