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May 12, 2009 at 3:34 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Are Teachers Too Quick to Call Misbehaving a Sure Sign of ADHD?

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

You're a busy parent. You exercise, make coffee, read the paper, get the kids up, dressed, and eating breakfast; you make their lunches, sign permission slips, let the dog out, load the latest science project into the car, drop the kids off at school and then your day is ready to begin. Modern Americans are now more occupied than ever. Trying to satisfy multiple demands on your hectic schedule may leave you feeling like there's no time for yourself, let alone your kids. Naturally, you rely on your children's teachers to pitch in a little; after all, they see your kids for six hours a day. They're in the know, right? Maybe not. While it's true that teachers have the most accurate information about their student's behavior in the classroom, growing numbers of parents and medical professionals are concerned that teachers may be taking it a step too far: are teachers too quick to call misbehaving a sure sign of ADHD?

Teacher, M.D.?

Teachers are usually the first to suggest ADHD as the cause of a child's problems with misbehaving. It certainly makes sense, because teachers have a first hand experience of the child's behavior for an extended period of time. However, teachers who are quick to label the misbehavior as ADHD may be making a dangerous mistake. Usually teachers jump to the ADHD conclusion because of two reasons:

  1. They are familiar with and knowledgeable about the disorder
  2. It is an easier solution to a difficult child.

Teachers are quick to get frustrated with children who misbehave who isn't? and if the teacher labels the misbehavior as ADHD, the child gets put into a special class, and her problem is solved. But what about the child?

Misbehaving or ADHD?

Because there is no exact blood test for ADHD, and because the symptoms are ambiguous, the teachers can make a strong argument for their case:

  • Tommy leaves his seat when he shouldn't.
  • Johnny blurts out the answers.
  • Zack interrupts when it's someone elses turn to talk.

What kid doesn't? While these can be symptoms of ADHD, they can also be symptoms of, well, just being a kid. Furthermore, teachers need to realize that an ADHD diagnosis doesn't easily solve the child's problem. Kids today are under more stress and trauma because of factors that may be going on at home, like domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and divorce.

Dangers of ADHD Misdiagnosis

Some medical professionals feel that a staggering 90% of ADHD cases are misdiagnosed; and since many are first noticed in the classroom, teachers may be playing a role in the over diagnosis. Here's what happens if your child is misdiagnosed:

  • ADHD shares its symptoms with many other serious diseases, including depression, bi-polar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, or even something simple like an ear infection.
  • However, ADHD treatments are vastly different from the treatments of these other conditions. By giving Ritalin to a child with a misdiagnosis of ADHD, the real condition is left untreated and will worsen over time.

Teacher Studies

One study among 400 general and special education teachers found interesting results:

  • The teachers had inadequate knowledge about both ADHD and the medications given for it.
  • Teachers had a commonly positive feeling about ADHD medication.
  • Teachers are the most likely school personnel to recommend ADHD testing.

The study also addressed the concern that teachers are too quick to suggest medication, too. This had led to some states including California and Texas mandating that schools consider alternative, non-medical solutions to children who are misbehaving.

Parent Education

It may be wise for you as a parent to do the same. Your teacher shouldn't be discredited entirely; after all, she is probably right if she tells you your child's behavior is disrupting the class. If she recommends ADHD testing, take her advice, but with a grain of salt. ADHD may not be your child's real problem it could be another serious mental disorder, or he may just need you to go over some listening skills with him. Your schedule is demanding, but not so important that your kids can't be raised correctly. Take the time to be a parent; work with your child's teacher and see if some old-fashioned discipline and structure isn't all your child needs to excel in school and life. If you agree, and suspect ADHD to be the cause of your child's misbehaving, have a doctor perform a thorough physical exam, and neurological and development testing. ADHD is a serious problem for some children, and it's important that they get proper treatment.


Photo Credit: flickr

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