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Educational Strategies for Children with ADD

My boyhood buddy, Spook, was a man of many talents. By the age of fifteen, he was famous across west Texas for his talent as a horse trainer. He was a horse whisperer who had a way with both mustangs and Mustangs. Spook was good with horsepower too. I swear he kept my 1947 Plymouth running with a pair of pliers and baling wire.

For all his varied skills, Spook wasn't much good with numbers. One of the reasons we got to be such good friends was that my father helped Spook with his algebra homework almost every night. My buddy was a genius when it came to working with things he could put his hands on, but he could never get either his hands or his mind around concepts like x + y = z.

It frustrated him no end, but I remember my father telling him, "Spook, you aren't stupid or dumb, you just learn differently than the others. And you might even want to be proud of that fact." My father was a wise man. He helped Spook get through algebra, and last I heard, my buddy was working as a county judge.

Children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder whose symptoms are related to neurological problems are not dumb or stupid either. Like Spook, they simply learn in different and unique ways. But they too must find patient and willing teachers who understand their challenges. ADD students learn differently because their brains operate on more limited frequencies. They don't respond well to the regimented approaches typically used in a classroom of mainstream students.

The parents of an ADD child have to be vigilant in monitoring their child's education. Your child will likely have more than thirty different teachers in his school career. It is up to you to make certain that his teachers are aware that ADD presents special challenges but also opportunities for innovative teaching. Most teachers have received some training for dealing with students with ADD, but because teachers generally have to deal with a roomful of young people, they tend to go with what works for the majority of them. The parents of the student must make sure he gets the special attention and assistance he needs to learn.

Because of the challenges students with ADD present to most public school systems, more and more of their parents appear to be turning to homeschooling. In the parent groups I work with, virtually every one who has had a child finish high school advocates homeschooling instead of public school. Not every family has the resources to do this, of course. And not every parent is suited to the role of teacher, especially day in and day out.

But whether you wish to homeschool your child or send him to a public or private school, it is important that you understand how his mind works and the best and most efficient ways he learns. I've found that most children with ADD learn best when family members are involved in their education, whether as teachers or as backup tutors.

Special Needs Vs. the Assembly Line
Most public school teachers will tell you that today they are saddled with having to teach for mandatory progress tests required by school systems. These requirements and the ever-growing number of students in their classrooms have robbed teachers of the little time they once had to give special attention to individuals with special needs. Sadly, children with ADD don't do well at all in assembly-line educational systems. Because they demand extra attention and cause disruptions, they are often seen as threats to quality control by those teachers who are under intense pressure to make on-time delivery of their students to the next stage of the process. I am not being facetious.

A superintendent of schools in a Texas school district set up an elaborate televised teaching system for each classroom. The videotaped curriculum is standardized for high test scores. Teachers serve as little more than monitors.

This mass production approach to education presents an enormous challenge to the ADD child and his parents. Instead of working with children's special needs and teaching to their highest expectations, teachers lower the bar, which further lowers the self-esteem of vulnerable ADD children. These children can learn and thrive, but only if they are taught in a manner suited to their needs.

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From The ADD Answer: How to Help Your Child Now by Frank Lawlis, M.D. Copyright 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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