Jan Falk, MSW, LCSW, BCD View Entire Blog

Parents, please be informed and educated consumers

Every day I get a referral for a student who is having trouble in school. It is almost always (to be polite) an issue where there is a mismatch in learning styles and instructional styles. That is the polite way of saying "the teacher can't teach" and is blaming it on the student. This is not a new problem but it is not much more serious because the outcome of this proclamation is that a child will be given potentially harmful drugs with no reasonable process or real triage. It takes VERY little to be diagnosed with ADHD/ADD or various other mutable maladies. Why? Because not only is there little or no hard evidence that these disorders actually exist but absolutely NO test for them. It has become a cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry. It reminds me of the candy industry who invents holidays like Valentines Day to make people purchase candy. Educators have the ultimate responsibility to differentiate instruction. This means that if you have a student who falls in the roughly 75% group who does not respond or engage with pure lecture style-visual/auditory instruction, they will check out. I have had kids referred for treatment who do well on tests and teachers find fault with the fact that they aren't getting any eye contact. Clue: stuff is boring, you won't get eye contact. If your child engages raptly for hours playing complex videogames but not at school, the problem is not ADHD or any other disorder, the problem is the instructional style is BORING. What I ask is for a parent to walk a day in their child's shoes. You will be astounded. I audited a high school class that my very gifted son was complaining about. What I found stopped me dead in my tracks. The teacher not only did not connect in any human way, but her language was so heavily accented I couldn't make out one word!! She was abusive and boring, a tough combination to create. My thought was-"do the parents know about this???" I have heard other horror stories from students and I ask them, "have you told your parent?" The answer is always-"they don't want to hear it" or "they wouldn't believe me." This is how educators are able to get away with substandard and frankly, horrific instructional methods. Parents need to expect and demand the best. They need to advocate strongly and believe their own children. (why would you believe a stranger over your own child?) As a therapist I am amazed at this phenomena and I would call it residual and unfounded respect. It is internalized oppression. These parents are accomplished, mature and affluent-yet they are reduced to chastized seventh graders when confronting a teacher. Get over it! Advocating for your child is your job.