Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just Venting

Every so often, maybe once a year, I feel a need to go completely off my usual track, and just vent.

Today is that day.

The professional hat is off; I'm venting as a lay person only. I feel it's about time someone did.

Something curious began to happen about 15 to 20 years ago. Seemed that any child, boys mainly, worth their salt, were discussed at length in the teachers break rooms, nurses offices, and at school open houses if it was felt they were being boys too much.

I know, sounds ludicrous, but think about it, boys have this amazing God given ability to be totally bored one moment, and then enraptured the next. During their "down time" they manage to find all sorts of things to do. It is as if they are going down a check list in order to find the most suitable activity for the moment. They may start by making a face at their younger sister on the couch, and progress to the "I'm not touching you" stage while holding their finger a millimeter away from sisters nose. Suddenly, they may spring off the couch, run through the house in search of some toy that only came to mind a moment ago.

That's a boy. I know, 'cuz I is one.

Boys will race out of the house on a Saturday morning, find their friends, hang out, and do a half dozen things all with in the span of an hour or two. From playing ball, skateboarding, shooting hoops, watching TV, maybe a video game, and they will try it all until they find the thing that they are in the mood for most.

They have no idea what that is until they find it.

Now, take that same boy and place him in a classroom.

This is where I almost blew apart at the seams. Thank God for recess. Recess was the one thing that took all that increasing energy, curiosity, and need to be a boy that had pent up inside of me since 8:00 AM, and released it harmlessly into the atmosphere.

My teachers loved recess. If it wasn't for that twenty minute break many of them would never have made it to retirement age intact.

After recess we would run inside, still a bit wound up, but would settle into our desks, and until lunch time, I was able to focus. We all need breaks. Kids are no different. Taking away recesses for the sake of using the time for more academic purposes is a lofty mandate, but only makes matters in the classroom more out of control, tense, and as a result, learning by the entire class is impaired. Try taking away coffee breaks at work, and then watch what happens to productivity, and the attitude at the office.

Around the time that recesses were either decreased, or cut out all together folks started handing out the ADD, and ADHD badges. Once a child was thought to have this Attention Deficit Disorder thing, or even worse, Attention Deficit coupled with Hyperactivity, they were referred to seek help with the pediatrician. The pediatrician would read the recommendations of the teachers, school nurses, and administrators, examine the child, and maybe on the extremely rare occasion, actually see a behavior in his office that could be something similar to ADD/ADHD.

That was rare, but with the advent of new medications that could work for the supposed symptoms, and the constant barrage of notes home about Johny being "out of control", and mothers calling for something to fix their broken children, the prescription pad was the easiest thing to reach for.

The 1990's were glutted with an ever increasing number of "shadow children". Medicinally subdued spirits that were prescribed medication to curb their behaviors for the sake of controlling the classroom.

Chemical spirit restraint.

And, if you don't believe that the process was solely for more control in the classroom, then ask yourself this, why were most prescriptions written for the child to be medicated only on the weekday, or more specifically, schooldays. Nothing for later in the day, or on weekends, school vacations, holidays, or summer vacations.

Nope, just the days of the week where disciplining an unruly class, or child, might be a task a teacher, or administrator was not willing to take.It is about control of the restless, the bored. Seldom are there teachers wise enough to adjust their teaching model to include theses children. Stick to the curriculum, teach in the manner one was taught to. A challenge is a hindrance. The one thing that most will say is, "The rest of the class suffers if we don't follow through with referring a child for professional help".

An easy out? Maybe.

Yes, it is easier to calm the child with chemicals, instead of using that natural energy to every ones advantage, and adjust the method of teaching, or curriculum.

Can't really blame the teachers, they are only doing what they learned in school, and what is pushed by their colleagues.

Then who can we blame?

I don't know their names, but they're the same ones that have found the diagnosis of autism under every rock in the school yard.

One in sixty. Autism.

ADD, ADHD, Bi-polar, Autism.

Now, don't get me wrong. Autism is real, as is ADD, ADHD, and Bi-Polar disease, it's just not real for everyone diagnosed with it. Yes, there are actually those with those diagnoses for real, but there also far more with the only the label instead.

No longer is Tom athletic, or Joshua brilliant, or dramatic, or shy, or outgoing. Those descriptions are passe, today it's a diagnosis that is used to describe the child.

I do believe that there is something to it all. Maybe it's because of cell phones. Think about it, as the cell phone has increased in popularity and usage, so has the number of our children being labled.

They almost go hand in hand.

Do I believe this to be the case. I have no idea. I haven't seen any studies, but the thing is that as technology has flourished, so has our ability to assign syndromes, and diagnosis to those around us. Is there a connection from all those seeking answers online today for behaviors that just 25 years ago were considered just plain old normal behaviors?

Better yet, I believe that a decade and a half ago there in colleges and in schools around the nation, there were those that spoke of ADD and ADHD, and what to look for in the classroom, and like a warped game of "Telephone" what was taught at that time was taken to the extreme in the classroom. What else could be the explanation if there is no environmental reason?

Today, if your child has been diagnosed, ask yourself how was the diagnosis made? Was it on referral from a teacher? When you arrived at the pediatrician was the prescription pad the end result of the visit, or was there a referral to a child psychologist? Was there any testing done? Has your pediatrician been the only professional treating the child? And, most importantly, what about followup? Is it only yearly? And, by whom? Has the medication stayed the same over time? Has there been "medication holidays" built into the treatment plan in order to reassess the child?

So, why am I venting on this today? Because if ADD / ADHD was a viable diagnosis when I was in grammar school I would have been it's poster child. I was easily bored, rambunctious, and always looking for a laugh.

I drove my teachers crazy. funny thing is that each one recognized what was needed to be done to control me. They would adjust the days lessons for me so I wouldn't be so bored, and restless. They used my interests to focus me more on the work at hand. Did it always work? No. Just ask my classmates, but it worked enough to be able to advance me each year. In junior high, things got the best of me, and I was always doing time in the principals office, or after school, except on those days when something was being taught that I was very curious about. Then I was quiet, attentive, and a totally different child.

Go figure.

I am glad I didn't attend school in the past 20 years. I would have been medicated to fit in, my spirit subdued, my creativity buried, and my choices may not have been the ones I would have made if I was not medicated.

Today, while you are running about town, think about it what I've written. I may be so far off track that it may not be worth the time to think on it, but then again, I may be right. Anyway, it's not all about me, it's about your child. And, by all means, continue with the treatment plan in place for your child, and don't adjust it, or stop it on your own. Sit down with the practitioner that is treating your child, review the plan, explore options, and share your concerns. Don't let others lead the way, you are your child's best advocate.

One more thing, keep in mind that there are those that are properly diagnosed, and treated, and as much as we may not like to see it, your child just may be one of them. On the other hand...

Just think on it a bit.

Are Boys Being Punished For Acting Like Boys? - Health News Story - WCVB Boston


  1. ust thinking: If you have not read Richard Louv's book, "Last Child in the Woods" I highly recommend it. I have, and I have heard him speak, to which he addresses the issue you raise, and lays it at the feet of we don't let our kids just go outside and play any more, it is all "structured" play. Last year, the International Toy Hall of Fame inducted "the stick" as its toy of the year because they felt it represented the most free-est expression of play. When was the last time you saw a kid in Sturbridge "just playing" with a stick?

    I could vent some more too on this subject, thanks for the opportunity.

    Tom Chamberland

  2. Tom,

    I can't tell you how much your email meant to receive this morning. I wrote on this exact same subject last year. A few folks understood, some others thought it was "creepy" that I was writing about kids. Hell, I am a pediatric burn nurse, kids are my focus.

    Thank you for sharing. I will look for his book. In the meantime, here is the link for essay I wrote last year.


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