Sunday, 21 January 2018

Braving the weather and other topics.

The weather forecast said sleet from eleven this morning at our level (600ft) and heavy snow at the level of The Golf Club where we have our lunch every Sunday (1,000ft).   Friend W, who has a 4 wheel drive, braved it.   We went early, had our lunch of salmon florentine with various veg, followed by chocolate pud and came home early.

This gave me an afternoon to read the Guardian in its new tabloid form.   I must say I like it.   There have been some complaints (aren't there always) but I find the whole paper much easier to handle. One of my many faults is to get any newspaper in a mess in two minutes flat.   Once I found my way round the various sections of the paper I felt very at home with it.

The article which caught my eye was one about children in German schools being put into sand filled jackets if they had been diagnosed with ADHD as it had been found to help them cope with the disorder.   Some parents had protested others had said their children found it helpful.
Often the schools concerned allow pupils to wear the jackets ever if they don't have ADHD so that no child feels discriminated against.   

Straightjackets anyone?   I don't know the rights and wrongs of the experiment.   I don't even know the real facts about the diagnosis of ADHD.   It is now over thirty years since I retired from teaching and in my day, on the whole, children were not labelled.   We might say a child in our class tended to be disruptive, or a child in our class had difficulty learning to read.   If we were good teachers - and yes there are some out there - we would spend hours in the evening devising ways to help these particular children.   And if we found a way we would exploit it to the best of our ability.

What I would like to know is - has the labelling of children helped in their education?   Does every child have the condition they have been diagnosed with - be it ADHD, Dyslexia, or whatever?   Sometimes the diagnosis seems a bit arbitrary to me.

I may be completely wrong.   Thank goodness I am no longer in teaching.   But it does seem to me that teachers, who by the way, are leaving the profession in droves after coping with the paper work for a year or two, are being given too many jobs to do instead of getting on with the job of just teaching children to the best of each child's ability.

Yes, there are many children with what may easily be seen as a disability - if you  give a so called disability a name then it tends to stick for life.
Dyslexia for example - many adults 
are dyslexic but they get by extremely well.  Surely saying one is dyslexic should not be seen as a handicap.   In my view it should be no more a labelling than saying 'I am left handed'.   We have to cope with the 'faults' in us as individuals which we happen to have been dealt.

By all means teachers, who are professionals and should know their job, should be given details of any treatments and techniques which may prove helpful  in helping children cope with whatever difficulty they have.   But there is a limit and I do
wonder whether sand-filled jackets might have gone beyond it.

Any ideas on the subject anyone?   Interestingly I read that Rory Bremner said that having ADHD was rather like having a mind like a pin ball machine.   That is the best description I have ever heard of the condition.    Note I said 'condition'
 not 'disability'.    I could be completely wrong on the whole thing, but I would like to hear your views.   Thankfully I didn't have a child with any of these conditions and if I had done so then my view might be completely different.   But I did teach for many years and those years were spent mainly with children who had some kind of learning/language difficulty.   Times have changed, teaching methods have changed, procedure in the classroom has changed, the amount of paperwork has changed - and I am sure that the methods of teacher training have changed


28 comments:

Devon said...

Interesting post Weave. I think in our culture there is just a lot of labeling in general. It is as though people are trained to believe their 'condition' makes them seperate. In truth, I believe if we look hard enough we will find that we all have obstacles to overcome. I've heard of the weighted jackets for ADHD. They also sell them for hyperactive dogs, I kid you not! Perhaps there will be some entrepreneur making weighted clothing so the children are not identified as having a 'disorder' by wearing a specific jacket.

justjill said...

I spent some time working in a primary school as a special needs assistant. Basically the three boys I shadowed at various hours in their and my day were lovely but I worked to get their respect by laying down rules and sticking to them. aka as good parenting. Then the funding was cut and I was out of a job. They were termed as behaviourally challenged! With some other labels attached. I could go on at length so I will stop here and say Weave you are totally right. What there should be is parenting classes. Teachers teach and have a difficult enough job with targets set.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Early on in my time working with children with complex needs I had the pleasure - and it really was a pleasure - of working with a young man who had a very rare but devastating genetic condition. He apparently had all the classic symptoms, both the physical and behavioural manifestations, and photographs of him were often used to illustrate articles about the condition. Years later I met his mother who told me that he'd since been diagnosed with something entirely different. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about how I feel about "labelling".

Mac n' Janet said...

I was a teacher and often had children, usually boys, with behavioral and learning problems. I small group it was easy to work with them and help them. In a class of 30 or more it was often a disaster. Boys in general seem to have a harder time adapting to school and quick frankly it's because it's very female orientated and appreciates things girls do well, sit quietly, listen, be neat.
In California where I taught a child diagnosed with any kind of learning or behavior disorder could get an extra stipend for the state, many parents pushed to have their children diagnosed so they could draw more money.
I hated when they drugged the kids (Ritalin was the drug of choice when I was teaching) and it turned the kids into zombies. If you drug them they never learn any coping skills and behavior problems don't just magically disappear.

Joanne Noragon said...

This discussion is about today's education. I never taught, but have four of my six grandchildren enmeshed in "the system." My oldest granddaughter was an ADDHD, Ritalin and more zombie. She quit it all, cold turkey, and today is just beginning to make her way in the world (age 25). She is a certified welder. I would not have believed it, several years ago. The next two are citizens now, too, making their way. They believe they will start the next coding revolution. Perhaps they will. And Laura intends to become a children's psychologist specializing in in the use of art and sign language. Kids who are guided are so interesting to watch. But to put them in the tunnel and wait for them to come out the other end is cruel.

Sol said...

My niece is a primary teacher one of the key stages I cant remember which. last year she had 2 children with 'comfort clothes'. Apparently the weight in them, in effect swaddles the child and they have less anxiety. You can get specialist blankets, it helps with the child who has anxiety as it seems to help them sleep -with extra sleep the behaviour become improved. With the comfort clothes in the day it helps in class with them not disrupting all the other children. Even if it is a placebo, if there are good results I think it is encouraging that instead of medicating these kids, we are finding an alternative. I am typing this on my phone, I am not sure it makes sense.

The Weaver of Grass said...

These comments make such interesting reading. Please keep them coming.

Heather said...

I suppose if those jackets really do help children settle down in class it can only be a good thing, and allowing the others to wear a jacket is probably done so they don't feel deprived. It might also make the children who 'need' them feel more at ease to know that their class mates are similarly dressed.

Derek Faulkner said...

Reading a couple of the comments on Rachel's blog about the same "straightjackets" article, made me think that perhaps there is a danger in believing what the article wants you to believe, rather than knowing all the facts.
On the subject of your smaller paper, I'd be mortified if my Daily Telegraph now follows that trend and becomes one of the "compact" papers like all the others.

Hilary said...

Too many labels, indiscriminate use of medications. I agree with you........they shouldn't be made to feel that
they have a "disability".
Good Lord.

Liz said...

I can imagine the jackets being quite useful and soothing for some children. Whether I'd want my son wearing one in school or not, I don't know.

One of my sons is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, but it is not at all severe and for the most part I don't find it a particularly useful diagnosis - it's a blunt instrument for describing some widely varying and very subtle issues. Fortunately he doesn't need much support, if any, in school and has coped pretty well with the primary school years, but does get very anxious, very quickly in the face of things that most people would not regard as problems at all and at the moment he has quite a few tics. He does like pressure on his body and might quite like one of these jackets. I think the straitjacket associations are an adult thing and wouldn't occur to young children.

Quite a few children in my son's school are offered the use of ear defenders in class and they seem useful to help them concentrate. They don't seem to attract derision and are just accepted by all the children as things that some people use sometimes and their use does phase out as they go up through the school. When I go and listen to some of the children read I take a tub of putty or a fidget spinner for a couple of them to fiddle with and they definitely help them to concentrate on their reading. I think children who have problems concentrating and so on attract attention anyway and it is how this is dealt with that is crucial. There will definitely be more problems in high school though.

the veg artist said...

A great-aunt of mine was a teacher around the years 1910-1950. She used to say to me, with great pride, that she had never had a left-handed child in her class. No child was allowed to be left-handed, more like it. Thankfully, we have moved on from that particular issue. (Historical roots for that prejudice, though. The Latin for left-hand is sinistra, or sinister, which is how it was viewed!)

Beverley said...

I saw an article recently that suggested using a weighted bed spread was useful for people with anxiety, it made them sleep better and feel calmer.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Liz - Your comments make interesting reading too. I have a grown up grandson who has mild Aspergers - doesn't seem to affect him too much.
Veg artist - I am sure I would have been left handed had my mother allowed it. I do some things left handed and when my son was born and it was obvious that he was going to be left handed my mother tried her hardest to persuade me to make him change. Left handedness does tend to run in families. Now, thank goodness, the idea of this has more or less died out.
I am really enjoying reading what you all have to say on the subject.
Derek - I was horrified too but now I have found my way round the Saturday Guardian I do find it much easier to handle (I take the Times in the week and that is already tabloid).

Gwil W said...

Pat, did you teach me? Were you Miss Jones in Maesingla School? You did what you were told in those days. It was a natural thing to listen and learn. There were no distractions like there are today. Today children's heads are stuffed full of nonsense. Take their iPads away and give them a penicillin and tell them what to do and let them get on with it. What do you of the Steiner schools? We gave one near us. I think it's a good method from what I've seen. It's all a bit chaotic, or seems to be when you go in there, but it seems to work. And I believe it produces good adults.

Gwil W said...

That's a pencil not penicillin. I HATE SPELLCHECK which changes my words! I cannot say this too many times.

Gwil W said...

I notice other words have been mangled. Either I've got dyslexia or spellchecker is having a field day. :)

Virginia said...

Good Morning Pat. A topic everyone has strong opinions on!

I have been a specialist reading teacher for the most challenging six-year olds for 22 years and I am regular in awe of the courage and the effort that the children with difficulties put in to achieve what is so simple for their peers. In those 22 years, the understanding of how the brain works (neuroscience) has progressed exponentially. The diagnosis of a "specific learning disability" can only be done AFTER a child has had consistent, daily, thorough tuition for some time, as most children, even if starting 'behind' their peers catchup relatively quickly with one-on-one teaching in a secure environment. However.... there are the 10%+/- who do not make progress as there are multiple difficulties that child is juggling with. Each of these needs assessing by a qualified professional most often starting with vision testing by a Behavioural Optometrist, perhaps looking at hearing loss, auditory processing disorder etc by an audiologist, dysgraphia and dyslexia and the associated ' different brain-wiring' difficulties by a fully qualified child psychologist or Occupational therapist.

These are complex issues, and certainly not diagnosable by a quick search on the internet, or anyone (teacher, parent, grandparent, friend) saying they're just like so-and-so and he turned out OK....

Fortunately there are supports that can be put in place to make these children's lives less stressful (school must be sheer HELL for some children) and every child deserves the opportunity to make the most of their talents, however differently they each need to be supported.

Its a long and difficult road for parents too - they see other kids becoming independent learners so much earlier, and they are still having to be the supportive, encouraging fan club, and the ones who push the school and medical profession to get the best outcome for their child.... and heaven help the kids who don't have that backup! They make up the 60% of prison inmates who can't read or write!!

Forgive me for raving on... it's a topic I feel passionate about!

janipi said...

Such an interesting post. Retired teacher here too. Education has become one size fits all. Children are unique and come in all shapes and sizes with different talents. As a parent of a dyslexic son I was sad that he was defined at school only by his reading and writing skills. All the extra tuition and help didn’t help him “catch up” with so called normal ability children. He went off to university with a reading age of 9. He got a 2.1 honours degree in Perfrming Arts. With the help of software he could do what was required. The most wonderful thing of all was he regained his self esteem. After Years of the education system failing him he now has found his strengths and uses them. I wish schools would focus on what children can do instead of what they can’t do. As for ADHD. Generally I found these children cheerful and a pleasure to know. Helping them manage and work round their condition is the best way forward. I have never heard of the weighted jackets for ADHD but I know that it might help children with autism as weights and mild pressure can help with their anxiety.

Carol said...

My granddaughter was diagnosed with ADHD and placed in special classes. After ten years of wearing this label, it turns out it was something else altogether. Now she's in therapy to deal with changing her own thinking about herself. There's nothing to be done about how her teachers and peers think about her. I feel that burdening her as a young child with this mistaken diagnosis was definitely harmful, and I wonder how many other children are victimized in this way.

Red said...

I'm a teacher who retired 20 years ago so I find your post interesting. we tend to spend time comparing past and present and reflecting on what happened. I enjoyed my career even if there were challenging times.

Cro Magnon said...

In the 'old days' these children were classified as either 'thick' or 'troublemakers'. The troublemakers were given a thick ear, and the thick ones put at the back of the class. How things have changed! I only taught in private schools, where, luckily, they were all well behaved (I wonder why that was).

Gwil W said...

A commentator has linked this sand jackets for schoolchildren policy to the national characteristic of the country which is apparently that of being 'the willing masters' if history is to be believed. Its definitely a backward step. I wonder if anybody remembers the Welsh Knot. In Victorian times English educators controlled the unruly Welsh children with it. Very cruel.

Derek Faulkner said...

"Teachers are leaving in droves" - I've never been remotely involved with teaching but I imagine that another reason why teachers are leaving the profession so readily is their inability to discipline children. Children as young as five these days seem to be very aware of their "rights" and remind teachers of that on a regular basis and often backed up by stroppy parents. Also, how any male teacher is brave enough to teach a class of girls, who are fully aware nowadays of what the mere suggestion of sexual harassment can do, is beyond me.

liparifam said...

There is an absolutely wonderful movie called Temple Grandin about the American woman with autism who went on to earn Masters and Doctorate degrees, patent inventions, and author several books. She is quite brilliant and self-aware, and when she was in school, she invented the "hug box" which helped to calm and center her and relieve stress; these jackets sound like the same concept. And Thundershirts for dogs are the same concept, too (my dog with severe fear of thunder had one). I would much rather have children wearing comforting jackets than have them on mind-altering medications!

Camille said...

This has been such an interesting post, espcially reading the comments. It brings to mind Dr. Temple Gradin. Please Google or wikipedia her name. She is an autistic who revolutionized the cattle industry. More to the point, she also invented her own "hugging" box which helped ber cope with her disorder. Weighted clothing sounds strange but after reading her biography, the concept makes far more sense over side effect inducing drugs.

Viola Briles said...

I have a friend who leads a group of women that make and donate weighted blankets for children that are on the autism spectrum and/or ADHD. The weight of the blanket has a calming affect. They produce 10-12 a month and are in great demand. Very similar to the work of Dr. Grandin. Interesting.

Elise Griffith said...

At least it's only a jacket (or blankets) now. There was a little girl in my youngest son's class in grade school who was on medication for ADHD. It caused some emotional swings, so an anti-depressant was added. That caused her to gain a lot of weight, so another prescription was added. When I mentioned my concern to her mother that a young child was on so many strong drugs, I was told to mind my own business about things I didn't understand. By the time she reached high school, the girl had brain damage and was placed in "special ed" classes. So, I guess a weighted jacket is better, but I agree, children really shouldn't be labeled.