I remember seeing this article around the beginning of the school year on the increase in ADHD numbers. While these statistics are from the States, my experience over the last 18 years in an Ontario school system, is that our numbers are also on the rise. I will admit that over the years, I’ve suggested to many parents that they see their family doctor regarding a child’s inability to focus. I’ve filled out more forms than you can count, highlighting many different inattentive behaviours. And I did all of this under the belief that I was truly doing what was best for the child. But then, a couple of years ago, I took the Foundations 1 course through The MEHRIT Centre, and Stuart Shanker and Susan Hopkins caused me start to question my beliefs. Is an identification always best?
I started to look at if Self-Reg could help those children that were exhibiting these attention problems. Thankfully I wasn’t alone in this investigation. Both my teaching partner, Paula, and I looked closely at what would help our most challenging students. (These are not just great Self-Reg options for these children, but for many other kids in our class. As you’ll see in the documentation below, all students benefit from Self-Reg.)
- Sometimes it was drawing.
- Sometimes it was the large blocks of free play in our forest space. This article speaks to why this play might be so very valuable.
- Sometimes it was heavy lifting, which might even include moving heavier items around the classroom, or from our indoor classroom to our outdoor space.
- Sometimes it was creating with plasticine.
- Sometimes it was washing items in the sink. The key to this was usually having the child stand up on something high, as then there’s the combination of balance plus sensory play, which seems to be the most calming.
- Sometimes it was creating with LEGO. This year, we found that making a space under a table, provided an additional level of comfort and calm for some kids. It was almost like a tent.
The amazing thing here — and the key to what Paula and I both noticed when we started to look more closely at Self-Reg — was that at least one of these many options helped each of our children self-regulate. When kids are calm, they are able to learn. So for students that might struggle with attention, finding options that help them self-regulate, can certainly change their focus and behaviour within the classroom. Even more incredibly, as we helped initially support students in choosing these different options, pretty soon, most of them were able to recognize their own needs and self-select what worked for them. Now this is Self-Reg.
In the past three years then, I’ve become a changed teacher. My many recommendations to take children to their family doctors, occur far less frequently. I still see children with attention difficulties, but I also see ways that Self-Reg can change things for them. Now I do realize that there are exceptions to this rule, but certainly fewer than I would have initially thought.
- If there are strategies that work, is medication necessary?
- Do we need to get even more creative with possible strategies first?
I know that physicians can give us different perspectives and more information. Maybe identifications help us see and program for kids differently, but at times, even unintentionally, do they also create a self-fulfilling prophecy?
- I realize that kindergarten is different from other grades, but could these same strategies that work for our youngest learners, continue to work?
- How might Self-Reg support some inattentive learners throughout the grades?
Attention difficulties may be on the rise, but maybe there are more med-free solutions than we realize.