Don’t know if it’s in the air or water…

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The percentage of kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been surging upward in the recent past. Fidgety kids squirm their way through class, jiggling, jostling, poking seatmates, unable to focus on their teacher or much of anything else for long. These students are easily distracted and, more importantly, act as a constant source of distraction.

“Look, Ms. Q! There’s a skunk across the road!”

According to the CDC, a new study puts the percentage of kids being diagnosed with ADHD at 11%. That’s more than one in ten. Statistics vary but the numbers are high and they are trending upward.

Eduhonesty: Videogames? Poor nutrition? Food additives? Too much television and electronic stimulation? Too much overall stimulation? Whatever the cause, ADHD impacts American schools on many levels. We need to get a handle on this phenomenon. My ADHD kids mean well and they want to succeed (almost all of them anyway) but success may remain out of their reach. They can’t listen long enough to learn once the material becomes more rigorous. They also spend too much time out of the classroom being disciplined for anyone’s good.

A favorite reflection on misbehavior from the last week: My student wrote that his infraction had been poking his seatmate. His proposed solution to the problem?

“I could maybe try not poking people.”

It was funny, but it also cost his whole class at least one minute of learning time total, and more time for the poor kid who got a finger jabbed into his side. One minute times twenty students is twenty minutes, and this is one tiny event with one boy in a class where the number of kids with similar attention span problems totals more than the fingers on one of my hands. (If that sounds statistically improbable, I will note that I am working with a struggling subsection of lower students. The percentage of students with ADHD will be higher in struggling populations and special education classrooms overall.)