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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Helping An ADHD Student

12/17/2004

Question:

I have a male student -grade one - whom I truly believe may be ADHD. He has many, all, of the characteristics of students I`ve taught in the past with this diagnosis. He, naturally, often finds himself in trouble in the classroom, cafeteria, playground, etc. mostly from his impulsiveness. He was even almost suspended! He is a sweet child who is always remorseful and honest about his actions. We did meet with his parents ,they are aware of his behaviors, seemingly supportive of me, the child and the rest of our school staff. They want us to try being tougher, paddle, have him run in place, etc. and are very relunctant to have a dr. look at him or diagnose him. His parents said that he wants to be an officer when he grows up and possilbly be part of the "CIA" or other intelligence agency. His Dad said an ADHD diagnosis would render this impossible for him. Is this true? I had never thought of it that way before. I always thought those records were PRIVATE. Anyhow, I understand their concerns; but, as his teacher ,I fear for the academic and social aspects of his life.Any good sights for managing ADHD in the classroom without medicating being part of the solution? We already, of course, have seating arrangements, study carrols, headphones etc. in place in our classroom. Without a 504 or a diagnosis I don`t know how later teachers, and he will cope as he grows and goes onto other grades.

Answer:

A very important but rather complex question!

There are many jobs that require one to reveal current diagnoses and/or medications. For instance, airline pilots are not allowed to take any medications for diagnoses such as depression or ADHD--something many physicians, including myself, strongly question, but it remains the case.

Society still does a lousy job of dealing in a mature and educated manner in some areas when it comes to many medical problems, particularly any to do with neuropsychologic concerns. What is specifically required in some of the areas you ask about I am not sure. In particular, whether or not it will be 15-20 years from now cannot be known.

However, more importantly, if this boy does have ADHD and receives negative repercussions for being who he is, that in no way makes up for the foibles of society. Two wrongs have never made a right that I am aware of.

It appears to me that your instincts are healthy ones and that you should follow them. Continue to encourage his parents that he should get evaluated. If, in fact, this child has neurotransmitter differences that have led to behavioral problems, how can helping "nurture" his self esteem with constant punishment, in the hopes that he has a clean enough slate to be CIA operative, ever be justified? We are not what our titles in later life announce us to be. I know many professionals who have miserable lives because they were never taught about their own true joy and the gifts they could give to the world.

If he is allowed to be the best "him" he is, he is much more likely to do himself, his parents and his community proud.

For more information:

Go to the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Susan Louisa Montauk, MD
Formerly Professor of Family Medicine
University of Cincinnati