Children, by nature, don´t want to sit and pay attention to something that doesn´t really interest them for long periods of time (nor do we, for that matter, but we have learned to do so…). Over time, educators and parents have become more aware of this fact and have made efforts to teach children in other ways that may be more stimulating and interesting. While this has had a wonderful effect on children´s grasping of material and greatly facilitated the learning process and creative problem solving, it has also catered to their independent learning styles in a way that doesn´t allow them to simply sit and pay attention. The art of sitting quietly and listening to the teacher is quickly being lost to a more stimulating and evolved way of teaching…becoming more involved and doing more than just reading or listening about it. Once again, I do believe this new and improved way of learning is an asset to the school system; I simply question, though, if it might be necessary to include the old fashioned approach as well.
With everything from Internet and Facebook to Wii and Play Station, children are being taught to be consistently entertained. They are having a harder and harder time focusing on one task at a time and are in constant interaction with social media and miscellaneous stimulation. I believe it is due to this lifestyle that children are showing more and more signs of ADD/ADHD. But is it really ADD/ADHD or is it simply a side effect of modern society? Our brains are being overloaded. As adults, we feel it but are able to prioritize and still get our work done because we were not brought up in that way. Our children are developing their learning patterns and study habits in this stimulation overload. When we really need children to sit and pay attention for a little while and they can´t, we feel like there is something really wrong with them…but they have been taught that this is ok. There´s never a dull moment so it is to be expected that when they have to sit quietly in a waiting room, they will be trying to run up and down the halls instead. So we have created an attention deficit culture, but for many kids it is not a disorder.
Attention Deficit Disorder, in its true form is severe enough to cause impairment in the daily functioning of an individual´s life in at least two different areas: home, school, workplace, etc. More and more, medication is being used to control ADD or ADHD symptoms in children and adults. While medication may indeed be helpful in some instances, it is important to implement behavioral changes FIRST. The effects of drugs used to treat ADD/ADHD symptoms on the forming brains of children is still not fully understood and using them could do more harm than good. Whether children take medication or not, behavioral adaptations need to be made and will be helpful in most situations.
The spectrum of symptoms can range from normal, age appropriate inattentiveness to truly debilitating distractibility, for instance. Diagnosis can help so parents and children alike can understand the situation more clearly and can make changes that can positively affect behavior but diagnosis is not necessary when looking to help your child. If your child is inattentive, hyperactive, forgetful and messy you don´t need an ADD/ADHD diagnosis to help him or her get things in order. There are steps that can be taken to help them like getting them into a routine, creating a more structured environment and working with teachers to establish reward systems. Whether they have ADD or are simply victim to society´s overload, if children are struggling, they need help and it is important that parents be involved in schoolwork and help kids get to a point where they can be more independent. Some parents wait for that diagnosis and use it as a crutch and more and more mental health practitioners are handing the diagnosis out because it seems to fit.
Diagnosis or not, as a parent, you know your children and their strengths. Use those to develop their weaknesses. Kids are more capable than we give them credit for most times. Sometimes, it´s just a matter of giving them a chance to prove themselves once our expectations have been made clear. Other times, it´s a little more complicated…