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Does Our Middle School Have ADHD?

by Lynn Ayers

In the middle of the night, having devoted most of the evening to extracting an acceptable one-page essay from a brilliant twelve-year-old, I was struck by an astounding revelation. I think itís highly likely that our school may have ADHD (thatís Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder, for those who may not have noticed the news hype over the past ten years). Having two sons diagnosed with this disabling condition, Iím pretty familiar with the signs, and I suddenly found the similarities quite startling. I don't know if all of these symptoms were apparent before age 7 (whenever that was), but here's what I've observed:


When I try to communicate with them, I can't tell if they've heard me. Sometimes they answer; at other times they just ignore me completely. The ignoring response is much more likely when I ask them to do non-preferred tasks or to stretch beyond their comfort zone.


Warnings of probable negative outcomes aren't effective - they wait for a major crisis to erupt before they take action. In many cases, their reaction is ineffective and inappropriate, such as assigning blame to everything EXCEPT their course of action!


They can't seem to prioritize effectively. They invest far too much energy into activities that are fun or strategies that are familiar, while neglecting to consider if more critical goals are being met.


They often appear oblivious to the negative impact of their actions on others.


They can be unpredictable, disorganized, and lack a clear plan for accomplishing goals, but they seem to expect everyone else to respond to their needs on demand.


Negative outcomes do not promote a change of course. They get upset about seemingly predictable "consequences," but these outcomes don't help them "make a different choice" next time.

Unfortunately, I don't think stimulant medications are an option for this particular patient. I do wonder which of their favorite conclusions they would like to have applied to themselves: Is the school lazy? Careless? Unmotivated? Poorly disciplined? Spoiled by overindulgent parents? Do they just not care?

Since I know that these kinds of labels aren't really beneficial in understanding my children's behaviors, I suspect they won't be helpful in this other case. Perhaps it's more appropriate to assume that the school just hasnít learned any more effective strategies. I'm pretty sure that I need to adjust my expectations, provide clear explanations of a few basic requirements at a time, and make sure they have appropriate structure, supports, and accountability to carry them out.

Unfortunately, I haven't figured out exactly how to do that. It's not like I can take away their video games if they don't do their part! :-)

©2008 by Lynn Ayers

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