Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
There are two main diagnoses associated with children struggling in school today. They are ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), sometimes also referred to as Conduct Disorder. We will try to explain these so you may have a little better understanding of what they are and how they may be affecting your child. Many students are diagnosed with varying degrees of Attention Disorder, they are known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Most children with ADHD are inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive. In teenagers, the hyperactivity often quiets to a restlessness.
For some, paying attention is their biggest problem. Others are mainly impulsive and hyperactive.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved several stimulant medicines for treating ADHD: methylphenidate (Ritalin and generics), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and generics), methamphetamine (Desoxyn), and an amphetamine-dextroamphetamine combination (Adderall). FDA recently restricted another approved stimulant, pemoline (Cylert), to secondary use, as it can cause liver failure.
The drugs stimulate the central nervous system, but no one knows exactly how they work in treating ADHD.
“Stimulants have been used to treat ADHD for over three decades,” says Nicholas Reuter, FDA associate director for international and domestic drug control affairs. “And the amount used has increased steadily during that period. Methylphenidate is the most widely used.”
Not everyone with ADHD requires or responds to stimulant treatment. There are some Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder schools that have had success in working with such teens. They break the school day into smaller segments, and require the student to stay on task to receive privileges. There are several Utah Boarding Schools that are experiencing success with various methods of behavior modification. There are also Boarding Schools in Georgia that have had similar success in helping ADHD children. The Georgia Boarding School is a non-traditional type setting, a borderline wilderness program if you will. The students are required to work together, learning cooperation. The academics are also non-traditional. The children seem to move a little quicker through their studies than in a regular classroom setting. One problem with “problem” students is the struggle to diagnose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
About 30 percent of young people with ADHD aren’t diagnosed until middle school or later. These students are very bright. “The more intelligent you are, the better you cope–until stressors in the environment outpace your ability to cope. Maybe your disorder becomes a problem in high school when you have only lecture classes or in college when you have to do everything for yourself and go to class, too.”
By the time someone with undiagnosed ADHD gets to middle school or high school, the main complaint is classroom underachievement rather than hyperactivity or distractibility. Some people shorten the name to ADD when it affects older people. “But you shouldn’t assume that everyone who is underachieving has ADHD.”
Not everyone with attention difficulty has ADHD.
For example, one 16-year-old girl had extreme difficulty concentrating. ADHD was suspected. Thorough examination, however, revealed the culprits were anxiety, depression and a sleep disorder, which are improving under a treatment plan that includes medication and counseling.
Narrowing a diagnosis to ADHD requires more than a single visit to the doctor. Substantial detective work by the doctor involves talking not only to the patient, but also to the parents and to nurses and teachers at the patient’s various schools.
One simple way to see if there may be signs of ADHD is to examine report cards from kindergarten on. “Teachers usually comment, ‘He would do so much better if he could only pay attention.’ One mother said of her son in high school, ‘One day in first grade, he came home without shoes. He didn’t know where he put them.’ Kids with this disorder lose their jackets, shoes. So he had symptoms early on.”
There is no biological test for ADHD. Doctors base their diagnosis on guidelines set by the American Psychiatric Association.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD, is a diagnosis that is being given more and more in the last few years. Here are the typical characteristics of someone with ODD:
There are two sets of problems associated with ODD, a tendency to purposefully bother and irritate others, and some aggressive behavior. Many time ODD may not be the only diagnosis. When coupled with ADD or ADHD the problem intensifies. ODD is typically not a singular diagnosis. Here are some indicators of ODD.
If the person becomes negative, hostile, and has defiant behavior lasting at least six months, coupled with four or more of the following behaviors, chances are good Oppositional Defiant Disorder may be present.
1. Tends to lose temper, or fly off the handle regularly.
2. Argumentative with teachers, parents, anyone in a position of authority.
3. Deliberately works to annoy others.
4. Won’t accept responsibility for their actions, blames others.
5. Easily annoyed by others.
6. Has a lot of anger and resentment for those around them.
7. Displays vindictive and sometimes spiteful behavior.
There are several Oppositional Boarding Schools around the country. We have several ODD Boarding Schools that may work for your teen. There is not an Oppositional Boarding School Directory that we know of, but many of the schools that work with defiant teens will take ODD students.
Truancy, or Skipping School
Truancy, or skipping school, is problematic is most school districts. In many cases, with little to no support at home, many children are allowed to skip school, or cut class. Even a concerned parent may not find out until weeks after the fact that their child has been skipping school or has been truant. The dilemma is that in many cases the student skipping school or reported truant is a difficult student to have in class. It is not a priority for the school or teacher to make sure he or she comes, as it is easier to do their job when the child is gone. Not always, but in some districts, the child may be allowed to pass on to the next grade or school to avoid having to deal with them for another year.
Some states have decided to place responsibility for the truant teen on to their parents. There are stiff sentences, and fines, for parents of a teen determined to skip school. While this approach may work in some cases, if the teen is defiant to parental, school, and even legal authority, the only one to suffer is the parent. The parent then has to deal not only with the difficulties of a defiant teen but also with the legal system, as well as to their employer Because they are forced to take the time off work necessary to monitor their teen. Many parents have actually lost their jobs trying to keep their child in school.
President Bill Clinton said, “Truancy is a warning signal that a child is in trouble and is often a gateway to crime. The difference between success and failure in life for our children is whether they’re learning on the streets or in the school where they belong. The street is not an acceptable alternative to the classroom.”
In some instances the schools themselves are struggling. In a speech by President Bob Chase of the National Education Association, he indicated: The federal government should help schools before they fail and prevent any student from attending a failing school. The preventative solutions Chase offered address problems that lead to school failure head on. “As educators on the front lines of America’s classrooms, standing eyeball to eyeball with our students, we have firsthand knowledge about what ‘leaving no child behind’ requires,” said Chase.