Students Misdiagnosed as ADHD.

Many students today are being mis-diagnosed as having ADHD because their teachers do not know how to communicate with them and do not include something in their classes to motivate them or hold their interest.  According to Rebecca Bailey, a teacher in Arkansas who researched students in 3 schools in the Little Rock, Arkansas area for her doctoral dissertation, this frequently was the result of personality differences between the students and their teachers.  In short, the teachers did not know how to reach those students who were very different from themselves; the students became frustrated that they were not getting their motivational needs met in school; the students went into distress and displayed their predictable distress behaviors; the teachers did not know how to deal positively with these behaviors and frequently the teachers responded to the behaviors by going into distress themselves.  Because the student behaviors corresponded to the behaviors that the American Psychiatric Association identified in 1994 as being indicative of children with ADHD, the teachers labeled the students as being ADHD.

The Centers for Disease Control has stated that 4-6% of the U.S. population actually have ADHD, yet in some schools one third to one half of the students have been given that label based on their negative behaviors.  Dr. Taibi Kahler, an internationally renowned psychologist, has identified six different personality types and six distinct distress sequences that people get into when they do not get their needs met positively.  Every one of the behaviors identified as symptoms of ADHD by the American Psychiatric Association are behaviors that two of those types (those who view the world through their likes and dislikes and those who are action oriented) do when they are in distress.  Frequently they display these behaviors because they are bored as a result of not getting their needs met positively.

How prevalent is this mis-diagnosis?  The Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C. was so concerned about the problem that they ran TV ads showing children running around having fun.  The punch line of all the ads was that 50% of all the children they saw who had been diagnosed ADHD were mis-diagnosed.  There was nothing wrong with them; they were just children being children.  Former first lady Hilary Rodham Clinton was so concerned about the problem that she asked the National Institutes of Health to sponsor two national conferences to discuss the over-diagnosis problem.  A doctor in Norfolk, Virginia was so concerned that he started a movement to get doctors to stop diagnosing children as ADHD based solely on the 1992 criteria.  Many others are equally concerned.

So who are these students who are being mis-labeled ADHD and what can be done to reduce that number?  Many of the children who are being mis-diagnosed ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive are children who Dr. Taibi Kahler calls Rebels and Promoters.  Rebels are people who are creative, spontaneous, and playful and Promoters are people who are resourceful, adaptable, and charming.  Rebels are change agents who often want to know why things have to be done a certain way.  Promoters are action agents who make things happen.  Both types are active people and both types tend to be kinesthetic learners.  They need to be moving around doing things.  The Rebel’s motivational need is to have fun while the Promoter’s motivational need is incidence, that is, a lot of excitement in a short period of time, a rush.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of excitement, action, or fun in many of our classes because those are not important needs for most educators.  Also, most educators are not motivated that way and do not learn the way Rebels and Promoters learn.  Because most teachers learn differently from these two types of students and are motivated differently, they are not aware that these students have different needs than they do. Therefore, they do not have their students do exciting or fun things in their classes.  This results in the Rebels and Promoters getting into distress.  When Rebels get into distress they blame everything on others, they fidget, and they act out.  They may become the class clown.  Promoters manipulate, con, ignore the rules, and make fools of people.  Both types find ways to get even.

The solution then is for teachers to include something in every class to help every student get their motivational needs met positively.  When they do this, all the negative behaviors stop.  This allows the teachers to spend more time teaching and less time being “lion tamers”.  This really is win-win for everyone.  The students learn more and the teachers are not tired at the end of the day.  Also, they enjoy teaching more.  There now are 27 education related dissertations and 14 masters theses that have been done in graduate schools all over the country that show when children in every grade and in every environment (urban, suburban, and rural) get their needs met positively in the classroom, they enjoy school more, stop their negative behaviors, are more motivated to study, and learn more.

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