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"Making life better"


A major effect on development during middle childhood is schooling. Since everyone who takes these courses have gone to schools and many of you work in schools now, I would just like to bring up some brief points that, I think, deserve a little more emphasis or on which you could use some useful information.

School is often the first time children are compared to others. When you were a little girl or boy and made a picture for your mother, she didn't run over and compare it with the child's next door and then say,
"I think this rates a C+, the neighbor's three-year-old had better use of color and you need to learn to draw more realistic flowers."

Most likely, she put your picture on the refrigerator and said it was wonderful. School is not necessarily like that.


Perhaps at the extreme of being told you do not measure up is to be identified as disabled. The majority of disabilities are first diagnosed in school.

 Learning disabilities is defined under PL 94-142 as impairment in neurological functioning manifested in an imperfect ability to read, write, speak or perform mathematical calculations and which is not due to physical, sensory or emotional impairment or sociocultural disadvantage.

[Incidentally, one of the things that really bugs me is that people do not ask questions when they don't know something. I don't know for certain, but I think it has to do with the assumption that everyone else knows the answer to whatever it is and that I must be the only dumb one who doesn't get it. PL 94-142 is a perfect example of this. It is the law which mandates a free, appropriate public education for all children, regardless of handicap. The PL stands for Public Law.]

Now that I know a child has a learning disability, what can I do?
There is not, of course, one simple answer to that question. One approach is given by the Landmark Study Skills System. This is one of a large group of methods which focus on improving organizational and metacognitive skills of students.

 The diagnosis of the hour, it seems, is ADHD or ADD. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is characterized by:

  •  extreme distractibility
  •  extreme impulsiveness, and
  •  intense activity, to the point of being almost unable to sit still.
If hyperactivity is not present, the disorder is called ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder.
"Dusty Nash, an angelic-looking blond child of seven, awoke at 5 one recent morning... and proceeded to throw a fit. He wailed. He kicked. Every muscle in his 50-lb. body flew in furious motion. Finally, after about 30 minutes, Dusty pulled himself together sufficiently to head downstairs for breakfast ... After grabbing some cereal in his hands, he began kicking the box, scattering little round corn puffs across the room. Next, he turned his attention to ...{the Con-Tact paper covering the TV table and began peeling it off}. Then he became intrigued with the spilled cereal and started stomping it to bits.... In a firm but calm voice {his mother} told her son to get the stand-up dustpan and broom and clean up the mess. Dusty got out the dust pan but forgot the rest of the order. Within seconds, he was dismantling the plastic dustpan piece by piece. His next project: grabbing three rolls of toilet paper from the bathroom and unraveling them around the house. It was only 7:30, and his mother... was already feeling half-dead from exhaustion." (Claudia Wallis, "Life in Overdrive" Time, July 18, 1994)

 Reading the description above, of a little boy diagnosed with ADHD who has been removed from Ritalin for the day, it is easy to sympathize with his mother and teachers, and see that his behavior might readily be characterized as a disorder. However, when one reads later in the same article that, in some classrooms, 30-40% of boys are on Ritalin, it is hard to believe that ALL of them had such severe behavior problems.


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