Dismissing What You Don’t Understand

I learn by observation, example and then by trial and error. Sure I could read directions and try my hand at something but if I had no frame of reference prior to my attempts I would most likely be setting myself up to fail. I need that visual interaction, from start to finish, to create the formula in my head that allows me to be successful in my endeavors.

Not everyone learns like I do. Not everyone comprehends like I do. It all depends on their collection of past references that they can work with. I know that I need to evaluate someone’s learning preferences before I teach them something or I am setting us both up to fail, yet that particular practice seems to be lost on far too many people.

I happened to find myself in a discussion about ADD/ADHD while on my vacation. I have long thought that those diagnoses were just a way to sell more drugs to more people instead of taking the time to understand why a child didn’t care about paying attention in class. I was never diagnosed with ADD/ADHD but I sure used to have trouble paying attention in class and had an enviable amount of energy coursing through my young veins.

The difference between me and several of my classmates was that my mother took a moment, when the teacher first alerted her that I would get easily distracted in class, to ask me why I didn’t want to pay attention. Apparently I looked at my mom with a look that said it should be obvious and then explained to her, in a voice that said it should be obvious, that I didn’t need to be shown a million times how to write the letter “a” or add up 1 + 1. Why should I be punished just because I understood the concept the first time, or had read ahead already because the teacher was being repetitive and I had already absorbed the information they were talking about. My mother rightfully determined that it wasn’t that I had ADD but that I was completely bored by the unchallenging curriculum and simply found alternative information to take in while the teacher was reiterating a lesson I had already grasped.

I was spared the drugs given to other children to slow(dumb) them down to the lowest common denominator and continued to spend my time perusing my own interests once I felt I had already absorbed whatever lesson was being taught that day.

If you are able to look around at your environment and in a split second observe everything and then categorize it by level of importance (to you) why should you be labeled as having a disorder simply because you either a) do it faster than most people, or b) have a different category of importance than most people? “Normal” is relative, ever changing, unreliable as a basis for comparison. Why is that such a hard concept to grasp?

I really don’t think ADD/ADHD actually exist as a disorder. I think the kids who are diagnosed simply have different categories of importance than their parents, teachers or doctors. No one enjoys listening to things that bore them or has much enthusiasm for activities that go against their interests. Someone determined that we had to move from a system where people learned a trade/skill they were inclined to be good at to a system where we all had to assimilate into a narrow-minded preset idea of what necessary information must be retained by every single person regardless of inclinations or predispositions. Then, when almost half the population didn’t immediately succeed there was the rush to judgment instead of a desire to understand why it isn’t working. Blame on the students instead of on the teaching models. That we have been doing the same thing for hundreds of years now and expecting a different result would indicate a strong level of denial in the flawed thinking that created this whole mess.

Oh well, enough of my rant. What are your thoughts? Do you think ADD/ADHD is a real disorder or do you think it’s just a dismissive judgment made on people who think and prioritize differently than others?

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17 thoughts on “Dismissing What You Don’t Understand

  1. You were lucky that your Mother understood you and was on your side.
    I find it strange that the first option given to parents of ‘difficult’ children is often drugs, especially in the USA. While there may be a small percentage of kids who actually do need some sort of medication, I believe the majority do not. It is just ‘easier’ for the teachers and school to make these kids conform.

  2. I could not say whether ADD/ADHD are real disorders, or not, but I agree that it is highly likely that children can often assimilate information much faster than their teacher, or are simply disinterested. I like your different categories of importance theory. We are told by experts that there are many types of intelligence, each as valid as the other. Yet only a few of them are respected in education systems. And yes, children are labelled too quickly and too frequently.Interesting post.

    • Thank you. I think it’s silly that they’ve taken the time to determine there are different types of intelligence but won’t take the time to implement alternate learning structures in all the schools.

  3. I remember having a very similar conversation with my oldest daughter. While she never acted up in class, she would spend large amounts of time doodling or writing stories and such. Like you, she would grasp the lesson immediately and then be forced to sit through the rest of the class. I don’t recall any of the teachers complaining about her doodling, so maybe they realized what was going on, too.

    • Some teachers understand, some just don’t care and some will actively go out of their way to punish kids for doing that. Can’t tell you how many times I got reprimanded for reading a book while waiting for the rest of the class to finish a test. Never understood what was wrong with my behavior.

  4. I am not sure whether ADD/ADHD are real disorders either, but I am sure that the authorities like to label every child who doesn’t behave ‘normally’. I think they think it absolves them of any duty towards those children who don’t fit in.

  5. Definitely an issue – the problem being, of course, that it is much more expensive to have the resources necessary top teach each child at the level they can absorb and in the manner in which they can absorb it. My uncle (father’s brother) had two young daughters. One was advanced and did well, the other had a learning disability (or so they labelled it) – she could not absorb information from the written word. She could read fine and could take a book and read aloud at or above her level but did not comprehend the words. There were no facilities to help her with this and they put her with the developmentally delayed children. That was a horror show as she had an above average intelligence and got very upset. My uncle was an engineer for IBM and after an extensive search realized that there was no curriculum out there to address her needs. So he took her out of school at age 7 and started home schooling. He wrote specialty computer programs to allow her to learn the required curriculum through means other than the written word. He worked at that for years and she was able to rejoin the public school system at about grade 10 – having learned alternate ways to understand the written word. So my uncle worked full time at his job and then came home and spent 5 hours a day teaching his daughter – for 8 years. The last I heard she had done a four year university degree and was working successfully as a Registered Nurse.

    If he had not had the skill set to design an alternate learning program and then do the teaching himself – that young girl would have been lost to the system. But think about the cost that he absorbed of the design and training development. The system could not begin to handle that kind of labor intensive personalized education.

    I suspect that there is a continuum of degree of ADD/ADHD but that medication is abused to make the students easier to deal with. The problem again is simply resources. Medicate them and you require less resources.

    I know there is a problem DBA, I’m just not sure what the answers are. Have a great week!

  6. There is a problem with the parents buying into the fact that their child needs medication. I think there are attention problems, but there are reasons behind them. I get bored and distracted easily if I don’t enjoy the subject. Daydreaming always worked for me.

    • You prioritize the importance of a particular topic of information differently than the generators of school curriculums, if only kids could have access to so many more subjects and create their own path.

  7. Interesting post. I can’t say I know if ADD actually exists or not but I do believe like everyone else here that ppl over medicate kids too quickly. Also agree that different learning styles are just as valid & that the educational system needs to be changed.

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