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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Why Do So Many Children Have ADHD?

By Carole Hornsby Haynes  |  September 15, 2015  National Center for Policy Analysis

Ignoring research that shows early academic learning inflicts long term harm on young children, American schools have transitioned from play-based to academic learning.

As a result, the percentage of students being diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has risen sharply from 7.8 percent in 2003, 9.5 percent in 2007, and 11 percent in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

Highly respected veteran teachers have reported dramatic changes in the social and physical development of children over the past several generations.  Today’s youngsters cry easily, fall out of chairs frequently, run into walls and other children, and are less attentive.  Others will repeatedly strike themselves in rhythmic patterns or rock their bodies back and forth.

A father told me recently that his child is on medication for ADHD.  A bit of inquiry revealed that the medication is only used when the child is in school – not during summer months.  He said unless his son is on medication, he can’t focus on the lesson, can’t sit still, and falls behind in his work. 

Teachers are being pressured to spend more class time on academic readiness and testing and to submit detailed documentation on students and lessons.  The increasing demand that students must be academically prepared for kindergarten means they are required to sit for long periods of time without moving around -- an attention killer because the brain goes to sleep.

The years prior to the age of seven are critical in the development of strong bodies and minds.  If young children are not engaged in active free play, especially outdoors, they are more likely to exhibit problems with social interactions, paying attention, problem-solving, anxiety, controlling their emotions, and clumsiness.

When these issues arise in elementary school, the education system then tries to fix through coping skills, special breathing techniques, and social skills groups what could have been prevented by allowing children to do what comes naturally – learning through play experiences.

In Germany in the 1970s, the government sponsored a study comparing graduates of play-based kindergartens with those from academic direct-instruction-based kindergartens.  Initially there were academic gains with the direct instruction students, but by grade four they performed worse on every measure than those from play-based kindergartens.  Not only were they less advanced in reading and math, but they were less well-adjusted socially and emotionally.  Germany transitioned back to play-based kindergartens.

If American educators pay attention to research and allow children to learn through playing, exploring, and socializing as they did in traditional nursery schools and kindergartens, then we just might see a significant drop in the number of children that we keep medicated just so they can cope in American schools.

Let’s let kids be kids! 

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