Are Childhood Disorders Burdening Urban Public Schools?
By Hilderbrand Pelzer III
Author of Unlocking Potential
According to Dr. Marco Ferrucci, founder of The Chiropractic Source, “The problem with kids with ADHD who don’t get help and treatment is that they have behavioral problems, impulse control issues, anger and rage, and start to do things that will get them in trouble with the law.” He also says, “These kids can’t control it; it’s their neurology. They don’t know what they are doing is wrong.”
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is one of the most common childhood disorders, and it can continue through adolescence and adulthood. According to research, symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity. While it may be normal for all children sometimes to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive, in children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often.
As an educator, I hold the belief that all children can learn and every child deserves a quality education. However, as my educational career evolves and my knowledge of ADHD sharpens, I am beginning to see serious problems for schools. In particular, these problems are rife in urban schools that consistently underperform, have high percentages of suspensions and violent incidents, and spend the majority of the school day trying to manage student behaviors rather than managing the elements of teaching and learning. I don’t want to believe students with ADHD cause problems for the schools, but Dr. Ferrucci’s claim really resonates with me.
With respect to ADHD, I see more and more urban schools with a high number of students diagnosed (or undiagnosed) with ADHD and other behavioral health disorders facing some serious challenges:
As more and more students with ADHD or other behavioral health disorders enroll in schools, the focus on teaching and learning declines significantly. The students’ behavioral health disorders start taking over, and teaching and learning take a back seat. At a time when all schools need to focus on each student’s academic development, the needs of the students with ADHD displace the academic and educational mission of the schools. This is not to give the impression that students with ADHD cannot achieve academically or excel in school. They can! However, students with ADHD have a definite effect on the type of learning environments schools produce and how teachers and administrators utilize and manage school resources, including time, space, people, curriculum, and budget.
Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics 2010, show:
As if this were not bad enough, thousands of students with ADHD are missing opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. Many of these students drop out of school because they have either easily grown to be disinterested with school, or their schools have become increasingly tired of the burden of servicing them. In these austere economic times, school districts are making critical decisions about what to pay for and how to utilize meager resources. In many instances, students with ADHD and other behavioral health disorders are overtaking the core mission of public schools and draining them of limited resources.
In my work with inmate learners and schools inside of jails, I have found strong evidence of increasing numbers of incarcerated school-age youths with ADHD, learning disabilities, or regular prescription medication required to manage their behavioral disorders. They either did not get the treatment they needed before getting in trouble with the law, or they could not learn to manage their disorders despite the behavioral health services they received.
Perhaps ironically, because of the rising tide of students being diagnosed with ADHD and other behavioral health disorders, behavioral health organizations and agencies that have behavioral health as their core mission will invest in more resources. Public schools in urban areas cannot continue to lead this work or shift their focus on academics and education to the problem that is students with ADHD or behavioral health disorders. As Dr. Ferrucci effectively put it, these students require treatment. Public schools are not treatment facilities. These students have behavioral health problems. They have impulse control issues. They demonstrate anger and rage. They start to do things that will get them in trouble with the law.
What do you think? Do you think students diagnosed with ADHD and other behavioral health disorders burden schools with behavioral problems? Do they play an integral part in the poor performance of many schools in urban areas? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
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