Why are we seeing more ADHD students in the classroom?

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Since 2003 the percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD has nearly double (APA &CDC). Which leads me to question why there are millions of more children that now have this disease? A few ideas that have been bounced around the academic and medical fields. First, we have more medical knowledge about ADHD and parents are more aware of this knowledge so children are tested and diagnosed earlier. Second, there is an increase of technology and instant input from computers, shopping, entertainment, and much more. This mentality of “I need it now…” might have decreased children’s focus and patience. Third, children may be misdiagnosed because they don’t fit the well behaved model child in the classroom or the home.

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While we don’t have the exact reason for increased ADHD I believe that all three factors have influenced the percentage to double. The first factor is a great benefit to soceity and individuals suffering from ADHD. Students can be diagnosed and receive the proper help at an early age so they are able to deal with and adapt to accomadate their ADHD. There have been many individuals who lead normal lives and preform extremely well in school and their careers thanks to increase knowledge about ADHD.
The second factor has less proof and more observational concerns for all children (whether they have ADHD or not). Living with so much technology is a great blessing and can aid instruction and increase knowledge. But we must be careful to use it appropriately and not replace active, hands-on, authentic experiences for a screen. Children need to be outside playing and exploring, they need to interact with other people, they need to experience learning using their 5 senses.

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The third factor that may be contributing to increased cases of ADHD really scares me… misdiagnoses. Because of the increase awareness of ADHD and the increase of technology and the pressure from society to have “well behaved” children I believe there are children that are being misdiagnosed.  I have seen these children in the classroom who are zombies or who are more hyper when on their meds than off their meds. I see these children who are first labeled as ADHD and then when those meds are not working they are labeled as a behavior disorder. And the most scary thing is I have seen a child, very close to me, sent to the hospital to wear a heart monitor because of insistent parents who did not want to hear that their child was normal and put them on meds anyway.
So, what can we do? First, make sure we are knowledgeable about the disease; ALL of it not just bits and pieces. I believe if we have the knowledge as parents and educators we can help avoid misdiagnoses and help those who really need it. Second, we need to let kids get out and play. Kids are not meant to be cooped up for 6 hours a day with only a 15 minute recess. Think of it… even as adults we have more free time. Kids NEED this free time… and not just in front of a screen. Finally, we need to be advocates for our children. For those who have ADHD and those who do not there are better ways to learn through hands-on engaging activities rather than lectures and worksheets.

by becky cothern

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