Monday, March 24, 2008

if it looks like adhd, and quacks like adhd

is it adhd?

anyone in the school setting is unable to actually, legally diagnose a child with adhd. not being drs, it would be 'practicing medicine without a license' for us to inform a parent that we suspect their child may have a medical disorder, but we are certainly familiar with the signs and symptoms, and frequently sit back and think, 'this kid's parents just need to take him to their pediatrician! don't they see he can't pay attention to save his life! they are ruining his elementary school years by not seeing what is in front of their eyes!'

except that, i think, sometimes the parents don't see it, because its not adhd.

a student with an auditory processing disorder is going to have a hard time paying attention in school because he wont be able to follow oral directions or oral mini-lessons. even as a kindergartner, this student is going to realize that listening, really listening, is hard work. and in kindergarten, when you haven't yet bought in to why school is important, you don't really understand why you should work so hard at listening. so really, why bother? why not talk to friends, play with strings on the rug, your shoe laces, your friend's hair, or talk to your imaginary friend?
but what we see is a five year old who doesn't 'listen' to directions. a five year old who seems to have no impulse control because he takes something before he realizes you said, 'don't touch that!'. a five year old who feels the only way they have control of a situation is to do their own thing, since they have no idea what you're asking them to do in the first place.

i think adhd has become an easier label for us. medication or no medication, it is a clear medical diagnosis, when learning disability labels are still hard to pin down. when you have to show a discrepancy between potential and actual performance it is hard to prove a child has a learning disability. especially with culturally biased testing. adhd, diagnosed from a dr, takes us out of the equation. the dr says the child has it, so we'll deliver services, and not worry about the label.

a lot of the time i find myself in the camp that a label is only a doorway to get a child the services he needs to succeed in school. in a school like mine with full inclusion, the label doesn't matter much at all. so do we categorize a kid with a learning disability or with a health impairment (adhd)? But does the adhd label change how we approach the child? does it keep us from teaching the child strategies and techniques that we would otherwise teach a child with a processing disorder? Or, since we are good educators, do we teach the child in front of us and disregard the label all together?

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I have been unsettled lately by some diagnosis discussions and I'm pondering it all out in my head.

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