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Concerns related to misdiagnosis and a lack of true understanding have increased as the number of children who are said to suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) continues to rise, and exponentially so, all over the world. But there is an acute, global fear, that too many children are being diagnosed with the disorder and are unnecessarily suffering from the consequences of being “medicalised”. In fact, one Canadian study has concluded that too many children, about one in 20, with ADHD are taking anti-psychotic drugs. Whether ADHD diagnoses are accurate or not, the greater and more immediate concern is what can be done to support children who find it difficult to concentrate, both at home and at school.
Calm designs, full of structure
Every child is unique. There’s no one size fits all answer to a child’s development. However, most children with ADHD respond positively to structure and organization. The color of your child’s bedroom, for example, can have a real impact on his or her ability to focus and remain calm. Earthy colors and cool blues are more soothing than bright reds and pristine whites. Too many toys, an overload on electronic devices and harsh lighting can encourage distractions, negatively impact on sleep quality and ultimately result in an increase of disruptive behavior.
Too much clutter at home can also be a problem. Avoid over stimulating the senses of a child who already suffers from hyperactivity by keeping surfaces and spaces as clean and ordered as possible. To help your child take responsibility for his or her mood swings, try incorporating a designated quiet space into the design of your home; perhaps a corner of the living room or a space under the stairs.
Attention training methods
While order and structure can be created at home through basic design decisions, a positive learning environment can be created by opting for an alternative form of education. In an article for The Huffington Post, Montessori teacher, Laura Flores Shaw, argues that the periods of deep concentration experienced by students in a Montessori classroom help to develop what Dr. Mihály Csikszentmikály refers to as “flow.” For Csikszentmikály, “flow” is when a person engaged in an activity is fully immersed and focused.
In Shaw’s opinion, Montessori classrooms encourage a greater development of “flow”, which in turn helps children to experience joy when learning. By fostering a love of learning, and consciously associating feelings of joy with education, children with ADHD are given the opportunity to excel at school. School is transformed from a place of torture where they are forced to sit still, listen to the teacher and fill in worksheets, to a place where they can express their inner creativity and focus in on the activities and subjects that interest them the most.
Moving away from drugs
For a number of years, standard procedure for children with ADHD has included the prescription of drugs, including Ritalin and Adderall. However, researchers, like L. Alan Sroufe from the University of Minnesota, claim that attention deficit drugs are ineffective in the long term. He also believes that they generally have the same effect on all children and adults: they enhance the ability to concentrate, but they don’t improve broader learning abilities.
Considering that the global debate over the accuracy of ADHD diagnosis is becoming more and more complex by the day, combined with an increase in concerns over the ineffective nature of prescription drugs, it might be time to turn our attention to home design, structured environments and self-directed educational methods.