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The Problem with Boys and Schools
I've been reading a blog called "Why Boys Fail" lately. It's just brilliant, and talks about many of the issues I write about in my column.

My husband is a pediatrician, and one of the things he absolutely hates is ADHD assessments. Often schools all and ask him to assess this child for educational problems or ADD.

One day I got thinking about this issue, and decided to run a query on our database. I searched for a diagnosis that had something to do with ADD, or learning disabilities, and then cross referenced it for the gender and month of birth of the child.

And lo and behold, those most likely to be sent for assessment for learning difficulties were boys born in the fall (in Canada your school year is determined by your birth year). Everybody wanted to medicate all these little boys who were born in November. Meanwhile, hardly any girls born in January or February were ever sent to him.

If ADD and learning disabilities were truly biological, then we would expect an even split across the year. But it's heavily weighted towards the fall, and it's heavily weighted towards boys.

It's schools that are the problem, not the boys.

Now I don't have any sons (except my little peanut in heaven!). But one day my daughters are going to have to find husbands, and it's in nobody's interests to have schools fail boys. Otherwise, what will these boys grow up to be?

Schools need to engage boys (or more parents need to start homeschooling!). But just because we can't control a class full of 25 rambunctious youngsters doesn't mean that we should start labelling the boys as all having something wrong just because a 6-year-old can't sit still.

What about you? Have you had issues with your sons in school? I'd really like to hear about it!

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At 11:08 AM , Blogger Mel said…

Amen Sheila. When we picked up our 4 year old from his last foster home, they were getting ready to take him to be medicated for ADHD..he was not hyperactive he was 4. My birth son as well when he was 5 the school wanted to medicate him as well, why because he had trouble sitting still. Again he is 5, little boys are rambunctious (little girls too LOL), and the expectation that they can just sit is silly. We homeschool now but the reaction to drug a kid for being a kid makes me crazy.


At 3:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I agree that so many boys these days are being over diagnosed. I am on the other end of the problem however. My son is 4 and has a genetic disorder that causes a hormonal imbalance in the brain. I was a preschool Special Education teacher for years before I was a mom, so I know what is normal activity for a preschool boy. My son is so over the top sometimes, but I have been hesitant to get him tested for anything because I don't want to medicate him if I don't have to. I have him on an all natural diet, and I think I am going to have him tested for Sleep apnea, since that can mimic hyperactivity in some kids, before we get him tested for anything else.

Unfortunatly there are some children who truly do have ADHD but they tend to get bunched in with the kids who are diagnosed but don't really have ADHD.



At 4:50 PM , Blogger Tracye said…

This is something that has always bothered me. I taught junior high and high school for five years, and was shocked at the number of kids labeled ADD or ADHD. Many of them, I had absolutely no idea. No problems in class or with work. It would just come up at some point in the year that so-and-so had ADD.

My boy turned two yesterday. He is so much more energetic and rambunctious than his big sister ever thought about being.

It makes me nervous for when he starts school. I'm not going to rush to a doctor for pills because he's active, though. But I do worry a bit about his school years. I'm afraid his teachers won't be able to (or won't want to) tolerate him... of course, he's only two. Who knows what the next three years will bring?


At 8:25 PM , Blogger Julie said…

A couple of disjointed comments...

Many other conditions can "look like" ADD/ADHD. Like Hearing Loss.

I was asked a few times if I thought my middle son might have ADD. (I tried not to roll my eyes!) Well how do you expect him to pay attention and be engaged, if HE CAN'T HEAR YOU? He wears H.A.s, but still uses a lot of visual cues and needs the speaker to be facing him - not the whiteboard, and not to be silhouetted against a window or bright light, and not to mumble, or speak too softly, etc. There are LOTS of reasons kids don't pay attention.

Yes, there are boys and girls who do genuinely have an Attention Disorder... my older son is one of them. After trying MANY other avenues, we have had great success with (very low dose) meds.

As an example, when he was in public school (grade 2) I got a phone call from his teacher one day. It was about an hour and a half into the school-day, and he was not being troublesome or rowdy, but he was unable to get on with his work. I don't think he had gotten his name and date on his paper! We had forgotten his meds that morning.

There is a big difference between (1) having trouble focusing and sustaining attention, (2) being a normal, wiggly, hands-on little kiddo, and (3) being undisciplined and unruly.

Truth be told, my son has fit all three of those categories, from time to time!

I have seen pressure from some public schools to medicate kids... but often for the wrong reasons! As you mentioned, schools are not designed for the needs or realities of little boys, especially!

But another problem is the lack of discipline at home. When my kids were in public school I frequently volunteered in the classroom. To put it mildly, many of the kids don't have good "home training". No wonder the teachers are overwhelmed.

There was a situation with a friend of mine who teaches 2nd grade and a student in her class. The parents complained to the principal about her because:

1) She was "too strict" - she actually expected their son push his chair in (under his desk) every time he got up! (That's a safety issue - keeping the aisles clear... duh.)

2) She required him to finish his morning work before going out to recess. (And this was a child that was fully capable, not one that was trying hard but not quite done.)

3) She "humiliated" their son by making him apologize "in front of the class". When the class was lining up to go out of the room, he pushed his way to the front of the line, and she made him apologize to the kids he shoved.

I know I'm digressing from the topic a bit, but I do have some sympathy for the teachers :0)


At 12:30 AM , Blogger TRS said…

Sorry to go off topic... but you might want to reconsider how you phrase this: t one day my daughters are going to have to find husbands"

Really? They HAVE to? You are sure they are going to get married?
When one of them is 38 and still single is she going to feel like a huge disappointment?

You might be as surprised as my Dad is that his pretty fabulous daughter hasn't found a man who thinks she's as special as he does.


At 6:47 AM , Blogger Tonia said…

I just want to add that just because a person has ADHD doens't mean that they HAVE to be medicated. My husband is ADHD. Thankfully his mother was a special ed teacher and knew the dangers of medicating her child (this was 30+ years ago). She and her husband chose the more difficult path and used structure, and disapline to help him learn to manage his ADHD. They also encouraged him to learn everything he could about everthing he was intrested in. Today he has never been medicated. He is very knowlegable about computers, farming, history, misc trivia, and he can take anything apart and put it back together working better then before. To top it all off he is a great husband and father. Mostly he learned to be a wonderful person because his parents decided that although you have to make adjustements when dealing with ADHD, it did not excuse bad or rude behavior. Hopefully if I ever have to deal with it in my children I will be willing to work as hard as my inlaws.


At 5:00 PM , Blogger pedalpower said…

Well some kids are likely being diagnosed when they shouldn't be. On the other are my thoughts:
Re autumn as a time for referrals: this is so logical. If you truly have ADD it will show up when you are expected to sit in a class room and have sustained attention. Around here that occurs in the fall.
Re not many girls: many girls have ADD but are not diagnosed. Instead of being hyper and disobedient they are considered "space cadets" because they are the dreamers and the ones who are very disorganized.

Our son has ADD (and not hyperactivity). He is one who is very like those girls...he isn't exhibiting behavior problems...he is dreamy, disorganized and his attention span varies from hyper-focus to practically no focus. We are not talking a normal level of those traits...we are talking off the charts, interfere with your life levels. There is a big difference. He could have fallen through the cracks, but we were concerned with why our very intelligent boy was having such trouble in school (in the fall!)

After diagnosis, we did not want to medicate him partly due to the stigma created by the we tried everything else. Our life was already very structured, but we worked hard to supplement that for him. Eventually a year later we finally put him on a low dose of Ritalin, and saw and amazing transformation....and a little boy who was happy and doing well and proud of himself. Just like with other medical problems, medication is not always evil. Let me tell you, once you have made an informed, thought out decision to medicate, it sets you off to hear people generalizing about how awful it is that people are using Ritalin and other meds.

Anyway, he is now grown and training for a career which suits him and his ADD. ADD is a handicap in situations like school, but in many areas of real life a quick thinking ADDer has an edge.


At 6:25 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Just to clarify--

Autumn was the month of birth, not the month of referral.

What I was trying to get at is that the typical child referred for learning disabilities/ADD is a boy who just happens to be among the youngest in his class.

If that's true, the problem is not medical. It's that the school can't adequately deal with little boys!


At 10:36 PM , Blogger Julie said…

And it's also a good argument to let your little boys wait an extra year to start school - public, private, or "formal" homeschooling (or informal... whatever!)


At 1:30 AM , Blogger pedalpower said…

I definitely think waiting an extra year for boys is a good idea...wish I had done that.

Sorry Sheila, I misunderstood what you meant about autumn. I definitely agree that schools could learn to deal with these kids better. Much smaller classes would certainly help. I considered homeschooling, but some of the things at which he excelled were also activities provided by the school and would have been very hard for me to replicate.


At 11:29 PM , Blogger Mrs. Querido said…

This is one of the main reasons we have chosen to homeschool our boys. One because they are extremely bright (this said with as little bias as possible) and require lots of learning challenges otherwise they will get bored. Two, because they are very active, creative and hands-on little boys.

They are disciplined and obedient, but have a lot of energy to expend as well.

I saw what public school did to my very smart sister. She would finish the assignment before anyone else and in a desperate effort to keep her "busy" the teacher would tell her to color in the picture.

This taught her to be lazy in learning. She is so intelligent and such a quick learner, but she can't apply herself. I believe that's what she learned early on. Don't work hard and you can still get by. I don't want my boys to learn lessons like that from school. And one of my kiddos is exactly like my sister in temperament!

So, knowing them the way we do, who better to teach them than us? :)

And my little guys love school! I don't think that they would have the same reaction after being stuck in a box every day....

(This comment is only from my is not meant to criticize or judge any of you who choose to send your kids to a formal school. Homeschooling is what works for us for now. Every one has to find their own groove for their family.)

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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