I’d like to make a few short comments about recent topics regarding ADHD. Now, this is a very large subject. A full discussion of ADHD is way beyond the scope of my short blog posts. Let’s just examine some new data.
First there has been noted a significant correlation between diagnosis of ADHD at younger age. In a given grade cohort, statistically, younger children tend to be diagnosed as ADHD more frequently. So this begs the question with a given child–is it a learning disorder or just immaturity? Another important observation is the association of anxiety and ADHD–we note that some children diagnosed ADHD are actually suffering from anxiety and still others have elements of both. And the treatment approach for each of these differs. So my point is (as usual) that every troubled, ill mannered, or immature little chooch in class is not necessarily an immediate candidate for medication. I always try and take the long view in these situations and consider all of the many possibilities before turning to medication.
Another important consideration that we are beginning to see is the relationship between physical activity and academic achievement for children with ADHD. Actually, according to the Institute of Medicine, this is true for children generally. And this doesn’t even get into the issue of obesity and general conditioning. Nevertheless, the trend f0r school funding of physical education is down, not up. Similarly for art and music classes. Now, a recent Harvard study has debunked some of the claims about art/music study and improved basic skills. But that same study went out of its way to emphasize that it was not advocating any specific cuts in non-core curriculum areas but quite the opposite: it was their opinion generally that art/music study itself brought real value to students and the greater society. Without it, as Glenn Holland–the reluctant but beloved music teacher played by Richard Dreyfus in 1995’s “Mr. Holland’s Opus” said, “pretty soon there won’t be anything for these kids to read and write about.”
Keeping these courses available to help kids with ADHD, and students generally, to succeed is so important and it is certainly not free. Therefore it falls onto us citizens to commit to the program and that means we have to pay for it. As a pediatrician, a child advocate, I say a broad based education for every child is our first duty as a society. I think about that every time I hear politicians arguing about “bloated education budgets.” Lean and efficient–yes. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I encourage you all to keep it in mind as well.
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