Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is it always ADHD?

Recently I listened to two groups of adults.  The first group were educators and the second group were parents (I fully understand that these educators are parents and that the parents are teachers in their own way).

I listened to the educators discuss a student that was struggling in the classroom and has struggled for multiple years.  One word surfaced over and over...FOCUS.  The common phrase was, "If they could focus..."

I sat back and listened and I wondered.  Is this an issue at home or just school?  Is the student engaged in the lesson?  Is the student bored?  Is the student attention-deficit?

I wanted to listen first and then brainstorm solutions.  As I listened I discovered the student is acting out more and more.  The student is falling behind academically.  The student doesn't appear as happy as they once were.  All these things bother me deeply.

My next conversation was with a group of parents.  In this particular situation none of the parents were "the parent" to the child previously discussed.  As I sat down with the parents I asked a simple question, "What can be done to improve Warner?"  The responses were very positive.  Parents commented that they were very satisfied with the safety, the education and the communication.  I did receive one suggestion about improving report cards, but then a parent spoke up and said, "I hear some people say that any child that is bad must be ADHD."  I sat back and processed this.  I thought about the context of those conversations and I didn't want to overreact but I also didn't want to completely blow it off.

What I then said to the group of parents is that "bad" behavior is a management issue, but ADHD is a medical issue.  I went on to say this:

When students struggle in the classroom we as educators try our best to figure out why.  We want to know if it is a learning issue, an understanding issue, an eyesight issue, a hearing issue or is the child unable to control themselves.  As educators we truly want to rule out as many things as possible.  The one issue that continues to come up is the ability to control themselves.  We have forms that parents and teachers complete to get a better handle of things, but even after all that some parents will say, "I'm not giving my kid medicine!"  What you will immediately hear from me is, "I'm not a doctor, I'm not ever going to tell you to medicate.  I leave that to the pediatricians."  What I do tell parents is that a classroom focus issue can be helped with an improved diet, but more importantly I ask the question, "How does your child sleep?"

So often I'm told that children do not sleep well or still sleep in their parents beds.  This is a big issue. Studies have shown that poor sleep can cause learning issues and can appear to look like attention-deficit disorder. I've been surprised at how many students do not get a good nights sleep.

Going back to the title of the post, Is it always ADHD?  My answer is a resounding NO!  I strongly encourage parents and educators to look at sleep, diet and exercise.  These three components can make a huge difference in the success of a child.

Please understand that I'm all about finding solutions.  If you exhaust your efforts, I strongly encourage you to sit down with your child's pediatrician.

Please check out the articles below for more insight.

Articles Worth Reading:

Sleep Problems linked to Attention-Deficit Disorder

Sleep Problems can cause Learning Problems

Brain scans reveal ADHD differences

Myth or Fact on ADHD

ADHD diet: What to eat, and What to avoid

Learning To Thrive With ADHD

Videos Worth Watching:

How to parent a child with ADHD... (5 min)

Humanity at its finest! (11 min)

Open Letter to Moms! (4 min)


  1. This is such a difficult issue, and partly because there is a lot of duality involved. You have parents whose children truly have ADHD but have heard so much about kids being overmedicated that they fail to medicate their children when it would help so much. And yet there are still so many children being medicated that shouldn't be, when there are really other issues, like the ones you have mentioned, at work. If you are told you have a child with ADHD, how do you know which case you are falling in?

    There is also the issue that the child the parent sees and the child the school sees aren't always the same. I have one child that is an absolute angel at home, and yet was in the principal's office three times his kindergarten year. I have another child that it truly a trial at home, but is quiet and manageable at school. So, when I sit down to have a conversation with their teachers, it very much seems like we are talking about different kids. How do we "solve" their issues when it doesn't even seem like we are dealing with the same issues?

    Guess that is why parenting and teaching are so difficult, especially when you try to do them well.

  2. As a parent of a Warner Student, I could not be happier. I take as many opportunities as I can to express this. I am glad that it's not all about "medicate, medicate, medicate." This is great to me because a friend of mine is currently at odds with her sons school because they think because most are medicated her son should be. Students shouldn't be zombies, they should be nurtured and taught in a way that makes sence to them. Keep up the good work Mr. Gilpin. You and your staff are exemplary. -Octavia Zuniga