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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Something So Simple

The incidence of a child being diagnosed with ADD, and ADHD has increased dramatically over the past twenty years.  There are many ideas out there as to why this is, but I have my own ideas.

Now, please understand my ideas aren't based on the fact that my profession has given me some input,  and experience in this whole thing.  No, it is mainly because if what is happening to our kids now with over diagnosis, and treatment, and all the medicine show remedies out there were to have occurred forty years ago I would not be the person I am today.  I feel very strongly that my creative / abstract side would have been stunted beyond repair.

I would be someone else.

Today, everything from children being subjected to hours of TV from an early age, to pesticides, and genetics are being blamed for the increase in diagnosis.  Understanding how this whole diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment thing works can help us to figure things out a bit easier.

Keep in mind that there are absolutely genuine, definitive assessments, diagnosis, and appropriate treatments given daily by those that we entrust our children to, and those diagnosis, and treatments should be followed up on regularly.  If you have questions about hour child's diagnosis, and treatment address it with the practitioner that made the diagnosis, and prescribed the treatment.  Don't ever stop a treatment, or medicine on your own.

There is also a lot of BS out there as well.

First, very rarely does a parent bring a child to the pediatrician with the complaint that the child is too active, and doesn't pay attention at home, although it may be true, and some parents may do just that.  This is something that the child's teacher will usually suggest to the parents based on their observations in the class room.  The parents will then take their child to the pediatrician, and give the teachers observations to the doctor.  The doctor will interview the parents, and the child, and based on what the doctor learns from all sources, he will then either choose to observe the child further, or to initiate treatment.

And, here lies part of the problem: the teachers referral.

The teacher, although in an excellent position to observe behaviors, is making referrals based on behaviors witnessed in a closed, confined environment, for six hours out of twenty four.  The younger children seldom leave the classroom except for lunch, and if the school still allows it, recess.  Otherwise, children are kept in the classroom for too many hours without a release.  Recess is the release that is needed most.  A totally free recess without grownup intervention to "make it better", or more meaningful.  Or more refined, precise, timely, and well spent.  Depending on the child's age, recess should be twice a day, especially for the younger ones.

Cripes.  Just open the door, and let the kids fly outside, and just be kids.

Yep, they will act nutty, run in circles without a purpose, raise their voices, and play tag.  Yes, kids will touch each other, pull ponytails, and give nuggies.  They will invade each others personal space.  It happens.  They're kids, let them be.  Let them get tired.  And, along the way teach them about boundaries.

Repeat as needed.

To a majority of teachers that are teaching today this behavior is not what they are used to in the classroom either when they were students themselves, or as teachers today, and when it is observed, it is reported to the parent as something that needs to be addressed.  It is then hoped that the child will see a pediatrician, and  maybe placed on medication to help them to conform.

It's a bit Brave New World-ish.

Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, Strattera have all become as commonplace in the morning as Flintstone Chewables.  Think about it, will it become commonplace, when we get to be older, that our children will have us medicated so we are easier to get along with.

Wait.  Scratch that.  Some already do.

If the schools would just let kids vent.  Get the morning out of their system.  Their little sister hogging the bathroom, the bus driver that was a bit late, the lunch that mom made that spilled from the bag on the way into school.  Kid stress.

Kids are affected by everyday things, too.  Stress affects them, as it does us, and if they don't have "water cooler" time to let it go, then they will let it go in class.

I know, I did, but without recess when I was in the the early grades I would have dealt with things a lot worse than I did.

This is so simple.  Why have we subjected so many of our kids to medicines in order to make them more docile, controllable, and more like the kid sitting beside them?  If our bosses insisted on medicating us in order to comply with corporate policy, would we stand for it?

Recently, in East Providence, Rhode Island the school district decided to end recess.

Big mistake.

If they do you can be sure there will be a big spike in notes home to parents about their children acting out, more trips to the pediatrician, more prescriptions written, and more children placed in control mode for the school day, but allowed to be kids after school and on weekends.

Ever wonder about that?  Why they prescribe medication for the school day only?  Sort of confirms what I have been preaching for some time, the medication is used for control during school, and somehow control translates to better learning, and understanding, but kids can just be kids at home.

Well, since children learn best by example you can be sure that some time from now they will be booking appointments for their parents with the family doctor as soon their parents AARP invitations arrive in the mail.

What goes around...

The article below is from

R.I. School Eliminates Recess for Elementary Kids

(Credit: AP)
NEW YORK (CBS/AP) A Rhode Island school district is doing away with the time-honored tradition of recess.
Beginning in the fall, East Providence Elementary School students will not be given 10 minutes before or after lunch to play. Instead of the traditional free-play, schools will be partnering with the YMCA to design a more comprehensive physical education program that will keep students active, even without recess.
As you can imagine, parents can be found falling on both sides of this conversation.
On one side, seeing a school district focusing on the challenge of childhood obesity and inactivity with creative structured activity via physical education reform is refreshing to see. Left of their own accord, not all children choose activity -- even in play time like recess -- and many of them need to be motivated to make the choice to move. A program like this could be very positive for parents facing some of these issues.
At the same time, it's not like all the facets of recess will be taken from these students unilaterally. Teachers in the district will be taught how to both recognize the need for and facilitate in class breaks that include some free-form play and other stress relieving "down time" for the class, allaying some of the fears parents have about the removal of the current notion of recess.
On the other side, you have parents worrying about how taking away the ten minutes of "kid time" from elementary school kids will negatively impact their children. Recess is not only play-time, but for children being pushed harder and more explicitly earlier in elementary schools than ever before, it is a source of release from stress, rejuvenation within the day and a constant lesson in self-guided social interaction.
For my daughter who will be approaching elementary school age soon, the free time at her pre-school is where most of the stories of the friendships she is making or the questions about social interactions are born. Critical learning about how children interact together -- both individually and in larger groups -- can happen in these small pockets of time on the playground. While it can certainly be argued that the playground is not the only place that social skills are acquired, my stronger memories of times -- both challenging and positive -- interacting with peers happened in this free time.
As a parent, I would be very nervous about my 6- to 8-year-old spending too much time in a completely structured school experience. There is certainly a place for the traditional notion of recess in my kids' experience. Whether it be learning new games or interacting directly with friends as peers. While I very much appreciate the inspiration for the increased importance in physical education by the Rhode Island school system, recess may not be the proper time to be replaced to accommodate it.  -- CBS


  1. The world sure has changed in the past 2 or three generations.
    Kids used to simply ask the parents if they could play with Johnny or if Susie could come over. 'Not a formally planned "play date," just something spontaneous. The mothers didn't have to sit there as directors, or need to have a coffee klatch while the kids did whatever they do on play dates. Mother's didn't have time for that. They just kept an eye on the kids and did what needed doing at the same time. If the child's friend didn't show up, he or she would feel bad, get over it, and find something else to do.

    Toys often were nothing more than sticks, stones, water, dirt, leaves, flowers, butterflies and insects, and there wasn't anything boring about that. If one was able to add a little something like a magnifying glass, or a hammer and nails, or a piece of string,
    the number of possibilities seemed endless. A fishing pole could be made from a stick, a piece of string, and hook if, there was a hook to be spared or if it could be "invented." A keepsake for Mom or Grandma or a sweetheart could be made by directing the sun through a magnifying glass onto a chunky stick, and burning a phrase of endearment onto the bark.
    Dirt and water? The mixtures one could make, and the tiny rivers one could control by making a path with a stick or a dam with stones! Flowers of clover became hairpieces, and dandelion stems became straws. And there were so many more things to do. Singing. making up jokes and judging each others “acts”.... I could go on forever.

    What happened? One thing is that folks began to think they needed more stuff about the same time that they decided they needed to "find themselves." And the race to the "perfect life" began.

    With prosperity came the "need" for more prosperity. We needed things we never knew we needed, and oh, we needed them badly. Molly's little hand-me-down pinafore and Tommy's patched play pants suddenly looked just awful compared to the new casual wear their friends wore. The King family had a TV, and, so did the Grays, but the Smith's had a color TV. Should we still use our old record player while the Jones family listened to stereo? I guess not!

    And on, and on it went. Now we needed bottled water, but not just any bottled water. We needed extra fancy pants bottled water. Dinner at a local restaurant, which had been little more than a dream a generation earlier, began to seem boring to some, and became dinner in Boston. And on and on it went.

    Perfection? Nope. Not by a long shot. Our children kept coming along and gumming up the works by not always being at the head of the class, or the most popular, or the best looking, or whatever else we expected to have been included in the mold that made them.

    What to do? Remodel the mold! Start them off in school at age 6? No way. The sooner the better. Age two might be too old. We needed them to be prepared to prepare for kindergarten.

    Recess? A waste of time. What would we expect the kids to learn from a game of hopscotch or jacks or jumping rope, or from standing around asking each other questions? What's so good about running around and flapping your arms on a crisp autumn day? What’s so great about wondering why the leaves change colors, or crunching the dry leaves under your feet? What's so great about seeing kids on a cool autumn day with pink cheeks and sparkling eyes?

    Just think of all the time wasted with unstructured recess. Aren't children who have been in school since age two mature enough to handle a full school day by now?

    Would we even know "perfection" if we saw it?

    If we can't find a way to have mature adults around to allow our children to be immature wonder seeking kids for these precious childhood years, do we even deserve to have them?

    Some of us should just have puppies.

  2. Solution:
    If were able to find a way to create designer zombie babies in the first place, when they got older the old zombies wouldn't require medication, and everyone would be happy - well, not happy exactly, but really, really quiet :-)

  3. @ It could be so easy: may just work, LOL!--Wally

    @Maple Leaf: You have summed up the past 40 years into 13 paragraphs. Well written, and well said. I am glad there are more "out there" that think out loud the same way.--Wally

  4. Thanks Wally. Yes, it sure is good to "hear" that others think the same way, and this page gives us the opportunity to say what we think without a "yeah but" breaking in while we say it. As you clearly know, when we just tell it like it is, it's like some power takes over and writes it for us. All we have to do is be there to work the computer keyboard. Thanks for providing the space, and keep up the good work.


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