This week I was horrified and upset in equal measure.
A mum I know posted this on Facebook. It was in a closed group and she was genuinely upset and needed advice……………(I have asked her permission to share this but have deleted her name and photo to protect her son)
I have since heard the full story from the son’s point of view. I appreciate fully there is another side to this story, but I can only report what I know.
Here it is….
On Monday her 8 year old son with ADHD had not completed his work in English. The school are aware that he is a verbally confident yet finds it difficult to get his thoughts down on paper. A Speech and Language Therapist had previously recommended that he use a laptop with specialist software Clicker to help him. However despite these recommendations, this boy was required to handwrite his work. Consequently he didn’t finish and was kept in at break. Breaktime is an opportunity to run, move, get fresh air, socialise. So why this is used as a punishment always astounds me. Of course, the difficulties the boy experienced during the English lesson still remained, add in he was annoyed that he couldn’t go out to play, and so he still did not finish his work. No surprise.
On Tuesday, during the next English lesson he was sent outside to finish the desired piece of work. Meanwhile his classmates in the classroom were having fun on Chrome Books. Now how do you think he feels at this point?
The next lesson was touch typing. The teacher told him off for not keeping his fingers on the home keys and for looking down. He then started banging the keyboard and knocked over a chair.
From there things escalated really quickly.
He was sent outside to his ‘calm area’. Now this is a bright red sofa situated in a noisy corridor under a window. Nothing calm about that. In fact, he sees it and immediately wants to bounce on it. You would wouldn’t you? A calm area should be quiet, calm, enclosed, peaceful. So now we have a little boy who feels excluded and feels stupid. He’s told not to jump on the sofa. He even has a Social Story telling him not to. Mmmmm. This puts all the onus and responsibility on him to conform to rules that just don’t help or support him.
So these are my thoughts. If the following strategies are put in place, our children with ADHD would feel valued and successful:
- Work to be planned specifically and differentiated as necessary
- The teacher to have different expectations what could be achieved so that he would feel successful
- Teacher to be aware of sensory over or under stimulation
- Use of visuals, frames or scaffolds to help with the learning
- Use of specialist equipment such as laptop, Clicker, ScanPen
- Have movement breaks and the opportunity to drink water
- Are there obvious distractions like a buzzing light, unusual weather or the smell of lunch?
- Work in area of the classroom that enables better focus with less distractions and opportunity to concentrate
- Is the work interesting and motivating?
- Have help with time management and organisation
- Set up a calm area with enclosed space, low light, soft cushion, low music
- Use fiddle or chewy equipment
Can you see where I am going with this….?
If these things were in place during the English lesson, then this little lad would have probably successfully completed the work and all would be good. The onus is squarely on the teacher to provide the right environment and change her reaction and response.
But instead he kicked off because he was angry and frustrated and had to be restrained. How does it get to this? How does it get to the state that an 8 year old needs to be forcibly held down because he is so distressed? He now is distraught, doesn’t want to go to school and keeps telling his mum that he’s naughty.
I dont know all the facts as I wasn’t there. I can only summise what the situation in the classroom was like. But I can have a jolly good guess.
If the things I have mentioned above were not in place and the teacher does not have an understanding of ADHD, then the classroom is a mine field for this little lad.
His ADHD brain has to filter the correct messages. Listen to complicated instructions. Extract from the many verbal messages what he needs to do and in what order. Get his head down and focus on the job in hand whilst avoiding the sensory information that is currently overwhelming him.
It is no wonder that so many of our gorgeous children end up angry and frustrated. They are clever and smart yet are made to feel naughty, dumb and lazy. No wonder things boil over and they explode. No one seems to understand or get it. An 8 year old doesn’t have the language or emotional intelligence to be able to articulate this to an adult. So will just hit out. And suffer the consequences.
How unfair is this. But how avoidable.
Too many young adults with ADHD end up in the Criminal Justice System. At present it is estimated that 24% of the prison population are thought to have this neurological condition. I can see why this is happening. Too many of our children suffer from feelings of low self-worth because they’ve been labelled as disruptive, a bad influence, aggressive. Alongside that our children are given negative labels of odd, crazy, nutter, loony. These words hurt and reputation sticks. If you expect me to behave bad, I’ll act bad. A vicious cycle.
So what can we do?
Educate your families, your friends. Teachers need better training. We must bust the myth of ADHD that if our children tried harder they would be behave. Believe me, if my son could focus he would!
We would never say to a person who walked with a crutch to remove it and walk. Yet teachers say to our children every day ‘focus, pay attention, try harder’. They need a crutch. They need support. They need our help.
I am passionate about busting the myth and educating about ADHD.
So join me on Saturday 3rd November at 9.30am in Hertfordshire for a morning of impassioned learning, understanding and to completely rethink ADHD.