Jun 4, 2007

Your kid's not dyslexic, he's just dumb

Julian Elliott stirs up trouble in the UK after he claims that dyslexia "has become a social fig leaf for middle-class parents who do not want their children to be considered lazy, thick or stupid."

James Panton sees his point.
Today, a broad range of social and educational problems is understood in pseudo-medical terms. Over the past few years, along with a phenomenal rise in the number of children and young people labelled dyslexic, we’ve also seen more children diagnosed as suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Just as dyslexia has been expanded to include a host of learning difficulties, so ADHD now describes all sorts of children, from those who exhibit severe hyperactivity symptoms to those who simply won’t sit still.

Finding pseudo-scientific solutions to the very many problems that afflict the education sector is now all the rage. Last year, it was reported that the British government was considering giving omega-3 and omega-6 oil supplements to schoolchildren in an effort to improve their behaviour (10). A few months ago, it was suggested that teenagers’ capacity to concentrate in class might be improved if the school day were started later because teens have biologically programmed sleep patterns that are different to those of adults (11). The scientific substance of both proposals may, or may not, be sound. But come on - problems with behaviour and concentration in schools are not a product of children failing to eat enough tuna at lunchtime or needing to have a nap in the afternoon, and to argue so is to overlook the various ways in which the education system could be improved across the board.

My son was "diagnosed" with ADD by a school nurse who told me she'd send him to a "special school" if I didn't get him put on Ritalin. I did, despite the protestations of his pediatrician who suggested that my son's condition could be miraculously cured if he stopped clowning around in class and started doing his homework.

My son hated the pills, which did not cause him to stop clowning around in class or start doing his homework, and thus began another saga with the school nurse who had been in charge of giving him his pill each day at noon. But since my son hated taking the pills, he stopped showing up at her office, which led the school nurse to call me every day at noon when he didn't show up. I suggested that since I was 10 miles away at work and she was in the same building as my son, she could get him out of class and give him the pills. She was not amused. Then I suggested that if his attention was disordered enough that he needed the pills perhaps she, the adult who did not have ADD, should be the one who sought him out to give him the pills. Again, she didn't bite.

This went on for a couple of weeks until I decided to take him off of the pills, which he wasn't taking anyway since he wasn't showing up at the nurse's office at the prescribed time. The school nurse then said she couldn't do that without a doctor's written orders. Further, the nurse said, if I didn't get him a full neurological and psychological work up proving that he didn't need the pills she would report me to the police for possessing a controlled, dangerous substance and intimated that my son and I were in the business of selling the Ritalin.

He saw a therapist who suggested my son stopped clowning around in class and start doing his homework. A neurologist was consulted and various tests were performed to uncover any neurological deficit; there were none. The neurologist suggested that my son stop clowning around in class and start doing his homework.

Thus my son's diagnosis and treatment for ADD ended. I wish I could say that thereafter he stopped clowning around in class and started doing his homework. Maybe he's dyslexic?

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