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Robert Winner


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1 in 10 US children has ADHD says the CDC

When I read this headline that 1 in 10 has ADHD in MSN Healthy Living on 11-25-13 I immediately thought of Ali Carr-Chellman and her talk : Gaming to re-engage boys in learning. If you are a boy you are 10 times more likely to be diagnosed as ADHD and even higher if you are poor or black.

Why would this be true? Do we really have that extreme of a problem? Has the education system contributed to this issue? If your child is diagnosed and takes the popular meds for ADHD ... Ritalin or Concerta .. are there consequences later in life like elimination of jobs or careers.

Granted there are always extreme issues that need meds ... but not all. Should we be looking for alternatives ... what are some alternatives?

Teachers ... parents ... adults previously diagnosed with ADHD chime in.


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    Nov 29 2013: Apparently Finland is currently top of the international league in terms of education of children. I can't remember the article but I seem to recall they have no exams (hence a much-needed elimination of a crazy level of competitivity found elsewhere) and teachers are committed to find a way to make learning enjoyable for every pupil (then they are keen to learn and learn easily). Class sizes pretty small too.
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      Nov 30 2013: Joshua, Finland has always been high on the successful list in terms of education ... currently Singapore is on top of the heap world wide by quite a bit.

      Are you comparing the methods, lack of competition, and testing methods as the reason for a lack of ADHD? I pulled up a article on Medscape that says 8.5% of Finish teens have ADHD.

      France is leading the charge on the treatment of ADHD .. they believe in structure in the childs life and discipline when necessary .. that when these things are present the numbers go down to only the medically needy taking the behavioral issues out of the problem.

      Yes the Fins have reason to be proud of their system.

      Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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        Nov 30 2013: I can't say I'm very well informed on the subject, but I was guessing ADHD in children is due to a combination of cultural factors in our current era - namely (1).Additives in food, (2).Computer/TV 'consumption' and the need to be constantly 'entertained' thus detracting from the ability to concentrate that might otherwise come from imaginative play with simple toys, (3).Inappropriate teaching methods driven by testing schemes and (4).A cultural blind-spot whereby sitting still and listening for a long time is considered a good way to learn
        • Dec 2 2013: I agree. Plus, two parents working, in day care since 3 months old, no effective mirroring of loving object around which to organize sense of id, likely day care after school, then home for homework (too much since school days are shortened rather than give a teacher a raise) then dinner then tv, games and to bed. When is the family time? Likely little or never and it may not exist because parents are also estranged. No playing out of doors for coordination, sun, social skills and neighborhood friends since every parent fears some madman will steal their kids bec the pedophile is over represented in the sensationalistic news of msm, or is more numerous because they seek to live thru an unresolved childhood, its incompleted tasks and these kids are already x2 as parents of pre-generations who also suffered lack of proper identity and social skills formation. Ppl adapt to education that is mind dulling as prep for working robotic jobs, then to robotic jobs, increasing work hours w/o increasing pay, increasing taxes w/o increasing benefits and increasing lies from politicians recruited from populations selected by capitalists to represent THEM, not people, decreasing rights to demand proper food, air, water controls, unaffordable health care except govt funds to keep corpses "alive" to collect govt funds and return them to capitalists who showed in '08 that they will hold the nation hostage w/ economy or govt shut down if they don't get their way. any other questions (haha)
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      Nov 30 2013: They have exams and grades but do not have large, universally administered, nationally normed tests.

      Here from the Washington Post is an interview with an expert on education in Finland talking about which aspects of Finnish education probably can, and which probably cannot be emulated by the US. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/what-the-us-cant-learn-from-finland-about-ed-reform/2012/04/16/gIQAGIvVMT_blog.html
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        Nov 30 2013: Thank you for the link to an interesting article - which sets me straight on a couple of wobbly assumptions. I think american society and its inherent emphasis on competitivity is probably reflected in the education system: a few winners reaping status and rewards, and the many who feel they didn't (and can't ever) be a somebody who 'wins' in life. Hence the need to shift the pendulum towards equity - as mentioned in the article. Such a seed-change in national culture may take many generations; after all, the pull of America is the american dream to make it big, not necessarily to be a happy also-ran.
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          Dec 1 2013: I cannot remember whether you have lived in the US or how long ago. In urban public schools in the US the pursuit of equity of educational outcomes is, in my observation, the single highest goal.

          What makes this pursuit so frustrating for school administrators is that in the US, unlike Finland, the student population is not homogeneous at all but rather is extremely diverse. Many, many kids arrive at school already knowing how to read in first grade, while others have had little preschool academic exposure. We have large numbers of urban schools with a large proportion of high school students who are recent immigrants and whose families do not speak English or had little opportunity for education in their own countries of origin.

          Student bodies will always be heterogeneous because all people come with different experience but the range of experiences and needs affects the challenges in instruction. More range creates greater challenge.

          Much of the standardization of curriculum in the US about which you hear so much on TED is motivated precisely by the interest in promoting equity. Another example of equity-driven policy is the method of resource allocation in urban districts. In the large district where I did some of my secondary teaching, schools received funding from the district according to the perceived neediness of students. For example, a student who qualified for free or reduced price school lunch would drive much more revenue to the building for teacher expenses than a student from a middle class home. The underlying reasoning was that such students need smaller class sizes than students with more resources to support them at home if one hopes to achieve similar academic outcomes..

          These are some of the popular equity driven strategies. Schools are also penalized at the state level for lack of adequate progress in closing the "achievement gap" across demographic segments.
    • Nov 30 2013: The Fins also have consistent national standards for schools and teachers. Not state by state. I imagine that their schools are not run based on fear of litigation from parents. They have small school sizes, from what I read in the 300 students years K - 9. Students don't need to start until 7 years old. Teachers are required to know as much as they can about students in the first month of school. Schools do whatever it takes to make sure that students are up to grade level or keep up with the rest of the grade on the materials.

      Teachers also command the respect of the community. Very different system that in the United States.

      And, let's be honest, sitting in class quietly and not being a distraction while getting your work done is valued in the US system. Which means active children do not do well in that system.
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        Nov 30 2013: Where I have taught, sitting in class quietly is not what teachers are after. Teachers want to hear kids exchanging thoughts about the material.

        One thing I wonder is how much the homogeneity of the student body affects the ease with which they can teach their students in the classroom setting. A look at their demographics shows that only something like 5% of residents were not born in Finland. (Check wikipedia for demographic information) I read today in an interview with an expert from the Finnish educational establishment that their actual pedagogy was developed in the United States. It just seems to work better with their student body and support for teachers.
        • Nov 30 2013: Fritize, when I teach, my classes are not sitting down and quiet and interaction is highly encouraged. However, administrators in my experience want to see students quiet and working. That means the teacher is in control of the class. Or, that is the expected standard. I don't agree with that at all.

          I have learned some about the Finnish system, part of which being it took a long time to get right and they put a lot of emphasis on getting it right. I don't know enough about it to be a resident expert, just that they are doing something right. But likely, that the US could not do the same thing without radical change of thought. It does help that their population is pretty homogenous.

          It is tough to teach in a class and education area where failure can mean everything from an F to a C- to an A- based on background. At my current school, we have been discussing the idea of "asian fail" and its impacts on student stress.

          I would actually love to learn more about the Finnish system and how they actually run things in the classroom. That would interest me far more than just the general outcomes and overall impressions. I find, like most systems, that the reality in the classroom and the perception in the outside world are often different.
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        Nov 30 2013: Where I taught administrators would much prefer to see kids visibly engaged than quietly working. Maybe it was different where you taught.

        I taught in an ordinary urban district.
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        Nov 30 2013: The idea of "sitting still" and being a passive learner maybe dates back to the time when compliant cog-in-a-machine factory-line workers were needed to be trained up - not really that relevant in today's world. I didn't realise that "fear of litigation from parents" was an issue; in which case it is not surprising teachers practice "defensive teaching" with measurable outputs.
        • Nov 30 2013: I worked with one teacher who kept up to date on the litigation issue, especially in special education. At the time, there was a monthly update that was published just on lawsuits and court opinion in education and education law specifically special education. Of which, ADD and ADHD qualify.

          Sitting still may be a bit excessive but quiet and not disrupting other people was not that far out of line.

          Also, as a male teacher in a building, I was often told how kids that were very active, read boys, were probably ADHD and definitely disruptive. The good teachers harnessed that energy and did something with it. Others, well, some boys did not fair as well in certain classes. And yes, some principals just don't want to see the boys in the office. I have also heard comments that essentially said that certain boys need to act more quietly and passively, meaning act like girls, in the classes.

          I will reiterate that I have also seen kids who are definitely ADHD. Medication for them, once it was sorted out, did wonders. They went from extremely distracted to focused in their life. Do I agree with medication though? No, I have never been a big fan. And yes, I do believe that ADHD is a convenient diagnosis. Especially when I hear reports about districts with high average IQ's and high performing kids with high levels of ADHD diagnosis. Essentially, if my kid is not above average there must be something wrong.

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