Month: November 2012

ADHD: The Trouble With Boredom

When was the last time your kid came home and said, “Mom, guess what, I got a really cool worksheet today!!!”

My guess is it has not happened to date.    Frankly, the worksheets that I see (and I see tons of them) can be pretty dreadful stuff.  Kids get multiple worksheets over the course of a day, many over a week.

No one enjoys boredom, but for about 50% of the population,  they tough it out and tolerate the boredom.  For these kids who manage who manage the boredom, you may hear something like this,  “Ugh, not another worksheet.  I can’t stand doing worksheets, but I have to do it or else the teacher will give it to me for homework and then my parents will be all over me.”  These kids meet their boredom squarely and complete the task.

This is not so easy for the ADD/ADHD style kids.

For them, the boredom is almost intolerable and they literally can’t stand it.  Inside their head is a different voice.  You may hear something like,  “No!!!!!!!!  Not another worksheet!!!  I didn’t finish the other one!  Now there’s one more to finish.  No way…I’m not doing it!”

Both groups find the worksheets boring and unpleasant, but the ADD style kids are jumping out of their skin.  The boredom is overwhelming.  When they are punished for it by having to stay in during recess or to take it home and do it for homework, this only compounds their sense2 of frustration and leads to an undercurrent of anger.

Understanding ADD/ADHD as someone who has difficulty coping with boredom is a somewhat different spin on the syndrome, but one that I think makes sense.  I know that when I explain it to parents in these terms, the difficulty managing boredom is something they get immediately and see with their child.

Is there an answer to this?  It’s never easy and issues are always complex, but if your child is getting too many of these worksheets, it is good to speak up.  Try and track how many the child gets over the course of the week.  If it is getting out of hand and there are too many of them, by all means raise the concern with the child’s teacher(s).  If that isn’t satisfying, you may need to talk about it with the principal.

Takeaway Point

No one likes boring tasks.  Some can tolerate boring tasks better than others.  You have to know which type your child is, to try and take an appropriate action.


Dyslexia: The Misnomer

dys·lex·i·a [dis-lek-see-uh] noun Pathology .

Any of various reading disorders associated with impairment of the ability to interpret spatial relationships or to integrate auditory and visual information.

Much of my professional life is spent trying to explain dyslexia to parents.   It is hard to shake the hypnotic messages that have been hardwired into their belief system – you know the usual ones about “upside down and backward reading.”

I spend much of the time showing examples of how the reading process breaks down.

“Dyslexia is a reading disability,” I will start to explain, “But to call it a reading disability is really not accurate.  In some ways it's a misnomer.” 

At this point the parents start looking at me like I have completely lost them.

“No, dyslexia really isn’t a reading problem,” I continue.   “It’s a reading, spelling and writing problem.  You see, 99.99% of the time when a child has a reading disability (dyslexia) he has the package deal.  It is never as simple as a reading problem.  Even if the child can spell well on the spelling test there are always spelling and writing problems that go along with the reading issues.” 

Open ended writing is particularly rough for dyslexic style children (and adults).  There are too many interacting variables pressing in on the already compromised active working memory.  Asking a child to “just write about what you feel” relative to any situation  or experience (e.g.., summer vacation) is a painstaking and laborious process.  In many ways “open-ended writing” needs to be avoided altogether until the child has mastered how to write basic sentences.

The importance of emphasizing the “reading, spelling, writing” aspect of dyslexia is to understand that even if the reading is improved through sensible remediation, there is still a lot of heavy lifting to do.

 Targeting spelling with structured approaches and focusing on writing with very specific scaffolded methods, with one skill being taught followed by the next is the next phase after the reading is improved.

Takeaway Point

Dyslexia is more than you think it is – it is always a reading, spelling and writing problem.

Watching Movies

When I listen to kids and parents talk about things that go on, there are times when I find myself feeling   a bit cranky about what I am told.

Here’s one story told me lately that increased my cranky meter.

A kid in high school kid told me about an assignment he was resisting completing.  As he explained, the assignment had to do with The Crucible, which just happened to be one of my favorite plays.  What made me cranky was not his resistance,  which I understood, it was the fact that there was no reading of the play in English class.  From what he described there was no dissecting of the script and little class discussion.  No, the class spent probably about a week watching the movie, followed by the drawing a picture about it.  It doesn’t seem very meaty to me.

The same child had just spent a week or so in a history class watching a movie, “The Patriot,” on the Revolutionary War.  Again, no reading –  just watch the movie and answer a few questions about it.  So, if you add it up, the class movie watching activities probably represented about two weeks of class time.

Is that teaching?  

I get multimedia, but It strikes me as missed opportunity for real analysis and thought provoking discussion, not to mention a missed opportunity for giving the  kids the experience of reading, something they don’t do very often on their own.

As schools limp to the finish line in middle June , I understand watching movies in class (sort of), but in October not even done the first quarter, it seems a bit premature for this type of thing, no?

What’s your view?


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