Friday, October 15, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson and ADHD

I was particularly taken with Sir Ken Robinson's take on ADHD. Honestly, I think he's on to something. I found much of Robinson's tone to be similar to this article titled ADHD: has this diagnostic fad run it's course? Here are but a few excerpts:

The idea of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a credible diagnostic term has passed and it is time that we accept that and move on. Fads and disappointments are not new to the field of psychology nor is the need for people to get beyond them...
And just this week, a Michigan State University study found that nearly one million children in America are potentially misdiagnosed with ADHD – in large part because they were the youngest and least mature in their kindergarten classes.Maybe the greatest problem regarding ADHD as a diagnostic label is that our faith in that label has distracted us and kept us from looking for the better understandings we should be seeking. Stress and sleeplessness lead to inattention. Frustration leads to anger and rebellion. Depression leads to indifference and a lack of enthusiasm.
Could it be possible that our fixation on standardization (curriculum and testing) is not only narrow in scope but also grossly inhuman and unnatural? So much so that we have to drug a large population of our children in order to comply with such arbitrary and contrived definitions of excellence and success?

If there is even a shred of truth to all this, I would hope that School Districts in Alberta such as Calgary, Edmonton Public Catholic and Elk Island would pause and reflect before defining their children's success on Standardized Test results. And I would hope the Province of Alberta would do no less themselves before bullying districts into such assessment malpractice.


  1. I just read a comment on a blog post about duct taping the swivel chairs in a computer lab so the students would sit still. It was a well intentioned blurt of exasperation we might all share. Never-the-less I get discouraged by that sort of thinking. My intern took the class outside to the park to investigate fall with digital cameras. Some of the results were spectacular and they demonstrated the students were seriously focusing on what they were encountering. Next week they will geocache with her. Latitude and longitude as they run and move. That is the solution to attention deficite, get the kids in motion so being at rest is not so absurd.

  2. I can empathize with what Sir Ken was saying.

    Unfortunately, because of his standing, this video is going to get spread about a lot and it will perpetuate the myth that mathematics is "boring stuff" and that "Science" and "Maths" were isolated as the subjects - where was history or English or French or Geography...

    If you didn't notice what I am talking about, go back and watch more closely. Public perceptions about what should be learned need to be more aligned with what is presented in schools. I admire the RSA's animations, but this one just perpetuates myths about maths and science, without acknowledging the role that mathematics plays in the Arts, for example.

    Sir Ken's message is fine and understandable, but the 'biased' animation does not help change things, in my view (and I am a musician as well as a mathematician).

  3. I agree with Sir Ken Robinson that we shouldn't medicate kids to make them fit our educational system, and instead we should modify education to work with multiple intelligences. I like Alan Stange's example above for this.

    But I also think we have to be very careful with our wording when we talk about ADHD. If we seem to suggest that ADHD is a "myth" or does not "exist" many listeners then jump to the conclusion that these active kids no longer have a neurological excuse for what is really a behavior problem or a poor work ethic. But this is not Sir Ken Robinson's message, nor is it true that some kids don't have neurologically-based differences in attention. Yes, a rigid environment can create pent-up energy, but we have genuine neurological differences as well.

    What we need to bring out is that the more active mind/body is real and can be a positive type of intelligence rather than a disorder. We are failing many of these kids rather than finding a way to nurture their strengths.

  4. I'd be curious to learn Sir Ken Robinson's views on the neuroscience related to executive function, self-monitoring, and social emotional behaviors.

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  6. Misdiagnosis of a scientifically substantiated disorder is a serious problem.

    It would seem to me that the more appropriate response to this problem would be to figure out how to reduce episodes of misdiagnosis, rather than launching a rhetorical and somewhat vitriolic attack on the legitimacy of the disorder itself.

    But then I'm not a peer, so I suppose I should just be quiet and stop pretending to have a non-existent neurological disorder...

  7. HI Joe, please excuse my little tirade if you can. I think you are cool and I like your blog, I really wish there were more teachers like you. I am not way a defender of the systematic dosing of hyperactive boys because they are interfering with everybodys buffet of usless facts, but there is more to it than hyper boys and Ritalin. I wasn't going to say anything but I read lawyers post and went off so just blame him :) I already wrote it and am going to post without proofread to give it more of that authentic ADHD vibe.

    oh noes, 4056 characters max :( wonder how far over I am

    lol Lawyer it is not easy is it?

    About 5 weeks ago I started a study skills course to prepare me for College as a Mature student, and had to do a 10 minuite power point presentation on the topic of my choice.

    My presentation was on Homework. I really had a gas, I ended up pretty much just making fun of David Skinner. There was no agenda to do such a thing, but the more I read his "homework wars" the less I could resist doing such a thing.

    And what? wasn't this post about ADHD?

    oh ya, so I quickly get hooked on this whole Education thing and start moving past the homework wars. The next thing that gets my attention is the rote thing.

    I always hated facts, well not the facts themelves, but the idolatry of facts. Seems to be a common trait among those of us who pretend to have a non-existent neurological disorder.

    Is it my imagination or do people who seem to love facts have the most difficulty telling fact from factoid? Might slow them down in the race for facts if they stop to think about them

    Wouldn't surprise me, I have noticed those who speak highly of reason tend to struggle using it. I really doubt that is my imagination

    Oh ADHD! so ya, I read more Education stuff and I start to notice a strong tenancy to ADHD denial among the education critics I was drawn to.

  8. Worst example was "The War On Kids" OMG Breggin. Makes me doubt everything that Cevin Soling guy says or does now. Here is Breggins argument that ADHD does not exist in one sentence.

    Making Something out of Nothing
    As we look at the argument that ADHD is biological, we should begin armed with skepticism. How can something be biological when the something has no basis in reality?

    Talking Back to Ritalin p 173

    I think Logicians might have a fancy name (or even two) for what he did there, but I am more right brained and just say it looks like some weak @ssed sh1t

    Then Alfie Kohn gets going about that other dude, um yes the "Myth of the A.D.D Child" guy. Havent read his book but from what I hear he is not as bad as Breggin.

    Im not a peer either, but I think Alfie Kohn, Chrisian Science Monitor, and Ken Robinson should study up on ADHD a bit.

    So there is no test after all these years to find it?. Time to pack it in? I am just a lazy loser like they told me after all?

    While we are at it should we be consistent and tell the aspies they are just really bloody strange and have bad manners, there is no disorder.

    So I dont know where I am going with this - but I was not diagnosed or medicated, and I don't know how many truckloads of Ritalin to even approximate the damage going to School undiagnosed unleashed on me. And I am not refering to medicine, I wish the deniers would learn to put that aside just long enough to learn a bit about the disorder. Like many my hyperactivity is internalized. But when I was a child and teen I was subject to extreme brain fog and lethargy. A good part of it went away around the ages 19-22 or so, but quite a bit remains. But hey I am imagining the disorder, must have been the sugar in the cookies or the milk I was allergic to.

    I don't know much about Sir Ken Robinsons real take on it, but what he said above is typical

    "Stress and sleeplessness lead to inattention. Frustration leads to anger and rebellion. Depression leads to indifference and a lack of enthusiasm."

    Sorry Ken, it is not that simple. Everything you said is correct, but does little to free me from my delusion.

    If you really want to help me please explain the overlap between autism and ADHD. Oh but are they faking it too?

  9. If a parent discovers that their kids are diagnosed with ADHD I bet they will worry and it is very sad to know that some of those are mistakes. I know that mistakes are normal but the impact of that misdiagnosis to the kid is going to be prevalent as they mature. I know that those kids should have not suffered those hardships if it wasn’t for that misdiagnosis.

  10. Don't get me started, if we do something about the way we educate, we need to consider the way we employ and manage later on; current workplaces are very bad if you have 'ADHD' unless you get a good manager or find a way to deal. I think it is less a condition than a diversity issue, but the majority will fight any change in the workplace through simple lack of beleif and perception of the differences.