Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nature and ADHD or Nature Deficit Disorder

I just spent a couple of hours this evening surfing through a variety of nature websites and blogs. I wrote down a web address when I was at REI this week called What a cool site! I read articles that reinforce my drive to expose my children to as many experiences in the outdoors as possible.

Every well written article seems to refer back to Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods. When I read this book a few years ago I knew I had to make some drastic changes in our lives in order to prevent my children from developing severe Nature Deficit Disorder. I honestly could already see the tell tale signs emerging and I refused to give in and give up.

Jack, my youngest son has always given me a run for my money. I knew right away when he was a toddler that there was something different about least different from my first two sons (even my mom noticed it). He was more aggressive, seemed to have less empathy, didn't listen well (actually seemed to tune me out) and he had boundless energy and talked incessantly. When he was 5 I grew concerned and visited the pediatrician to ask about ADHD. I was informed that he was too young to diagnose since they typically won't diagnose until around the 3rd grade. Not that I was eager to slap a label on him, but I also didn't want him to continually disrupt his class and be labeled as a troublemaker either.

The funny thing is that Jack is an extremely gifted child in so many ways. He's amazing at recognizing landmarks. We'll drive past an area and suddenly he'll say "This is by Jake's house." or "Are we going to the park?". He's been this way since he was a few years old. I always wondered how he could pay so much attention from the back seat.

He's also an amazing puzzle builder. When he picks up a puzzle piece he rotates it and seems to view it on a different plane than most. Personally, I hate building puzzles. Jack can also build amazing often perfectly symmetrical structures out of Lego's, K'Nex and other construction toys.

You're probably wondering why this is on my mind. Well, last year Jack's teacher had him tested and the tests came back showing Jack as "gifted" which once again is a label I'm not sure I agree with. I mean, what is "gifted"? What if he just has strengths that we need to encourage him to explore and engage hands on construction. Maybe he'll be an engineer someday like his father.

Tonight at curriculum night his teacher informed me that he had been "exiled" this week. What is exiled in a first grade classroom you ask...well, he was separated from the other children because he was being disruptive (or something like that...he didn't really ellaborate). I wasn't at all surprised. I told the teacher that I had him tested for ADHD and they said it was too early and his response was "He is. I'm really good at spotting it and I can just tell...he is." Great, this is the first week of school and he's already being labeled as the ADHD kid.

So, ADHD or not I'll continue to get my kids out of the house as much as possible to experience all that nature has to offer. When we're out camping, hiking and exploring I see very little signs of ADHD in Jack (except for the fact that he talks non-stop which I actually adore). He can run and jump and burn up all that pent up energy without worrying about the consequences. He won't be exiled here. Remember, this is the same child that told me the Northern Cardinal we saw was "the most beautiful thing on this earth." We must be doing something right.


Holly Hunter said...

I meant to say that I had asked about having him tested, not that I did have him tested for ADHD. The doctor told me he was too young.

Otto Siegel said...

I love your story and how you address all the labeling and mis-labeling going on with bright children who just desire to be all they can be. Can NDD be a new label for you to alert more parents :-)? Giftedness is another classification that may or may not be helpful to sidetrack from the fact that every child has a UNIQUE set of innate talents and strengths that wait to be identified and developed with passion and joy. When is Jack going to start a debate club for first graders?