Until recently (just one or two decades) we haven't heard of ADD and ADHD as often as we do now. Now, suddenly these two disorders are household terms, known to just about every parent and educator. What happened?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 3% to 5% of children have ADHD. Some experts, though, says ADHD may occurs in 8% to 10% of school age children. Experts also question whether kids really outgrow ADHD. What that means is that this disorder may be more common in adults than previously thought.
Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. They can't seem to follow directions and are easily bored or frustrated with tasks. They also tend to move constantly and are impulsive, not stopping to think before they act. These behaviors are generally common in children. But they occur more often than usual and are more severe in a child with ADHD.
ADD and ADHD seem to be the new epidemic in children.
I am not going to claim that ADD doesn't exist. Some children do suffer from the syndrome and can benefit from medical attention. However, the following scenario happens too often: a child who's mind is naturally active, maybe even a gifted child, starts his studies at school.
The progress in school is ways too slow for him. He already knows most of the material taught, and feels helplessly bored and unchallenged. He actively participates in class, sometimes even corrects the teacher or asks questions that are way above the learned material. He might even ask questions the teacher doesn't know the answers for. Gradually this child demands more of the teacher's attention. The teacher can't allocate more time to one student, he has 30 or more students in his class, and starts considering this child as a problematic child.
Soon the parents are called in for a conversation with the teacher. The teacher recommends testing the child for ADD or ADHD. From here the progress is clear. The child is taken to be tested, the doctor can't find any physical problem, and recommends medication.
So what is the solution? How can we prevent this horrible scenario from happening to our children?
The key is to prevent boredom in the classroom. I have been through this myself, as a child. Actually, I started school very early, at 5. My mother understood that it is unacceptable to leave my twin sister and myself for another school year in kindergarten, and arranged for us (after some meetings, conversations and arguments) to start school early.
However, the teaching in school was too slow for me, and I remember being tortured with boredom. If you think that a child who is disciplined should be able to cope with this quietly, you are sorely mistaken. Day after day of sitting in the classroom, listening to lectures about subjects one already knows, doing repetitive activities like answering questions, writing summaries and drawing pictures on that subject, add up to finally a situation that is beyond a child's handling ability.
AVOID BORING YOUR CHILD!
Some things you can do, are making sure your child is included in the gifted and talented groups. Talking with the teacher and asking to provide more challenging activities and instruction for your child. Taking your child to adequate extra curricular activities.
The best thing to do, is provide ample of creative activities for your child. The arts are a fantastically satisfying activity for a child who might be bored at school. Crafts also belong to this category. Some children who like writing can be challenged by writing poetry or short stories. Some children can be stimulated by journalistic classes and activities. Blogging is now such a widespread activity and children can research topics and start a blog of their own. Of course, physical activity is a great thing for a child who is forced through hours of slower than need be instruction in school. A child that is frustrated and bored will find some relief in the sports.
When you stimulate the creativity of a child, you achieve at least 2 goals at the same time. Not only you provide for a child a way to express himself at his own level, you also train the child for success. Creativity is one of the main identifiers of giftedness in children. It is needed for creative problem solving, for inventions, for "thinking outside of the box". It is well worth your efforts.
One option that was recently recommended by a group of researchers is moving the child to a higher class. Age should not matter as much as a child abilities and interests. If appropriate, talk to the school administrators and see if they will move the child up to a higher grade. Schools still don't like to do that, so you might have to be assertive and not back down.
In conclusion, many of the children who are diagnosed with ADHD are simply children who suffer from boredom in school as a result of slow instruction and the lack of challenging activities. Don't hurry to medicate your child. Instead, try to avoid boring your child by looking for a way to provide challenging activities. Provide lots of creative activities like the arts, crafts and hobbies. Provide opportunity to participate in sports and physical activity. These might make a huge difference in your child's life.