Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ADD, ADHD, Right Brained or What?



I found this talk on TED that truly sums up what I have been experiencing with my own child.


My youngest son has been struggling in school all year long and it seems that there is "no choice" but to test him for ADD/ADHD. I must have given them "that" look when they suggested this because his speech teacher raised her hands and said "I know, I know, I don't like the idea of putting kids on medication any more than you do". He is also getting tested for dyslexia and any other learning disabilities that may exist. I think they left autism out. Are they trying to say my son is "unteachable"? What exactly does it mean when the teacher wants your son tested for the full gamut of learning disabilities?

I have been reading "A New Earth" and showing up at all of the Monday night classes. This is a great opportunity to work on acting outside the ego. I agreed to do the preliminary worksheet of observed behavior. I agreed to have him tested at the beginning of next year. I won't let my own ego get in the way of my decision concerning my son's education.

Once I got it and began filling it out, I wished I hadn't. That worksheet is incredibly one sided and very inclusive. "How many times a week does your child get distracted from his tasks? Does your child lose focus more than once a day, once a week, once a month, once every three months?" He is 10. He gets distracted. He isn't the only one. If I filled that worksheet out for everyone of my kids, I might have to have them all tested. If I filled that worksheet out for some of my kids' friends, they might have to be tested. In fact, that worksheet described nearly every 10 year old kid I know. Heck, maybe I am ADD/ADHD. When I have to do laundry I let all kinds of things distract me. I hate folding socks.

What that worksheet did not have on it was questions regarding how many times he stayed on task. "Did your son spend two hours laboring over details on paper that include doing math, writing and paying attention to details about his character?" Yes! Oh my goodness yes! He does that! "Can your child remain focused on 4 hours of Dungeons and Dragons and make decisions for his character that seem to fit the characters personality?" Why yes.. yes he can!

The other thing that seems very unfair to me is that we all agreed at his first conference that spelling was a major issue. He can study his little butt off, but getting letters in order to form a word just escapes him. Knowing this, the complaint is that he is still having big issues with spelling. If he could not spell the words given to him in August, why would anyone believe that he should be capable of spelling words given to him in April that are harder? At this point I ask, which of us is learning deficient?

Should I take into consideration his relationship with his teacher? It has not been a good year. She really doesn't seem to like much about him. He stutters, he talks too much, he wiggles and he daydreams. He really doesn't like to be around her. He likes having substitutes. Do they take any of this into consideration?

According to what I have read, if he is diagnosed with ADD, the most common treatment is stimulants. The side effects of these stimulants include inability to sleep, anxiety, etc. So to get rid of the side effects, they often prescribe anti-depressants. So we need to give him an upper to calm him down and then a downer to calm him down even more. My head is swimming with visions of pills and reactions. There is no medical test to measure the chemical imbalance in his brain. There is no test to see how the medication they give him is treating the chemical production. At best it is an educated crap shoot.

Since this is a brain disorder, I have been reading up on the brain. I found some very interesting information on Learning Link Technologies about brain functions and some of the various things that might be helpful to boost some of those deficiencies. The more I read about brain dominance, the more I am convinced that my son is right brain dominated. When he is talking, his eyes get that non focused look like he is referencing the image in his head and searching for the right words to communicate what he is thinking.

If spelling and being able to do miles of math worksheets where not the measurement for a child's intelligence, would he be having this trouble? He is eternally curious about how things work. He is constantly solving problems in his non-school life. He loves tools. He is pulls things out of the trash to make new things with. If they gave him a screw driver instead of a pencil and told him to do something with it, would he be learning deficient? How is it he is learning deficient if he cannot put letters in order, but the child that cannot put together a bow and arrow out of a stick, duct tape, string and a wooden skewer is not?

We have learned that if anything is missing in our home, he usually knows where it is. At first we used to accuse him of being the one that put those things there, but as time progressed, we realized that he has an incredible memory for these things. When we ask him where something is, we can almost watch him producing slides behind his eyes searching in his mind where he remembers seeing it. From everything I have read, this is right brain dominance at work. Will medication cause him to lose these pictures in his mind? I cannot find the answer to this question.

If I have to choose between making him scholastically acceptable or keeping this incredible gift of vision that he has, I choose the gift.

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2 comments:

gary said...

I feel for your reservations on the administration of stimulants and antidepressants as a treatment for ADD/ADHD. The chemical compounds put into these drugs will in most cases produce severe behavioral side effects that can get way beyond a parent's control. I doubt if psychiatric medicine can really treat ADHD, except probably to stimulate the senses and provide fleeting focus and concentration.

In case your child has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, don't despair. It's an organic matter that would find relief in natural treatments. In fact, I've heard parents with ADD/ADHD children who were able to find relief for the symptoms using herbal supplements. Consequently, these did not trigger side effects that is one of our primary concerns.

Anonymous said...

Your blog came up in a right-brain/ADD search, I read the story about your son, and I feel for you. I'm a music teacher and highly right-brained myself. I've read over symptoms of adult ADHD and am not sure why they are so problematic. I can't read boring things, I don't focus well on boring things, and I don't sit perfectly still very well. Thank goodness I found my niche and can keep moving and creating music all day long.

My thoughts on the subject are endless, rambling, and a bit scattered. Yet even right-brained people can access their logic. I've met poor teachers and teachers who simply lack important insight. I don't know your child so I can't say anything. But since you seem unconvinced by the medication idea, I'd suggest waiting a year to see how he does with another teacher. It certainly sounds like he is learning something about the world in his own ways, which we do need to credit.

LC