… he made reading useful by talking to her of what she read…
Mansfield Park, Chapter 2
… he made reading useful by talking to her of what she read…
Mansfield Park, Chapter 2
This just in by email – it has been around the block, I suspect.
A little girl had just finished her first week of school. “I’m just
wasting my time,” she said to her mother “I can’t read, I can’t write
and they won’t let me talk!”
But on the other side of the coin, I was just talking with a sixth grader, sitting next to me at the Bean Cycle, who is operating in an open campus environment and very excited about project-based learning at his school. He explained the structure: An overall Renaissance Fair project committee, and subcommittees with individual tasks – his group is setting up a bocce game, and he wanted to get to school before he “had to” so he could meet with his working group.
Seneca said it this way
Solitudo animo quod cibus corpori est.
Solitude is to the soul as food is to the body.
Walt Whitman said it like this:
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
We’re missing something nowadays. If kids never have a chance to stop and muse about themselves – not plan their future, but muse about their place in the universe, thoughtlessly – how can they become anything but cogs?
Easier is Better. I remember the day I first said that to a client. I was listening to a story I had heard a thousand times before: Homework was ripping at the guts of a family. Tired kid, tired parents; both home from a full day’s work, needing to kick back. Good parents, who would do anything to support their child. Good kid, who wanted to please his parents more than anything. Good teacher, well known for her creativity, her advocacy for kids, her good relations with parents.
I knew one other part of the equation: A friend, a school counselor from the same district, had said the day before, “The whole school is wound up tight about the damned CSAPs.” (I assume it was an accident that the committee responsible for Colorado’s current attempt to leave no child’s behind came up with a name which is pronounced “See Saps.")
The outcome was drearily familiar. The evening was going to homework. Well, no, not really to homework. To avoidance, procrastination, excuses, dodges, then through whines to opposition, and furious defiance. To parental frustration, impatience, recrimination. A toxic soup, where the roux was angry defeat.
I knew what the family did of a summer’s evening, so I asked about evenings now. When did you last play Monopoly? Go for a walk? Watch a movie? Snuggle and read a book? Cook together? Last summer.
“So how’s the current homework game plan working for you?”
“Game!? Have you been listening?!”
“Yeah, not working so well. You’ve all three been spending five evenings a week having a lousy time, and doing and saying things that leave a foul taste. What are you getting for it? Is the job getting done?”
“That’s the most frustrating part. We put all this work into it. We all go to bed exhausted and mad at each other. Some nights I can hear him crying himself to sleep. Most nights, we toss and turn half the night. And the homework isn’t done. Or it’s done badly. Or the next night he tells us he forgot to turn it in! And he’s resenting us! Giving us these evil looks. And you know what he’s learning? He’s learning how to avoid and how to be sneaky and how to do a half-assed job. Sometimes I think he’d hate us if he dared to!”
“You know, I’ve been wondering. Maybe, sometimes, easier is better.”
“You’re working your tails off, and all you’re getting for it is grief. You all three come home from a long day of work, and you keep on working until his bedtime, and all you harvest is trouble and pain. How about this plan? Don’t do it. Abdicate. Declare defeat. Tell his teacher it’s between her and him – you’re out of it. Tell him it’s between him and his teacher. You’ll clear a space at the table and make a snack if he wants one. If he asks for help, you’ll help unless things go the least bit ugly, then he’s back on his own – you love him too much to be mad at him. It’ll be a lot easier for you, and the outcome could hardly be worse.”
You can fill in the conversation that followed, about being bad parents, not supporting the school, giving their child the wrong messages. But things were awful enough they gave it a try.
And you can fill in this part, too. The teacher was pretty well overworked, so she just told him OK, if his work wasn’t done he could do it at recess, and if it wasn’t done then he could just take the grade he got. He stayed in one recess. Two weeks later, he and his parents were a family again. Easier was better.
A fairy tale ending? Sure. Usually, the kid slips. Sometimes the teacher forgets to enforce. Often, the parents can’t stand letting the kid learn about the world. But on average, it works a lot better. And as I said, it could hardly work worse. Easier is better.
I was asked to suggest some sites that I think have decent suggestions for classroom adaptations for Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder. I thought it might be helpful to other readers if I posted them here. With all these it’s important to select ideas that are appropriate for your child’s age, developmental level, and characteristics. Remember, you’re the world expert on your kid! If you want to offer suggestions to teachers, it would be helpful to cut and paste accommodations that seem on target, then offer a one-page collection to teachers for their consideration.
Before you check these out, you may want to scroll down through recent posts in the RiverTown News, several of which touch on ADHD or executive function.
The ADHD Information Library is a new Google discovery for me, but their Classroom Tips for Teachers of ADD ADHD Students looks well thought out, with abundant detail and rationale for the suggestions.
Common Sense ADHD School Accommodations by Martin L. Kutscher, MD offers lots of ideas, with useful general principles at the top of this brief excerpt from his ebook. (I haven’t looked at the book.)
ADDinSchool is perhaps a bit commercial, but they’ve got some good ideas here on classroom structure that will benefit many kids.
Some accommodation suggestions from Idaho Special Eduction. These are oriented towards secondary students.
The Child Development Institute has some excellent suggestions. Notice that quite a few of these are structures a willing teacher might choose to set up. You can suggest any of those that might help your child, but such changes to overall structure are for the teacher to select, on the basis of what’s best for the whole classroom.
There are thousands of sites offering accommodations for ADHD. These few seemed to me to be commonsensical, and without a strong commercial agenda. If there are others you like, let us know!
Poudre SD counselors, it’s always a pleasure to meet with you. You had asked Brian, Jennifer and me to talk about current mental health issues in the community. I did a bit of an end run on the assignment. When you are sleep deprived, what are the effects on your behavior? Your emotions? Your ability to learn? Can we call the effects of sleep deprivation a mental health problem? If so, consider: It affects more secondary students than any other single condition. It is the most treatable condition.
(See the links below for the details and the research.)
* Teens need more sleep than they did when they were younger or than they will as adults.
* Circadian rhythms change in adolescence: Teens feel sleepy later at night; they feel wakeful later in the morning. The pattern is physiologically driven; it isn’t a cultural effect.
* Most adolescents start their school day earlier than elementary students in the same district. This is backwards.
* As a result, U. S. adolescents are frequently sleep deprived. In one study, almost half of the students who began school at 7:20 were “pathologically sleepy” at 8:30, falling directly into REM sleep in an average of only 3.4 minutes–a pattern similar to what is seen in patients with narcolepsy.
Sleep deprivation causes or is a causal factor in:
* Reduced alertness, concentration, cognition, memory, and understanding
* Poorer grades (and it appears that even 25 minutes less sleep correlates with grade swings)
* Traffic accidents
* Disciplinary problems
* Associations with depression and ADHD characteristics
* Difficulty controlling emotions and impulsivity.
What can we do about it?
* We can urge districts to respond to the science and start the secondary school day later. It sounds difficult: bus schedules, athletics, disruption of activities… In fact, many districts have made the change, with good academic results. (How logical is it to have a flat out focus on academic results, and systematically reduce the learning effectiveness of your students?)
* We can encourage late starts for students who are clearly not functional first and second periods.
* We can encourage good sleep hygiene, to help kids make the best of a bad situation. Bed is for sleeping, not for eating, TMing, gaming, watching TV, etc.
* We can explain that there is some evidence that the blue screens of monitors and TVs inhibit the production of melatonin. Light at that “blue” frequency tells the brain it’s daytime. Getting off screen an hour or more before bedtime may be helpful.
* We can help academically oriented teens who prepare for exams by studying far into the night realize that it may be better to be sharp in the morning than to study on. But there’s more: the hippocampus transfers new learning into long-term memory, and integrates it with other knowledge. When? During sleep. Learning without “sleeping on it” is pouring hard-earned knowledge into a sieve.
* A bandaid solution: Zombie Naps
The meat of it: Walking Zombies – Adolescent Sleep Deprivation
An ‘07 update: Teen Sleep
Update: The NY Times followed that Op-Ed with an editorial: Are You Up Yet?.
So which is it we should focus: bus and athletic schedules, or kids as learners?
Lunch yesterday was a sandwich at my desk. I looked around for something to read and noticed a slim red spine which had slipped back between thicker volumes: Education and Learning to Think. Wow! 1987 – it’s 20 years old. Judging by the amount of ink I put on its pages, I thought it had something to say, so I leafed through it. Forget the past tense: This book is more important than ever. I fear it may outline goals of educaton which are in danger of being lost in the pressure to demonstrate narrowly defined achievement.
I once said to a principal “I’m more interested in what you do than in what you say.” Whether that should have made him as angry as it did is perhaps worth discussion. I’ve become more diplomatic over the years. Whether that’s a good thing is also open to discussion. I think learning to think is getting a lot of lip service in the schools. But if we look, minute to minute, day to day, at what gets done in the classroom, how much of it encourages higher order thinking?
Resnick says we can recognize higher order thinking when it occurs, and gives criteria. Higher order thinking – let’s call it HOT. Here’s my shorthand version of his criteria:
* HOT is nonalgorithmic –when you start, you don’t know how to get to the answer.
* HOT is complex – There’s no one place where you can “see” the whole task.
* HOT doesn’t have one “right” answer.
* HOT calls for subtle judgment and interpretation – answers aren’t black and white.
* HOT may have different ways to judge your answer, and they may be discordant.
* HOT is uncertain – you don’t even know what you need to know.
* You’re in charge of how you tackle HOT. No one else “calls the plays.”
* You have to find structure and meaning in apparent disorder.
* HOT’s hard work.
Here’s a problem that doesn’t ask HOT:
Match the names of dead, bearded white men in column A with the historical events in column B.
Here’s what I was working on this afternoon. I think it requires HOT:
How can I help the Forest Service develop citizen support groups to help protect all 408 Wilderness Areas under their jurisdiction, the way PWV does for our local Wilderness Areas?
Make a quiz out of this. If you’re a student, how much of what you do day to day is HOT? If you’re a teacher, how much of what you actually ask students to do is HOT – encourages the sort of HOT the real world requires? I suspect the answer is “Not much.” If I’m wrong about this, I’d like to know. I’d like to be wrong. Am I?
I had seen All Brains Are the Same Color last week, but a quick note from Paul this morning reminded me of its relevance to a primary Grow With the Flow argument:
Its main topic is debunking supposed race-IQ connections, but its larger argument is that IQ is environmental at least as much as it is genetic. The idea that intelligence is influenceable rings a certain bell….
Students in Dr. Harvey’s class, HDFS 310, Infant & Child Development in Context, here are the sources for my handout, and some relevant links.
Definitions and Background
Criteria for ADHD as given in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), modified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “to make them more accessible to the general public.”
Here are the unmodified DSM-IV Criteria.
Incidentally, CDC also offers epidemiological information.
Here’s an excellent single-site source on all aspects of ADHD.
And here is more than you want to know about ADHD from the National Institute of Mental Health.
An Executive Function perspective on ADHD
From CHADD’s ATTENTION Magazine, here’s an explanation of
5 Components of Executive Function.
Thomas Brown’s Executive Functions Impaired in ADD Syndrome
ADHD as Executive Function Impairments gives a simplified version of Brown’s views.
For my money, the most powerful theorist about ADHD is Russell Barkley. He isn’t an easy read, but this source presenting Barkely’s views will repay the effort.
Here’s Adele Diamond’s argument that we need to separate ADHD and ADD.
My fundamental points from yesterday evening’s talk:
* The ways we can look at learning interferences are tangled together in multiple ways.
* Common sense may be our best tool to untangle them.
One of the pleasures of preparing to speak to a group is that it encourages the speaker to do some catching up. I came across a concept – new to me, although it has apparently been around for a couple decades! – that seems to be a tool to think better about ADHD: Endophenotype. Since I could barely mention the idea in the time I had, I thought it would be fun to post about it here, so I can try to find words to describe it. I should start by saying this is all new to me this last weekend. I have no background in genetics, so this is a layman’s attempt to understand.
You know that “ADHD” is a complex entity. The diagnostic manual, DSM-IV, gives us three subtypes: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive / impulsive, and combined. Recently, we’ve seen convincing evidence that Inattentive Type ADHD probably reflects “different wiring” – has different genetic origins than the classical Combined Type. But that’s only the start: Anyone who is ADHD, or is working to help an ADHD person grow and develop, knows that no two people show their ADHD in exactly the same way. That’s leads to the notion of a phenotype: the individual expression of a particular genetic inheritance, modified by a particular environment – by a particular personal history.
There’s a lot of evidence that what we clump together under the ADHD diagnosis doesn’t come from a single genetic wiring. The individual genetic complex that we’re born with is our genotype – a blend of the genetic potentials of our parents. If we could get back to the genetic underpinnings of different ADHD individuals, if we could sort out the different wirings we call ADHD, get back to the different genotypes we clump together as ADHD, it could have huge benefits. It might mean that we could detect ADHD very early. It might mean that we could eliminate the current “guessing game” of finding the effective medication for an individual. (Put that the other way around: We have to try this medication and that because different ADHD people, with different “wirings,” will respond to different medications, and right now, we don’t have a way to differentiate those different wirings.)
But that clumping together of different wirings makes it difficult to get to the genetic underpinning, in at least two ways. First, when researchers study a group of “ADHD” children, the sample probably includes many different genotypes. Second, the terms we used to diagnose people don’t relate clearly to the fundamental wirings: What could be the genetics that underlie “Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes"?
That brings us to Endophenotype. The idea is simpler than the word: Can we find things which we know are part of what we call ADHD, which we know how to measure, and which are closer to the genetics that structured the basic wiring than are the words of our diagnostic definition? If we can identify those, then we can identify the genes involved in them. For example, we know that working memory is an important part of ADHD. We know how to measure working memory. And there’s evidence that working memory ability is heritable, that it has a genetic basis.
Here’s how Irving Gottesman explains the idea
An endophenotype may be neurophysiological, biochemical, endocrinological, neuroanatomical, cognitive, or neuropsychological (including configured self-report data) in nature. Endophenotypes represent simpler clues to genetic underpinnings than the disease syndrome itself, promoting the view that psychiatric diagnoses can be decomposed or deconstructed, which can result in more straightforward—and successful—genetic analysis. However, to be most useful, endophenotypes for psychiatric disorders must meet certain criteria, including association with a candidate gene or gene region, heritability that is inferred from relative risk for the disorder in relatives, and disease association parameters. In addition to furthering genetic analysis, endophenotypes can clarify classification and diagnosis….
Now, you and I don’t care about the genetics themselves. We care about helping individuals. And no one has begun to understand what all the endophenotypes are. But maybe we can think better about what ADHD means to us or our loved ones if we can get to some of these measurable candidates. For me, I may be able to design more focused evaluation. For parents and teachers, we may be able to focus our interventions better.
Gottesman suggests three criteria for candidate endophenotypes. Here are my top-of-the-head candidate endophenotypes for ADHD. I think all of these meet at least two criteria: they can be measured, and they have a degree of heritability. The third criterion, I don’t have the background to judge, so I’m purely guessing that they may be able to be associated “with a candidate gene or gene region.” I’m going to start looking for good ways to measure these concepts, so we can think about ways to either work on the skills involved, or on accommodations to work around deficit areas.
Perception of time
Any help thinking about candidates is much appreciated.