Sit down, folks, ‘cause you’re not gonna believe this one.
We had a meeting yesterday for Aaron at his middle school – a regular meeting that we have twice a year with the instructional specialist and the Language Arts teacher for the purpose of evaluating Aaron as a student in the gifted program. Most of you know Aaron – quiet, shy, controlled, witty, and book-smart to boot. These meetings are always great for sharing with us all the ways in which they plan to challenge our son during the semester.
I perched myself on a metal stool for the meeting while Aaron, Dom, the teacher and the specialist seated themselves around the table with me.
And then I nearly fell off my stool when they suggested Aaron might have ADHD.
You heard me.
You might be, like me, wondering why in the world they would think this. According to the teacher, he fidgets and daydreams. Oh, and he was really disorganized at the beginning of the year, but has shown improvement in that area already.
Did I mention that he is in 6th Grade?
My blood as well as Dom’s was boiling, so I did what my nature typically suggests: I stiffened my jaw, plastered a huge of-course-I-give-a-crap-what-you’re-saying smile on my face, and leaned in to the conversation.
Keep in mind, now, they are not saying that he has ADHD. Just that it’s something I need to pay attention to. As educational professionals they are not qualified to diagnose.
Now, if you are a teacher and you know me, my husband and my children, and you are reading this thinking, “You know, I can sort of see that…” then let me ask you this: How many children do you “see” ADHD in on a daily basis? Be honest, now. 50%? 75%?
My guess it’s closer to 90%. I say this based on what I have heard other mothers say about ADHD and school issues, the sheer numbers of children that have been “diagnosed” with it, and now the fact that the local school system thinks 100% of my children have it.
I do NOT think I am a perfect mother with perfect children…don’t mistake my anger at the school system for denial of my children’s issues. I wrestled that demon a year and a half ago. And I kicked his ass.
When all this originally came up with Victoria in 2010, I had to lend some credence to it. There were, after all, undeniable issues even if they as yet had no name. She struggled with self-control, talking to her friends, and the random way-laying of anyone who validly pissed her off. (She’s not one to take any crap.) While I did not subscribe to the whole idea of ADHD at the time, I knew something had to give; there was indeed a problem that needed a solution. So I processed the information accordingly, tried to keep an open mind about what this label meant for my child, and made decisions with her best interest at heart.
But yesterday…yesterday we were talking about a child who does not have those issues. A child who has always been a self-starting, eager learner. A child who is quiet, unassuming and self-controlled.
People! What the hell?!!!!!!!
This solidifies my belief that our school system thinks every child needs a label. Every action, every facial expression, every roll of the eye surely must indicate that there is an underlying cause – a problem to be addressed, perhaps even with medication. Since this issue had quite obviously NEVER been brought up with regard to Aaron in six years of gifted classes, I asked if ADHD is something that tends to present itself in middle school (believing from my own research that it presents in earlier grades) and I was answered with a resounding, “OHHHH YES!” and the further explanation that the kids are overwhelmed in sixth grade with the changing of classes, lockers, tardy bells, seven-some-odd classes and a thousand additional schoolmates, and that a lot of the ADHD issues really come out then. I was literally almost speechless.
Sounds to me like these kids are adjusting to a new, more hurried, more crowded environment. There’s gonna be some stress. STRESS does not equal ADHD.
I think that generalizing the label to cover every child who swings his feet at his desk or loses an assignment once in a while does an injustice to children (and families) who truly suffer from ADHD. I want statistics on our local school system. No names, just percentages. I’m curious to know how many children here “have” ADHD. Because I think it is an overused label. Until yesterday, that was only a suspicion. Now it is a hardcore belief.