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AD(H)D Learning Disability or Gifted Ability? AD(H)D Learning Disability or Gifted Ability?
by Jack Wellman
2009-11-27 07:50:44
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Let no one fool you. Special Needs children are not handicapped at learning. They may appear to be deficient in learning in traditional ways, but the most certainly are not incapable of learning. In fact, in my many years as a Special Needs teacher and working as a Mental Health Case Manager, I found that these children are not only gifted in ways beyond our comprehension, they are actually able to see what even the most highly educated can not even see. Let me explain.

The first thing I wanted to do in my classroom was to take of the sign over the door that read, “At Risk”. I did not like it, I fought the administration over this labeling. Children will often live up to or down to our labeling of them. And each and every child is different is a very special way. Not unlike every snowflake is quite different from every other one. And the meaning in this is that they are all most beautiful.

Once, while learning with these special children, (I prefer this over Special Needs) I had a student doing an assignment on a worksheet. He was not able to stand still very long, let alone sit still at a desk for more than two minutes. So I found and used a round table and the young man was able to finish the lesson quite well, while slowly walking around the table while standing. We are outcomes based in education, so what does it matter that he or she doesn’t sit down or that they can just lie on the floor and work on their lesson if they have too? In one case, I secured large boxes, like those from washing machines or dryers, which the child used as a “special room” that restricted distractions and made them feel special. The main result was that they also distracted others less and got more of their work done.

If they are physically unable to sit in any one position very long, must we encumber them, by requiring them to sit still and be absolutely quite, when every ounce of their fiber is unable to do so? This is not a character weakness or disobedience to class rules. It is there uniqueness. They are what they are, through no fault of their own or their parents or foster parents.

Let me say that there is something quite special about these children. They are more gifted than we might imagine. When a young man was finishing a lesson, he pointed out that there was something wrong with this lesson. He just could not complete it. I couldn’t understand what he was saying or why he could not complete it. I finally said, “Point to the problem you see on this worksheet”. The child pointed out that the boy on the skateboard was not wearing a helmet, and that he first said that this prevented him from completing the lesson because the boy on the skateboard was participating in a dangerous activity. How brilliant you are I told the child. You are absolutely right I told him. So I asked him to draw a helmet for the skateboarder and when he did, he was able to complete the lesson. He had to do it while circling a table, but who cares?! He had not only completed the lesson, he had pointed out an error that the “highly educated” educational supply company had overlooked. How insightful I told the child, in which he delighted in hearing.

Here is my point. Paul says in I Corinthians 13 that 4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, 5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, 6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things“ (NAB). I am particularly interested in verse seven. It says that love “believes all things…”. The contextual meaning is that love gives people the benefit of the doubt. It does not mean we believe we can jump of a building and believe we can fly. No, it gives people, including children, the benefit of the doubt. The tragedy of not giving someone the benefit of the doubt is that we could be wrong. And this can do much damage to our credibility, but more, irreparably damage the person whom we will not believe…even though they may be right. This is not love. This is cynicism.

AD(H)D is not unique to children. It had been diagnosed or sometime misdiagnosed in adults. What I was told that I was high strung, unruly, hyper-kinetic or just plain disobedient. You see, I also had ADD without the “H”, which is the hyperactivity. Some help in the form of Ritalin can help some children, but this is often too easily over prescribed. There must be great caution in dispensing Ritalin, since it is an amphetamine. The irony is that amphetamines are a stimulant that can calm a child properly diagnosed with ADD or AD(H)D. But it is not a solve-all for parents who have children who are naturally fidgety or can not sit still long. It must be carefully diagnoses by a physician and over a period of time. A misdiagnosis and a subsequent prescription can lead to an over-active child and even a chemical dependency.

You may hear about CHADD which is Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. This is not much different that AD(H)D except that this is applied to a person’s lifespan and not just childhood. Two great resources for children or adults with this are the ADDA (www.add.org) which is the Attention Deficit Disorder Association and the National Resource Center on AD/HD (www.help4adhd.org). These are fine non-profit institutions that can give people resources for help in diagnosing and treating AD(H)D and for applications in working with children or adults who have this.

ADHD is a common behavioral disorder that affects an estimated 8% to 10% of school-age children. Boys are about three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with it, though it's not yet understood why. Kids with ADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They may understand what's expected of them but have trouble following through because they can't sit still, pay attention, or attend to details.

Of course, all kids (especially younger ones) act this way at times, particularly when they're anxious or excited. But the difference with ADHD is that symptoms are present over a longer period of time and occur in different settings. They impair a child's ability to function socially, academically, and at home. The good news is that with proper treatment, kids with ADHD can learn to successfully live with and manage their symptoms.

The reasons may be in part due to the blood flow or supply to the part of the brain that controls movement and impulsivity. It can be overactive or it can be under-active. There are still much we do not know and diet is not necessarily a solution. This may be why they are not responsible for their own inability to control their impulses. That is the part where patience, understanding and love are of utmost importance. Children that watch an exorbitant amount of videos, video games or TV and parents that smoke are thought to increase the risk factors. But it is generally inherited. It is thought that even Ludwig Von Beethoven had this.

Never doubt these children or adults ability. They have AD(H)D, but that does not mean they are not gifted. In many cases, they can see things that most children or adults don’t see. They can test exceedingly high on IQ tests. They are made for a special purpose nonetheless. What we may consider a weakness, can in turn be a strength. I myself had ADD with the hyperactivity…I still deal with it as an adult. But I think God can use this, as I can sit and do an article, like I did this in a short 3 hours time. And I did this article due to one person’s simple request whom I thought was special: Julie Sadie, an Associated Content contributor, of which I am also one. I got fixated on a mission. I was overactive in the pursuit of excellence in this in order to help her. So never think that a learning difficulty is a learning or character weakness. On the contrary, it can be our greatest gift. What the world considers a weakness, God considers a strength. Now, if we can just get rid of the labels like, Special Needs, and we can just settle “special”. Because love believes all things.


   
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Emanuel Paparella2009-11-27 15:45:41
Indeed, Jack, as a very wise man in Palestine once said: "Unless ye become like little children..." Unfortunately the world is full of cynical "enlightened" rational adults, and it shows.


Jack2009-11-27 18:07:29

Emanuel, as usual, you put so well what I could not in an entire article. After working with some of these children some 20 years earlier, they have come to love me in a way that I can not even describe. I tried to love them unconditionally, but they gave to me, what I could never have given in equal. Of all the college courses I took on Special Needs (or really, Special Children as I prefer to call them), they taught me more than any text or PhD could in a lifetime of courses.


Eva2009-11-28 01:21:09
In a job I had, I got an insight into schools - as a complete outsider and not knowing anything about education, I was only filming documentaries - but what stuck with me in memory were not the so-called "normal" schools, but the "special" schools (or whatever you want to call them) - anything from schools for kids with severe physical handicaps, to dyslexia, ADHD or whatever etc etc..
One strong memory I have, is of an 8-year-old girl, diagnosed with ADHD, who was one of the smartest persons I have met in my life. I remember interviewing/filming her and being completely blown away by her intelligence - I felt completely inferior. She KNEW stuff. I won't be surprised if I see her making headlines one day for a Nobel Prize in physics or something like that.
After the experience I had, I think the future of the world lies with these children.
Thanks for the article, Jack :)


Seth2009-11-29 02:50:09
I agree with Eva & Emanuel. What people think of as a handicapped is from their own personal perspective. If only we gave them the benefit of the doubt, I would not be surprised that they have to offer than anyone can imagine.


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