Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ADHD is not a moral choice

But apparently a lot of grownups still think it is. I have no idea how else to explain why a school resource officer in Kentucky allegedly decided to handcuff an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, both of whom have ADHD, on separate occasions because they wouldn't listen and they were getting physically aggressive. A school administrator took a video of the boy sitting there in handcuffs, crying -- for 15 MINUTES -- and now the kids' parents and the ACLU are suing over it.

Again, an 8-year-old boy with special needs was allegedly left sitting in handcuffs for 15 minutes. Because he wasn't following directions, he tried to escape the principal's office, and then he hit the resource officer with his elbow.

His ELBOW. Oh you poor grown man. However will you survive a vicious elbow attack?

The girl was allegedly handcuffed twice. Once, because she was disruptive in class, sent to an "isolation room," tried to leave the room, and the principal and vice principal had to restrain her. Somehow that equaled attacking them. She left the school in an ambulance; the handcuffing caused "a severe mental health crisis."

I hate to break the news to the school resource officer -- and apparently the entire staff of this school -- but being disruptive in class, trying to run out of the classroom, and throwing the occasional elbow at grownups is part of ADHD. Believe me, I wish it weren't. But my son has done any or all of those things in any given day. Because ADHD isn't just about being hyperactive and being impulsive. It's about behaviorally, emotionally, being about four years behind their peers. Everything kiddo does and says makes sense if you think of him as 4, not 8. Unfortunately, he's 8, and tall, so he looks older. So he looks like a really badly behaved 9-year-old.

But no one at his school ever handcuffed him. Possibly because that's illegal.

If you think of a kid as doing bad things deliberately, then your instinct is to yell and punish. If you think of a kid as being unable to control himself -- or herself -- in that moment, your instinct should be to remove the kid from the situation, get them calmed down, help them make the right choice. I said should be, because I think a lot of people instantly revert to the bad kid-punishment method, whether or not it works. We've done it. Trust me: It doesn't. Getting kiddo calmed down? That works, at school and at home. And he always, always apologizes for whatever he did or said, and generally feels awful about it afterward. Why should I yell at him when I can already see him beating himself up over his behavior? Is anything I say half as bad as what he's saying to himself?

My son is a good kid who isn't in full control of himself. I bet those other kids are the same. And they did not deserve to have their arms yanked back into handcuffs when, I have no doubt, every single school day is torture to them as it is.

School officials -- anyone who deals with children, ever -- need to change their way of thinking if they actually want to help special needs kids. Otherwise, what they really want is to do what's convenient. In which case, do us all a favor and don't work with kids.

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