Friday, December 20, 2013

What's Wrong With Our Children? Rants and Raves.

At the wonderful age of 58 I became a parent again when we took custody of our almost 5 year old grandson. We noticed some immediate problems such as his inability to watch TV for more than a few minutes. His school had informed us that they believed he had ADHD as well as the possibility that he was slightly mentally retarded. We went to work--really hard work, teaching him to speak properly, proper social interaction with others, nutrition, diet, structure and yes, discipline. In many areas he excelled. We've had our ups and downs, and for about three months worked with an attitude that was diagnosed as ODD. I found that interesting, as I saw it as stretching his boundaries to see how far he could go, and what he could get away with. After six months of good teaching skills (pre-school) he was able to start kindergarten. Although late in the year (December) he was able to participate and with help graduated to first grade. We've come to the conclusion that he does have a minor learning disability, and we're looking for ways to work around that, with it, and keep him on track with the rest of his class.

Now, this brings me back to my original question: "What's wrong with our children today?" The article below states that 11 percent of all school children have been diagnosed with some form of ADHD. The second article, even more scary, states that 1 to 16 percent of school age children have been diagnosed with ODD. WOW! I went through 12 years of basic education, and I don't ever remember a child with ADHD or ODD. We had good kids and bad kids, fights and all the normal things you experience in a school setting--but we never had school shootings or children so angry they wanted to kill. My own children went through 12 years of basic education. I was very involved with the PTA and the school and I don't remember any children that had ADHD or ODD. Once again, good kids, bad kids and normal fights, etcetera.

If you pay close attention to the articles it's apparent that no one really knows what causes ADHD or ODD and they really aren't sure how to treat it, except with drugs. Lots of drugs, that don't help the children academically, and put them on a road for drug use the rest of their life. Some of these drugs have drastic side effects. They can make the children angry. I'm not anti-medication, but I am a true believer that every other available avenue should be explored prior to starting any child on medication. Once the medication is started it's rare that it's ever discontinued and there's really no way to measure the effects on future generations until we get there.

Living this life with a now six year old, I can tell you part of what I think is wrong with our children. First, it's doctor's and mental health practitioners need for an "easy" solution--medication. And second, it's our school system. Our grandson started exhibiting the ODD symptoms at home after about 3 months of first grade. And boy has first grade changed since my day, and even my children's day. He has reading, writing, math, social studies, geography, Spanish (and some even have Chinese), art and history. Excuse me, but WTH? He's six. When we went to school we spent the first year learning the basics--reading, writing, math. We concentrated on learning English, not foreign languages. We didn't have words like "homophone" to learn the meanings of--which by the way I had to look up on line, and when I asked two very intelligent attorneys if they knew what it was their answer was no. If three college educated professionals don't need to know what "homophone" means, then why the heck does a first grader need that? And that's just one of many, many words I've seen at night that blow me away. Useless, and unnecessary. He's diagramming sentences for nouns, verbs, etcetera. Once again, WTH? He can't even really read well at the moment.

We attended a parents meeting with his special education reading teacher who informed us that by the end of the year the goal was for our child to read 105 to 160 words a minute. She asked if we had any questions. I raised my hand and asked--what part does comprehension play in that? The answer shocked me. "Oh, we aren't worrying about comprehension, just being able to read and recognize that many words by the end of the year." I guess I'm stupid, because I really can't comprehend the benefit to a child to be able to read hundreds of words a minute and yet have no comprehension of what the words mean, which means he'll have no true connection to what he's reading and it won't be important enough to remember. He comes home with pages of homework every night. During the winter hours he has little or no time play by the time he finishes his homework, reading and spelling study.

His ODD symptoms stopped when we stopped. We stopped pushing him to be at the top of his class, and accepted the fact that he might have to repeat a grade now or sometime in the future. We started teaching him at home in a different way. We take it slower and we concentrate on comprehension not speed. We're approaching everything at a slower pace. Yes, he still has to keep up at school, but he's learning the basics at home. We found the basis for his anger. It was confusion and frustration. I'm sure if I were thrown into a Quantum Physics class without any basics behind me, I would soon become confused and frustrated, which would eventually lead to anger. If he can't spell homophone or give you the definition, then so what? He's probably never going to need that in the real world.

It's also important to note that his ADHD symptoms would clear up for weeks at a time when he was grasping what was happening around him. Teaching him comprehension of math, words and life has worked wonders for him. He isn't perfect by a long shot, and I'm sure we'll have problems again, but we're laying the groundwork for defusing the anger that is so prevalent in our young people today. We're accepting his anger as long as he's fully aware of what's causing the anger.

My rant and rave is really focused on the mental health and medical profession that diagnoses these children and places them on heavy medications without really trying to look for an alternative. I'm sure there are children out there who really have true ADHD and may even have ODD although I'm still on the fence on that one. And I know how frustrated we as parents can become when we simply can't understand what's wrong with our children and how to help them. I know what it feels like to reach the end of my rope. The bottom line for me was finding answers to complicated issues without masking them. And before you think I haven't been there--well, my grandson sent me in the hospital twice (bear in mind he's six) by kicking me hard enough to crack a rib. He's put his foot through our living room wall. We've had to restrain him to keep him from hurting us or himself. We've been there. We've tried all forms of punishment, and nothing worked until we backed up and decided to try a different route. We would accept his anger and give him a healthy way to express it as long as he understood where it was coming from. We have pop sickle sticks for him to break and a punching bag to really get it all out.

I think it's time the government took a good long look at medications prescribed for children as well as what's in the vaccines babies are given today. It's time for the school systems to look at just how much they're trying to force into small children's brains and perhaps back up and teach the basics first, and when a child has a full grasp of the basics then add things like Spanish, history and geography. Children would have a much easier time in 4th, 5th, 6th and high school years if the first three years concentrated on basics and comprehension. And perhaps we wouldn't have so many angry children.

Rant over!

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