A mother of young twin boys recently shared her frustrations with me about their school experience. Seems teachers are fast-tracking one of her sons to an ADHD diagnosis. This is busy season for diagnosing ADHD (between September and November). It starts in earnest in pre-k through 2nd/3rd grade when teachers suggest problems with “attention,” “impulsivity” and “motor activity.” Those are the three ADHD diagnostic symptom clusters.
What’s this experience like for kids? Everyday in my office they tell me. Kids go from freer movement and longer days of summer, to suddenly sitting long hours, in narrow curricula that are geared to maximize their test scores. They have few opportunities to learn through natural ways, using visual-motor play, exploration, and creativity.
Interestingly, many teachers I speak with secretly share their frustration. But they’re stuck and stressed. They tell me they went into teaching to bring their creativity and personal touch to the classroom. Many tell me they appreciate differences in how kids learn, but are forced to stick to an educational script.
Here’s good news. These younger grades are like a tunnel for many boys. Parents just have to get their kids through, acknowledge that school isn’t much fun right now. Hone in on the 1-2 things that are enjoyable (e.g., seeing your friends, recess, lunch, anything they identify as upbeat and positive). Hearing their complaints in my office (which have grown considerably since I started practicing mid 1980’s), I’m often reminded of what bad employment is like for adults. Many of us can relate to that.
Here’s what you do. Stay steady and lead. Be positive. Let your boys know things are ok, even if things right now aren’t great in their grade. Tell them (sternly) they have to go through it. They will learn and have to adjust. Better teachers are coming. More interesting ways to learn too. They won’t ever stop wanting to learn cool things because it’s part of how they are designed. Supplement with great things at your fingertips. Libraries. After-school programs. Lego play groups. Robot building teams. Theatre groups. Singing groups. The world is a big place, start exploring beyond the limited school experience.