by

December 2, 2022

 

Description of a Child

Nahla is a 10th-grade student at a transfer high school in NYC. She recently transferred from a selective middle/high school where she had missed more than 100 days of school. Parents and teachers report a high level of school anxiety despite strong grades and test scores in elementary school and strong contributions when present in school.

Focusing questions:

How can we help her to develop confidence and to attain necessary skills and work habits that would allow her to engage at the high intellectual level she is capable of?

How can we help her focus her passion for social justice in ways that help her more constructively engage her peers and engage sincerely and patiently with alternate viewpoints?

Physical Presence and Gesture

Nahla tends to be very quiet and seems determined to take up as little physical space as possible wherever she goes. She rarely smiles and has a serious expression most of the time. Sometimes she can seem deeply concentrated on her work or what’s going on in class, while other times her attention seems to drift away. At these times, she can droop in her chair and might be looking out the window. However, when classes are discussion-centered and her interest is stimulated, she can speak in an animated and decisive tone in the discussion. When she does speak, it is usually because she feels strongly and she will be quite firm in her statements. Her physical presence and affect in these moments is a marked contrast to her usual posture, which is one that appears shy.

Relationships with Children and Adults

Nahla is extremely well-behaved and polite with adults, but she can be difficult to draw out. Her main infractions revolve around lateness or absences and she can become quite distressed and avoidant when it is raised with her. She has a strong desire to please adults and is upset when she feels that she is not doing so. She is unlikely to seek out help on her own, but will often respond warmly to offers of help.

She sticks to a very close peer group of about three friends. She seems to have thriving and close relationships with those friends and they appear to be a valuable source of support. She is generally liked by other students, but does not form close relationships with them. She is quick to offer support or praise to classmates. However, she is equally quick to offer sharp disagreements and sometimes students feel that they are being judged by her.

Activities and Interests

Since arriving at the school, Nahla has taken up an interest in darkroom photography. She has registered for two classes and she spends a lot of time during breaks and after school in the darkroom. She is also interested in social justice issues and frequently participates in protests. She is often sharing information about social issues in class. She has also expressed an interest in filmmaking and served as the director for the film for one of the school’s mini-units. She is a strong writer, but expresses a lot of anxiety about writing and will often hand in assignments late due to writer’s block.

Formal Learning

Nahla has extremely strong verbal and written skills with an impressive vocabulary for her age. She reads widely and ambitiously. She thinks critically and likes to engage in intellectual debate. However, she can have difficulty seeing a problem from multiple perspectives or acknowledging the merit of opposing viewpoints. She struggles to extend her writing despite strong ideas. English and Social Studies classes are her favorites and she does very well in them. After some initial difficulty in Math, she is doing well now that she has added a Math lab. She works diligently and enjoys working on proofs. Science remains her weakest subject and she often struggles with lab procedures. She has difficulty following complex instructions and often becomes confused at directions, particularly when orally delivered. She was recently diagnosed with ADHD and her difficulties with executive functioning tasks and processing speed are apparent. These challenges can make it harder for her to engage in the high level intellectual tasks she gravitates towards and this can be frustrating for her.


Credit for the Featured Image: MedicalNewsToday


Breaking the Stigma surrounding ADHD

Majority of parents want their children to succeed and grow in other aspects of life, but for some that doesn’t come easy. Many blame their children’s bad grades on them not paying attention in class, studying hard enough for a test or failing to complete their assignments (Frank). What most don’t realize is that all of these negatives happenings in their child’s schooling could ultimately be a result of ADHD.

The reason a stigma exists for ADHD is because many view it as an excuse for laziness and getting extra attention. Since school will come as a challenge to those suffering, many individuals will base the child’s grades on their worth. Many are ashamed of taking medication and seeking help, but I feel it’s important to not be ashamed, since you can’t control it. It’s important to remind those suffering that it is possible to succeed and that you can’t give up because then you’re letting your weaknesses win you over (Mueller). 

It’s better to embrace your illness than being ashamed of it, since it doesn’t identify your true self (Sherman). According to Dr. Stephen Hinshw, ADHD is more common in males, so when young women are diagnosed many view them as having severe issues. As an individual who suffers from ADHD, I don’t view myself any differently from my classmates, but that I just need a little more assistance when it comes to school.

https://childmind.org/article/stigma-girls-and-adhd/

Frank, Michelle. “ADHD: The Facts.” ADDA – Attention Deficit Disorder Association, 24 July 2020, add.org/adhd-facts/.

Mueller, Anna K, et al. “Stigma in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, Springer Vienna, Sept. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3430836/.

Sherman, Carl, and Carl Sherman. “Coping With the Stigma of ADHD.” ADDitude, 29 Oct. 2020, www.additudemag.com/overcoming-adhd-stigma/


I Just Remembered, I Have ADHD

So needless to say I am writing this from home, as everyone because of your friendly neighborhood corona virus. And honestly I gotta say, I’d rather be in school. My friends are there, it gives me something to do all day, classwork is better than homework, and its just easier to focus. Not that I was all that focused anyways. But so yeah I have ADHD and needless to say this more independently focused style of living has not been kind to my people.

Fortunately someone named Katelyn Boden is a pro at working with her ADHD and used everyone’s favorite distraction (twitter) to offer advice based on her experience. Tip #1 obviously being Take your meds. https://www.additudemag.com/working-from-home-adhd/ Amongst other advice the most useful tip was to stay put at your work station until all your work is done. This is easier said than done,but it does make finishing everything easier.

Another unfocused wanderer wrote about their experience, and it’s pretty similar to mine. They had transcended time into an eternal state of checking their phone, walking about the house for a bit, checking their phone, and realizing they had gotten none of their work done. To help fix this they created a group schedule with their nephew who was also ADHD. I found out I have this really hand app on my phone called calendar. I started it using it to make a schedule, and by golly it helps tremendously. So yeah, being cooped up with no direction is fun, especially when you cant pay attention or sit still. https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-brain-quarantine/


ADHD and Your Brain

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The American Psychiatric Association defines ADHD as one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, resulting from a deficiency of the neurotransmitters known as norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. According to Larry Silver, M.D. in ADHD Neuroscience 101, “ADHD seems to involve impaired neurotransmitter activity in four functional regions of the brain: frontal cortex, limbic system, basal ganglia, [and] reticular activating system”. ADHD is hard to pinpoint to one region of the brain, as “these four regions interact with one another, so a deficiency in one region may cause a problem in one or more of the other regions”.

This “four way partnership” is what makes medically treating ADHD so hard, as medications (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Vyvanse) in production right now focus on raising the levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine primarily in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain “associated with attention, decision-making and an individual’s expression of personality”(University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Study Reveals How ADHD Drugs Work in Brain”). For many people diagnosed with ADHD, the problem may lie within any of the other three regions of the brain, making these medications somewhat useless. This lack of understanding of how ADHD medications work is detrimental to our growing population, as many people in our society have been diagnosed with ADHD.

The American Psychiatric Association estimates that “5% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD”. ADHD is especially hard for children as there are a multitude of stimuli occurring in their everyday lives. These constant stimuli paired with ADHD often lead to disruption in class and problems with everyday tasks like doing laundry, putting things away, or finishing errands.


Diagnosing ADHD

A 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) found that 8.4% of children in the United States have a current diagnosis of ADHD. Based on this research, a survey was conducted in February of 2018 on 69 people ages 13 to 24 by the writer where 16.4% reported that they had been diagnosed with ADHD. The NSCH also found that 13.3% of boys and 5.6% of girls were diagnosed with ADHD. The eleven participants in the writer’s survey who were diagnosed with ADHD had a gender makeup of 63.6% male and 36.4% female, with 11.8% of the overall female population being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and 21.2% of the overall male population being diagnosed. These gender statistics are on par with national ADHD statistics, as according to CHADD: The National Resource on ADHD, “Boys continue to be more than twice as likely than girls to have current ADHD”. This could very well be due to the difference in symptoms shown by the opposite sexes.

According to Healthline, “Boys and girls can display very different ADHD symptoms, and boys are much more likely to be diagnosed with the attention disorder”. While boys tend to show more external symptoms of impulsivity, physical aggression, and hyperactivity, girls show more internal, less obvious signs that are “often easy to overlook because it’s not ‘typical’ ADHD behavior”. These behaviors include social withdrawal, anxiety, attention impairment, a tendency to daydream, and verbal aggression. Just as many girls may have ADHD as boys do, but their less obvious, atypical symptoms may cause them to continue to be undiagnosed.

While the differing in symptoms of ADHD in boys and girls may make it harder to diagnose in females, age plays an important role in the diagnosis of this disorder as well. 54.6% of the surveyed population with ADHD were diagnosed between the ages of six and twelve. 45.4% were diagnosed between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. None of those surveyed were diagnosed at or under the age of five. Children with ADHD are rarely diagnosed between the ages of four and five, as it is difficult to tell whether the symptoms they are expressing are signs of ADHD or merely just natural child behavior. According to pediatrician at Hillcrest Pediatrics and medical director of Intermountain Medical Group of the Central Salt Lake region, Dr. Neil Davis, “It is possible for kids to have that diagnosis [of ADHD] early, four years old, but that’s rare. Most four year olds are hyperactive and inattentive, So, being able to tease out that difference at age four is quite difficult”. This explains why the diagnoses of ADHD in this survey were all made after the age of five.
Photo by ming1967


Stephen Tonti on ADHD

Stephen Tonti, a Senior Directing major at Carnegie Mellon, started off his 2013 TED Talk with what he is: a director; however, he goes on to say that he’s also a “writer, an actor, a drummer, scuba diver, soccer player, camera operator, airbrush artist, physicist, stargazer, rock climber, snowboarder, model maker, stage manager, camp counselor, a PA, a DJ, a club president, a magician, and for a brief stint in May of 2012, was called upon to repair two stopwatches which had stopped working”. This list of things that Tonti sees himself as is a perfect example of someone growing up with ADHD. As a kid, Tonti tried everything from poetry to comedy, rock climbing to poker, camping to music, and every sport offered at his school.

Tonti says, “ADHD is misunderstood as an inability to focus, but it’s much stranger than that. It’s not a lack of focus period. It’s that I have a hard time selecting something and giving it my full attention”. Hence, his trying of everything under the sun. There’s a ‘silver lining’ to ADHD, as once something does grab the attention of someone with ADHD, they’re able to hyperfocus. But even this hyperfocus can cause issues. Only being able to hyperfocus means that those with ADHD have a hard time completing tasks that don’t excite them, meaning rudimentary, everyday tasks may not get done. Tonti points out this flaw, as “we live in a world where you have to read your textbooks and pay your taxes”. He also points out the upside of hyperfocusing, as he can “spend upwards of twelve hours in a row editing clips… pull fifteen hour days for weeks weeks on end [before a show]…read a five hundred page novel that I love must faster than a one page article that I don’t care for”. He says it’s easier for him to see the big picture.

Since he was compelled to try everything as a kid, he was able to “explore all the possible career paths I might not have and might not have discovered what I truly want to do”. His ADHD allowed him to try different things and pursue the ones he truly loves. For him, that’s theatre and directing.

“ADHD is simply a difference in cognition, not a disorder”, Tonti says. “We are attention different, not attention deficit.” He doesn’t believe that it’s something that needs fixing, as many people-teachers, parents, physicians- think it does. That being said, he grew up with teachers and parents who allowed him to embrace his ADHD and express himself in ways the he “felt necessary”. This isn’t the case for many kids around the country. Many children with ADHD are written off as disruptive and loud. Their teachers aren’t willing to give them extra time on assignments and work with them, causing them to fall behind. Their lashing out or withdrawal from activities due to their medication is merely noted, but never brought up. Many of their environments become toxic.

Tonti believes that “we need a healthier understanding of people with ADHD, and it starts at home”. His parents supported his obsessions, took care of him through his withdrawals from medication, and allowed him to explore. Many parents don’t do that. They expect their kids to be interested in one or two things, don’t allow them to try out for a different sport, go to a dance class, design t shirts, or try out for the school play. Many kids get caught in the status quo. This then extends into schools.

“Schools need to develop a better attitude toward students with ADHD as well”, Tonti urges. Learning differently requires teaching differently. Tonti believes the solution to be in how professors and teachers act: “Professors who act more as mentors as opposed to disciplinarians inspire me. When teachers level with me, I feel like I’m more in control”. This level playing field could be the answer for many kids with ADHD.

Tonti also urges for us to “create and develop a healthier relationship with medication”. Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta, three of the most prescribed amphetamines for ADHD are controlled substances with many effects. Tonti believes that they should only be prescribed to those who can “physically handle the effects of these drugs and their withdrawal. Twelve is far too young..There are so many alternatives to medication”.

Tonti explains that many people use ticks to help them complete tasks, like chewing pencils. “Give them rubber coated pencils!” One of the biggest points he makes is teaching kids how to teach themselves. This may be the most important piece of the puzzle. Without self motivation, kids with ADHD won’t know how to accomplish tasks. Self motivation is the key to being successful and coping with difficult problems, especially when you have ADHD. Learning how to get yourself through something that you really don’t want to do is pretty essential for surviving in our world today.

Lastly, Tonti makes the point that “our society has to embrace cognitive diversity”, quoting Shakespeare’s Sonnet 121. “Let society conform to me,” he says, and urges others to do the same. He’s saying to be yourself and have society accept you for who you are. Don’t let them disregard you as something they think you are.

Tonti closes his talk with a quote from Robin Williams, “a poster child for us in the ADHD community”: “We are all only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it”.
Photo by Abode of Chaos


Survey on ADHD…

Hello! For my research paper for AP Lang, I am conducting a survey. Please click here to take it. Everything is completely anonymous! Thank you!


Learning Disabilities in Schools

Are schools doing enough to accommodate students with learning disabilities?

The majority of the time, learning disabilities are hereditary, so a student cannot control or change the fact they have trouble learning in specific ways. But are schools doing enough to help them be their best? Many sources have suggested that a lot of educators see children with undiagnosed learn disabilities as naughty because they have a harder time following guidelines. Because of this, teachers tend to punish these children for not following directions or for disrupting class. The best way to help a child and see if they do indeed have some type of learning disability is to observe them over time, over the period of a couple weeks rather than one or two instances where they are having trouble in school.

The most common types of learning disabilities are dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and the ability to process deficits. Dyslexia is seen the most in schools, and is a disability in which a person has trouble reading. ADHD is also very common, but has also been disputed whether it is actually a learning disability. Whether the answer is yes or no, it does tend to impede learning ability. This disability is where someone has an overactive mental capacity, finding it difficult to pay attention and stay on task. However, this disability can be treated with medication to help students focus more. Dyscalculia and dysgraphia are two that are not as widely discussed, but are still in the top five most common disabilities. Dyscalculia is the inability of a person to perform mathematical tasks, which can range from simply being unable to order numbers correctly or being unable to problem solve. Dysgraphia is more of a physical disability causing a student to be unable to write and have trouble writing. The fifth and final most common is the ability to process deficits, which means they have difficulty processing data and facts in numbers.

This epidemic requires by law that schools have programs for children with learning disabilities. Through tests to determine a students disability, they can then be placed in an IEP (Individualized Education Program). These programs are usually specialized to cater the needs of each child’s disability. If these programs are up to the standard so that each child is able to excel at school, then the school is doing all that they can to help the student. A large part of their success also lies within the parents putting in the quality time to help their child with school work at home and in his everyday life.


Is Attentiveness Worth the Risk?

When I first started looking for a topic to research, I had a hard time finding an issue that I did not already have a strong feeling about and would allow me to be objective when researching sources. Instead of looking for topics that I was unfamiliar with, and therefore would have no bias towards, I chose to research the whether the effects of  the medications used to treat adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder were helpful or harmful. I chose to research this question because I have struggled with ADHD my whole life and have been prescribed a multitude of different medications to attempt to treat it. Each of these drugs affected me in different ways, both positive and negative, so I have mixed feelings about their use.

While gathering articles for my research, my focus was to find sources that discussed diverse points of view, as well as multiple arguments for both sides of the issue. I found an array of articles and studies, some of which introduced effects and benefits of these drugs which I had never previously considered or been aware of.

Because I personally feel that Adderall, the medication that I take for my ADHD, manages my symptoms quite well, which is also shown by participants in numerous studies that I read towards the beginning of my research, I was starting to lean towards the side that favored prescribing these drugs. One very recent article that I found on www.thefix.com , however, caused me to rethink the long-term side effects of these drugs when I read that one of these stimulants, Ritalin, “has the potential for causing long-lasting changes in brain cell structure and function.” This startled me, as I had never considered the negative effects that these medications could have on the physical brains of adolescents. This article also discussed the short-term side effects that come with taking many of these medications such as weight loss, irritability, shaking, and heart palpitations, all of which I have personally experienced while taking one of these stimulants. This made me weigh the benefits and consequences of these drugs more closely than I have before, ultimately leading to a change in my stance on this argument. I am now arguing that the harmful effects of ADHD and ADD medications outweigh the positive ones.

Another article that I found thought provoking and logically sound was one that discussed a much less costly option to manage ADHD and ADD symptoms than medication: Behavior therapy. This article from http://sks.sirs.com made me aware of the financial and medical benefits of behavior therapy for adolescents, which is something that is unfortunately not widely available due to so many children being prescribed drugs as a first resort. When I first began researching arguments for this topic, the financial aspect associated with these medications somehow did not occur to me. I now believe that it is in the best interest of both adolescents and their families to at least attempt to incorporate behavioral therapy into the child’s routine from both a financial and physical position.

Works Cited

Lavitt, J. (2014, April 14). Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Recovery News | Resources – The Fix. Research Shows Ritalin Causes Long-Term Brain Injury | The Fix. Retrieved December 1, 2016, from http://www.thefix.com/content/research-shows-ritalin-causes-long-term-brain-injury

Reynolds, C. (2016, 05/06). Study finds overmedication for kids with ADHD. Toronto Star Retrieved from http://sks.sirs.com


Helpful or Harmful?

I have chosen to focus my research on whether or not the drugs given to children and adolescents with ADHD and ADD are ultimately helpful or harmful. At this point in my research, I have yet to take a firm position on this topic. Because I have ADHD and have had experience with several of theses medications, I have formed my own opinion on this issue and can see both positive and negative effects of it. One article that I came across described the pros and cons of both methylphenidates such as Ritalin, and amphetamines such as Adderall, and after reading this article I am starting to lean slightly to the side of these drugs having overall harmful effects that outweigh the positive ones. In particular, I feel that the severe heart problems that have been linked to the use of these medications are not worth improved attention and behavior. Just taking these medications for a few years can permanently damage the bodies of the individuals taking them. I would still like to talk to others that take some of these drugs and get their opinions on them because I feel that the people actually experiencing the effects are a more valuable source than research by those with no personal connection.  

https://www.youthvoices.live/tag/adhd/