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Epistula | 5 Minutes

Teaching a Child with ADHD

Laurie Detweiler Written by Laurie Detweiler
Teaching a Child with ADHD

The Facebook post was one of hundreds I see every year. Jennifer was asking if anyone could help her as she could not get her son to sit still or do any of his work in one sitting.  She was explaining that he seemed to be so distracted by any and everything that was going on around him. She was even wondering if maybe her son had ADHD. Could anyone help her?

ADHD is a prognosis that is thrown around today without much forethought. The National Institute of Mental Health defines ADHD as:

a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors. He or she may also be restless and almost constantly active. ADHD is not just a childhood disorder. Although the symptoms of ADHD begin in childhood, ADHD can continue through adolescence and adulthood. (NIMH, 2016)

I like to say that kids like this “go to the beat of a different drummer.” Why is it that we think something is wrong with these kids who can’t sit still? Why do we think we should drug them out and expect them to sit still? For this we must look to the origins of modern-day educational institutions.

Horace Mann was elected to the Board of Education in 1837. He pushed for every child to receive an education. Great. But this was also when the Industrial Revolution was hitting its stride. Before then, the education of a child was very individualized. But suddenly, educators realized the efficiency of education was increased when children were grouped together and educated as a group. The assembly line approach worked well for Henry Ford in the early 20th century with his production of the Model T Ford.  Just like a car could be put together down an assembly line, so too could  a child be educated in the same way. Children were then (and still today) segregated by age and expected to not only sit at a desk all day, but learn the same way.

I do believe that ADHD is a real thing, but not real in the way psychiatrists or pharmaceutical companies think. There are many children who are bright and fidgety, or have spunk, so to speak, and there is nothing wrong with them. They are not abnormal. But, their brains do work differently than their peers. 

The Amen Clinics is one of the leaders in studying the brain using SPECT scans.  Through this they have given us medical research to see the way the brain functions in children and adults with ADD. This is what they have said:

“Ideally, when we concentrate, blood flow should increase in the brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex; this increased activity allows us to focus, stay on task and think ahead. In the brains of most people with ADD, blood flow actually goes down when they concentrate, making it harder to stay focused. In other words, the harder they try, the harder it gets!”

Let me cut to the point. I concede that these children are in fact very hard to raise. They will cause you to have many sleepless nights. But remember this: These children are made in the image of God. They are exactly how He wants them to be. My husband often says, “Show me a boy who never gets in trouble and I will show you a boy who will not succeed.” What he is trying to say is that the kids who just sit still all day long and never question anything are rarely the ones who become leaders and world changers. 

These were the men who were knighted and sent out to battle. They were leaders. Fearless warriors. The things that we see as problematic in our society were once seen as traits you would actually want to have. Did you know that Bill Gates and Albert Einstein are thought to have had ADHD? I don’t think anyone would argue that they weren’t leaders or world changers.

In today’s world, I do think it is good to have your child tested for things like ADHD. This may seem contrary to everything I just said so read on.  The true disorder is found in the world in which we live. It can be beneficial for children to be diagnosed in order for them to be able to function in our world according to society’s recently adopted alternate normal methods. I also think it helps you, the parent, to be sure that the child’s behavior is not a discipline issue. I have seen children whose parents thought they were wired a certain way when in reality they were just undisciplined.

If your child does have ADHD, I would encourage you to accept them how they are. Help them to see it as a useful thing. It should never be seen as a crutch or an excuse. They should grow up feeling proud that this is how they are and be told that they can accomplish great things. Help them to see that doing their work is important but they need to figure out how to best do it. If you have a child who can’t sit still, you might find that having them stand at a table or sit on a medicine ball while doing their work helps. I have allowed a child to shoot baskets while they practiced their memory work. 

One of the biggest issues for kids who are wired this way is time management. Today, there are some great apps that can help with this.

DUE is a great one. Their slogan “never be late for anything again” says it all.

EVERNOTE is another good planning tool.  It also allows you to store notes and search through notes easily.

REMEMBER THE MILK  is great for visualizing to-do lists.

As parents of a child like this, as with any child,  you need to realize that you are here to help guide them to their full potential. Help them learn to navigate the world just like you do. I am not organized. Does that mean I have something wrong with me? Of course not. This is just the way I am wired. But that does mean I need to figure out things to help me. Love these kids, be their cheerleaders. They not only can succeed but will succeed if you help them live their lives as who they are not as who you or anyone else thinks they should be.