Education

23

ADD & ADHD

Aug
1 Comment »   Posted by migratorymama |  Category:Education

(I began writing this blog on Thursday, but my day got out of control before I could finish it. I have since finished and revised it. I’m still working on meeting my weekly goals. Maybe someday I’ll accomplish them…when the kitchen remodel is finished, painting the rest of the house is done, and the kids are a few years older. )

Thursday morning I had a rare moment of watching the news. If our television is on, it is generally tuned to whatever station is broadcasting the cartoon of choice. I was pretty tired, and the girls went to the playroom to play. I was zoned out watching Dora when it occurred to me that I could watch the news if I wanted…and no one would complain. I switched over to the Today Show (my favorite of the morning news shows). Just as I turned it on, the hosts were giving plugs for upcoming stories and announced they would be doing a segment on a new study from Notre Dame regarding the over-diagnosis of ADHD. I was hooked. I then started praying that the plumber wouldn’t show up or the kids wouldn’t need me until the segment came on. I am always interested in any new research on young children, particularly when it relates to educational matters.
Well, my prayers were answered. I was able to watch the segment undisturbed. This new study affirms something I have always suspected: people (more specifically doctors, often at the insistence of parents) are diagnosing normal, healthy, active young children with ADHD incorrectly. Here is my diagnosis of the problem. Adults have inappropriately adjusted their expectations of children. Young children are active. Period. How many times have you said, “Imagine what I could do if only I had half of my kids’ energy.” Why do we expect really young children to be able to sit in a classroom and pay attention for long periods of time without taking breaks to move around some? As I said in my blog about finding a preschool, young children learn best through play.
I think most adults have skewed memories of their early childhood experiences. Kindergarten was originally the year before formal schooling began, where young children learned social skills. Formal schooling now begins in Kindergarten, and socialization is not emphasized as much because there is no time for it. Adults now expect young children to instinctively know how to adjust and behave in a school setting, and they have greater academic expectations of these children. How is a five-year-old who has never been in a school environment and has no books in her home supposed to learn to interact appropriately with other children at school AND learn to read in a nine month period of time?
Adding insult to injury, many schools have now taken away recess to make more time for academics. In this day and age, many children do not have the opportunity to run, play, and explore outdoors at home like children did when I was growing up. This phenomenon has many causes, including safety, busy schedules (sports and extra-curricular activities that eat up most of your free time), lack of outdoor space, the lure of television and technology, and, sadly, parental laziness (something I am guilty of at times). Even adults have trouble focusing when they have too much energy pent up inside. Try to imagine what this is like for young children who have infinitely more energy than we do.
This study points out that boys are more likely than girls to receive a diagnosis of ADHD. I taught five girls and TEN boys in my first year teaching Kindergarten. I had a great time, but I had to adjust my tactics to keep their attention. If you are the parent of both boys and girls, you may have noticed that young boys are often engaged in more active play than girls. I am not saying that girls are not active or don’t chose to get involved in more rowdy types of play. (Believe me, I have two older brothers. I loved playing and rough-housing with my brothers, and I could usually hold my own with them.) What I am saying is that after a few years of teaching, watching my friends and their children, and having my own children, I have observed that boys tend to chose more lively activities (such as wrestling or jumping off of the roof of the house.)

Finally, one of the main discoveries of this study was that the younger children in a classroom are a lot more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. This seems sadly obvious to me. If you have people wrongly diagnosing children with this disorder, it is probably because they are failing to recognize normal activity levels and attention spans in young children. Here is something to keep in mind, children develop in different areas (cognitive, social-emotional, large motor, small motor, etc.) at different rates. Developmentally speaking, children tend to level out by age eight (or around third grade). Here’s my advice. If you are truly concerned that something is wrong with your child, talk to your doctor (while keeping in mind that really young children are very active). If your child is doing well academically speaking in school, it may be that they are causing trouble due to boredom. If they are struggling in school, be sure to research all of the possible causes. Treatment generally goes better when you get an early diagnosis of many disorders and learning disabilities. I have a few friends who were diagnosed with ADD (or ADHD in one case) while in high school and college. They have told me that getting treated made a huge difference in their ability to focus while at school. However, ADD and ADHD in young children are really tricky to diagnose, so you may want to give your child time to mature a little before choosing to medicate your child.

Here is the link to the article from the TODAY Show.
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/38740077

NOTE: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. The above statements are expressly my opinion. Please talk to your doctor, or even several doctors, before you make any decisions about treating or not treating your child for ADD, ADHD, or any disease or disorder.

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05

Finding a Preschool

Aug
9 Comments »   Posted by migratorymama |  Category:Education

One of the first things I do when we move is make dentist appointments because it usually takes an eternity to get an appointment. I don’t have any good advice on picking a dentist, though. This year I selected the dentist whose office is in walking distance of my house. Whether or not he’s a good dentist remains to be seen, but my criteria for choosing resources in my current residence revolve around the ability to get there on foot. So since I can’t help much with the whole dentist thing, I’m choosing to focus on preschool selection instead. This is one of the other “first tasks” I do when we move. (This ranks up there with hanging shower curtains, buying toilet paper, and changing the address on the dog’s microchip so when he escapes we can get him back.)

Before I go into the details of how I find prospective preschools, I will lecture you a bit on Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP). Okay, I’ll try not to lecture, but instead use my extensive education to dazzle you. Basically, DAP is the practice of teaching young children in the way they learn best. That is a very broad definition, but it sums it up nicely. For starters, preschool-age children learn through play. So if you have ever observed a preschool program and thought, “all they do is play the whole time.” That is a good thing. A DAP preschool program usually involves a classroom environment that is set up for exploration through the use of learning centers. Generally a good portion of school time is devoted to the children being able to choose freely which centers they want to play in. Some other portions of the schedule include circle time and outdoor play among other things. While you may be thinking, “but I want my kid to know her alphabet and be able to count to 100,” I’m here to tell you that the best way to achieve that goal is NOT through making him or her sit at a table doing worksheets for long periods of time. If you enroll your child in a good DAP program you will be amazed at the things he or she will come home talking about. (For example, after a few weeks of school, my preschooler came home telling us, “The sun is a star!” At a visit to an aquarium she delighted in pointing out the various rays swimming around in the big tank.) Okay. Enough of the philosophical lecturing. On to the good stuff.

There are two websites I visit when looking for a new preschool. One is the website for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This is THE organization for early childhood education. They are at the forefront of research, advocacy, and policy-making for and about young children. They have an extensive accreditation program. To find accredited programs in your area, visit their site http://www.naeyc.org/accreditation/search.

The second website I always visit is the site for the United Methodist Church. One thing I have learned is that Methodist preschool programs are always developmentally appropriate even if they aren’t accredited. I start by using the website’s church finder http://archives.umc.org/Directory/ChurchDirectory.asp?ptid=1&mid=222 . Once I find churches in my area, I look to see which ones have preschool programs. This method of finding a great preschool has worked for me two moves in a row, so I highly recommend it. Also, in case you are wondering, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t a member of the Methodist denomination. (We aren’t either.) They aren’t exclusive…they even let us in.

I hope some of this advice has been helpful. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any more specific questions. I’ll try to answer them, or at least I’ll try to sound intelligent while making something up. Also, if you would like to read more about DAP, I suggest the book Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs edited by Sue Bredekamp and Carol Copple. It is not the most riveting book you will ever read and there may be others that are more user-friendly, but this one is extensive and is basically the handbook for DAP.

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