I’m deeply concerned by the amount of children who are diagnosed as having a ‘problem’: ADHD, autism, dyslexia, even ‘gifted’ (hoogbegaafd in Dutch). It is a good thing that there is greater interest in the fact that every child is ‘unique’ and deserves its own learning trajectory. But diagnosing 10-25% of children with a “problem” is deeply worrying, especially if children receive medication like Ritalin to make them perform better at school – e.g. be more calm, quiet and concentrated during lessons.
I am convinced we should not look at the problems children have (they might even start to believe that they are a ‘problem child’), but instead look at all their possibilities – and facilitate them in getting more out of themselves than they ever imagined.
[box] A cousin of a friend of mine has always had an amazing talent for drawing. She could visualize all her thoughts and express herself in a fantastic way. She is what you may call a ‘visual thinker’ (‘beelddenker’ in Dutch). However, the moment she went to school, problems started. She was not allowed to make drawings anymore for more than 10 minutes a day. Her pencils were taken away and she had to write words instead. She transformed from being a happy child into a ‘problem child’. Now at age 11 she is taking Ritalin and her parents say that her school results are improving: she is now more calm and concentrated. Which is also why her parents are supportive of using Ritalin: her school results improve, which is “in her best interest”.[/box]
This example makes me so mad, sad and frustrated. We are even prepared to use medication to put children into our standardized system. While the unique talents of this child could be of great value: people who are able to express their thoughts in visuals instead of words are much more valuable in today’s visually oriented society. But simply because we have no standardized means to assess these qualities, we try to limit them and instead develop other skills – which are not her natural ones.
I have also heard that the long term effect of Ritalin has proven to be in the same destructive category as Prozac. If you have backing (or countering) material, I’d love to receive it.
I have also heard that ‘problem’ children have proven to be behaving and performing x% worse than ‘normal’ children, and y% worse than ‘gifted’ children. Even when the labels were switched (the ‘gifted’ became ‘problem’), this effect was measured. If you have backing material for these, I’d also love to receive them.
In the past months, parents have shared very many of such stories with me. Please share yours underneath the blog post on this subject.