Does Our Education System Cure ADHD Or Create It?

in Blog

The education system and ADHD is an important topic. We all want to know, “How are the education system and our schools impacting ADHD?”

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) just published a super article addressing the issue. The review article by Jeffrey Brosco, MD, PhD, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, looks at the education system and the rise of ADHD. Dr. Brosco raises the potential point that ADHD may in fact be an environmental issue.

Specifically, they found that kids are spending more time doing homework and less time playing. In this environment, they may "need" medicine to help.

Brosco and co-investigator Anna Bona found several interesting differences from 1981 to 1997:

  • ”time spent teaching 3- to 5-year-olds letters and numbers increased 30 percent”
  • ”the percentage of young children enrolled in full-day programs increased from 17 percent in 1970 to 58 percent in the mid-2000s”
  • ”6- to 8-year-olds in 1997 saw time spent on homework increase to more than two hours a week” (during the previous decade, their “peers were studying less than an hour")

Thoughts on the Education System and ADHD

We are in total agreement with their findings that education has changed since 1970. I would add that school has gone back to how it was designed in the early 1900's. Then kids were made to sit at desks with the boss up front, working until the (whistle blows) bell rings! Back then it was to determine who would work best in factories, and it would get kids out of child labor.

Are we not putting them back into child labor? When was the last time you sat for 8 hours in a hard wooden desk and paid attention the entire day? I need drugs to make it through most one hour medical lectures! We all need it to get through boring stuff... that's why coffee companies are taking off!

When more information is going over the internet on a daily basis than all the knowledge that was known prior to 1980, we seem to be focused on thinking we can "keep" up by forcing the issue that learning (especially with ADHD) requires more time at the task instead of teaching how to find and utilize information.

Consider Broscoe’s Quote:

In the United States, we’ve decided that increasing academic demands on young children is a good thing. What we haven’t considered, are the potential negative effects.

In other words, do we want our kids to be productive and smart? Of course! But do we get there by making kids sit still all day?

Neuroscience, the Education System, and ADHD

I have looked hard at recent neuroscience of how the brain learns. And I can tell you, it is NOT more time in the chair and less time outside in play. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite:

  • short chunks of learning
  • repetition
  • short bursts of physical activity

Why do we not focus on how the brain learns and teach in that way? We learned multiplication tables through repetition, we watch movies and remember the entire thing, and we sit and listen to a boring teacher or lecture and cannot remember a thing! So who has the problem here?

Brosco continues:

What’s most important is that kids experience free play, social interactions and use of imagination. For parents eager to spur academic achievement, Brosco recommends putting away the flash cards and worksheets, and instead playing a board game, cooking a meal or reading a book together.

We need to rethink our goals and priorities, and rethink how we are going to achieve them.

The pressure that we are putting our children to perform academically and professionally is hurting them. Our methodology isn't working.

“When we researched educational and public policy literature for studies that documented time children spent on academic activities, we were alarmed to find how substantially education had changed since the 1970s,” said Brosco. He concludes, “From time spent studying to enrollment rates in pre-primary programs, everything had increased, and not surprisingly, in the past 40 years we also saw ADHD diagnoses double.”

We have changed the name ADHD to FastBraiin because no one wants to have a disorder, or be told they are hyper!

Dr Brosco has reviewed school since 1970, and I would like him to review learning since 1900. I had the benefit of going to kindergarten in 1954, a 3-hour fun and play program at a local church, and somehow I made it to being a physician.

Now we are demanding kindergarten until 2 pm each day, and I am getting "notes" from teachers on how these kids cannot sit still and do their work!! Prove to me that 3-4 extra hours of school and 2 hours of homework at age 5 will help make them president of IBM! I give a parent conference every 2 weeks to over 50 parents, and 50% of them have kids in 3rd grade or below, coming in because of the demands and "failures" of their child.

Or is it even true failure?

We have reviewed how my 5,000 "ADHD" patients learn. By changing the name to FastBraiin, by helping them learn how to learn, utilizing exercise, diet, music, appropriate supplements, and occasional medication in low doses, we have succeeded in taking these 5,000 kids from making C,D and F grades to A/B honor roll.

No kidding! It is time for everyone to wake up and quit responding to the drug companies paying medical schools millions of dollars to do studies.

For the most part, our kids are fine. It's us, the system, and the culture, that's getting in their way. It is time we teach kids how to be kids, how to enjoy their creativity, and how to utilize their risk behavior in positive and professional ways.

Thanks Dr. Brosco for this timely review.