Are schools unfairly "labeling" children in order to receive money or are parents in denial?

[deleted account] ( 23 moms have responded )

An interesting conversation took place at the bus stop this morning! Out of the 8 parents in the group, 6 of them had children that were either diagnosed with a condition (ADD, ADHD, ODD, Autism) or were being referred for an evaluation. Two of the parents accepted the diagnosis/referral and admitted to noticing that something "just wasn't right" with their kids from an early age (one of them even admitted to having complaints about her son in day care last year). Four of the other parents however, were adamant that their kids are fine and that it's a "money hungry' school system that is referring children unfairly in order to receive state and federal money for their schools.



With a background in Psychology and Early Childhood Education I am a little biased! I do notice however, that more children are being diagnosed now, than ever before. Are schools more aware at recognizing the struggles that children are dealing with and helping them sooner or are schools are taking advantage of the fact that they can receive specialized funding if they have a certain percentage of children that have "special needs"? Your thoughts?

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Sara - posted on 11/09/2009

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Quoting Christa:

I think that can all be linked back to lack of parenting. I think many of those kids receive no discipline at home and therefore think they can do whatever they want at school. I don't know what the correct solution would be, because it's not fair to the teachers and the other kids. I don't think diagnosing all these kids with some sort of "disability" and throwing money at it is going to correct the problem. Just a thought but maybe our school systems have also slipped on their discipline. Maybe we need more time outs and detentions again. I can't remember children behaving that way while I was in school. If anything I WAS the problem child because I never shut up and I can assure you I spent many lunch hours with the teacher because of it. In 5th grade I had to sit my desk next to the teacher’s desk so I couldn’t talk to my friends. I learned to shut my mouth. I do think this is a product of our "everybody's a winner" society and we need to go back to where we were 20 years ago, where children were rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad behavior. This live and let live attitude is not helping anyone or building stronger more confident children. But again I don't know how you fix that as a society, you have to change the attitude of today’s parents, and I don't know how to do that.


I totally agree!  I think that ADD/ADHD/ODD is overdiagnosed and children these days are overmedicated.  I think a lot of times parents want this diagnosis to mask their lack of parenting at home.  If there is something wrong with their child, it's not their fault, you know?  I remember that a punishment in my grade school was actually being paddled by the principal.  That certainly deterred me from acting out in school...



 



One thing I would like to add is that having worked in social services for many years, sometimes the parents want a diagnosis so they can claim social security disability for their child (because yes, you can get it for a child with an "emotional" disability).  In those cases, children tend to be very overdiagnosed.  I wonder if a study has ever been done that tracks the rate of diagnosis with socioeconomic situation? 

Jenny - posted on 11/07/2009

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Thanks for the explanation Amie. That would be very frustrating to have to live with.

It would def be at least worth looking into. The main side effects come from smoking the plant and that can be avoided by baking or there is a pill on the market called Marinol but that is a synthetic version of THC. I do realize there is a stigma attached to it being a "street drug" but it is our outdated laws that made it that way. It is a very effective medication with few side effects. Here's a follow up on the story with a link to the original in the text http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/... I was very surprised to see the overwhelming majority of comments were positive to the blog post.

Amie - posted on 11/07/2009

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Apraxia is a neurological disorder characterized by loss of the ability to execute or carry out learned purposeful movements, despite having the desire and the physical ability to perform the movements. It is a disorder of motor planning which may be acquired or developmental, but may not be caused by incoordination, sensory loss, or failure to comprehend simple commands (which can be tested by asking the person to recognize the correct movement from a series). Apraxia should not be confused with aphasia, an inability to produce and/or comprehend language, or abulia, the lack of desire to carry out an action.



I didn't know or had ever heard of it until he was diagnosed either.



I didn't read that post Jenny. I don't know about it for Nicole though. It might work if this fails to continue working though. I'll talk to her psychologist on the 24th at her next appointment. Thanks for pointing that out to me. Never would have occurred to me.

Jenny - posted on 11/07/2009

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What is Apraxia? I've never heard of that before.

Amie, did you read my post about treating children with medical marijuana? It would certainly clear up the appetite issue and possibly the insomnia as well. Would be worth talking with your doctor about.

Amie - posted on 11/07/2009

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It doesn't really bother her, other than it cuts into her recess time at lunch. LOL! She hates that part but she loves the students and her teachers. The kids don't bug each other about it. But then our schools have strict policies regarding such things. If the parents won't teach a child how to act appropriately the school will. Though it is pretty sad they should have to at all.

Nicole has never had problems with other children though. She's very personable and has many friends. There are also many children in the schools with different types of things that need help. In her class there's a girl with epilepsy, an asthmatic and one other with a learning disability. They kids on the whole, are accepting of all this, they understand the kids are different but at the same time deserve the same respect and are to be treated fairly. I think it is because of their age too though, I can't imagine doing this in high school with our daughter. My sister has to field some grief from time to time because teenagers are dinks.

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[deleted account]

Well I can't speak about the process from state to state but in NY, if a parent has their child evaluated and is awarded services, the school does not receive any of that money. The contract is between the parent and the therapy agency, whether or not the child receives those services at school. The process is lengthy but could be quickened with the help of the school district.



The problem is, most parents don't want the school's help. Sometimes they don't believe their child needs to be evaluated, sometimes they don't even want the school to know that they are having their child evaluated (there is still a big stigma about special needs children).



Therefore, many schools have taken the initiative to refer children and get them the services they need or at the very least make the parents aware that there are concerns that need to be addressed. Many districts have had to implemented programs within the schools to address the situation because the parents will not. What is the alternative? Who is going to help these kids? And who is going to pay for the counselors, psychologists, extra teachers, workshop presenters?



Where I worked, we always gave the parents the contact information to get their child evaluated independently first. Most of them never did or started and didn't complete the process.

[deleted account]

Sorry, I don't know much regarding educational systems outside the UK but getting my son reffered and statemented for support within school was a long drawn out process. He had to have reports from the Educational Psychologist, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, consultant peadtrician. My son gets funded for 25 hours classroom support, this is not funding for the school!
It's appauling if a school gets funding for having a percentage of special needs. Focus should be on the individual child needing help and providing them support, not wrongly labelling a few extra kids just to increase general support.

Sara - posted on 11/09/2009

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I found a couple of things Amie. This one is interesting, it says that recent studies suggest both a strong genetic link as well as environmental factors such as history of preterm delivery and perhaps, maternal smoking during pregnancy can be linked to ADHD. But, they add that since there's no real test for ADHD, it's just based on parent and teacher reports, then doing an epidemiological study is difficult due to this and some other factors...

http://www.ub.unimaas.nl/ucm/e-readers/S...

This is interesting too:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

I think you have to take most statistics with a grain of salt, and I do think it's hard because of the way ADHD is diagnosed to really know the real numbers...

Amie - posted on 11/09/2009

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Theresa, That is appalling. I can't believe some parents but even here we have them. We had one father go off the deep end at my child's school last year. The school went into lock down and the cops had to remove him. He just wouldn't quit. It was ridiculous. I can't remember what it was about but he was arguing with the principal and his child's teacher. Since then he's not allowed back at the school, their mom or someone else has to pick them up. The school takes our children's safety to the extreme sometimes but I can't say I'm upset about it. That mother though needs a serious reality check. While her son may or may not have ADD/ADHD something does need to be done. There is no reason for that type of behavior. Ugh.. some parents just annoy the crap out of me.

Sara, That would be an interesting study to find out about. If you do find out something let me know. I'd like to hear about it.

[deleted account]

I worked at a school about 15 years ago where I personally referred children for evaluation. That school received extra funding for referring these children, but I was never "encouraged" to refer normally behaved children. We had plenty of children biting, hitting, throwing things, etc. We didn't need to fabricate cases. The money was never the driving force behind the program. It was just another way to get money in an environment where funding was being cut right and left and the need for creating more cohesive classrooms was present.



I have seen children with Autism and Aspergers syndrome get the help they needed. I've also seen kids with ADD and ADHD get the help they needed (and it wasn't always through medication). I've even seen parent workshops set up to help teach parents how to discipline their children, feed their children nutritious meals, and how to keep their children healthy by taking them to the doctor and dentist. It was a wonderful program!



15 years later, I hear parents complaining about the amount of homework kids are receiving, how long the school day is, how strict the dress codes are, how stern the discipline policies are, etc



My son is in elementary school and they don't have detention, but they will take a child's recess, music, art and gym away or they will have to go to the principal's office and have their parent called if they misbehave. You should hear some of these mother's complain! They don't think it's fair! One mother went so far as to contact the school board to see if she could have some discplinary action taken against the prinicpal because she felt the principal was preventing her child from learning because he was always in the principal's office! Can you believe it?? We tried to convince her to let it go, I mean if her kid is walking out the room, throwing things, hitting kids, what is he or anyone else in that class learning?? She refused to listen to us. And when the school mentioned getting him referred for an evaluation, she went off the deep end! She was one of the parents saying the school was just interested in getting funding for special needs kids. I disagree. This is just another tactic parents are using to deflect responsibility to someone else for their lack of parenting. I mean, she can't get him out of the damn grass and onto the school bus in the morning! He's one of the only kids running around, in and out the car, up and down the street at 8:00 in the damn morning! She fights him to put his shoes on, keep his coat on and carry his bookbag! She has no control of him and seems to despise the very institution that can help him. He's 6 for God's sake. How is he going to be at 10?, 15? 20?

Isobel - posted on 11/08/2009

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yes, at our schools, the girls are not allowed to wear shirts with straps less than an inch thick, no exposed midriffs, no underwear showing, etc.

Amie - posted on 11/08/2009

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I'd just like to say here too before anyone gets confused. Education is run differently province to province, even city to city in some cases.
I would also like to state I am NEVER leaving Saskatchewan now until my kids are done school. I'll stick with my socialist province. =P LOL!

Amie - posted on 11/08/2009

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Quoting Jenny:

I agree Christa, we are just excusing bad behaviour and poor parenting in a majority of these cases. While there are legimate mental issues with some kids I find a lot are just lazy parenting. I see it all the time in my daughter's school. One little girl has been repeatedly warned to stop wearing high heels, mini skirts and midriff baring shirts in GRADE TWO. The other day she ran out the door in bare feet and her mom didn't say a word. I've talked to her about it before and she doesn't want her daughter to mad at her! We don't have kids to be our friends. But then again this woman had her first kid at 15 and now has four (by four different dads) at the age of 23. All the kids (except the baby) are showing major behavioural issues and she is an excuse factory. I find it extremely frustrating that some prents are just not willing to put the effort to properly raise their kids.


Holy crap!! That would not be tolerated at my children's school. We have dress codes. The child would be sent home to change, if young enough the parents would be called to pick them up to change them. That's ridiculous!

Amie - posted on 11/08/2009

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Quoting Christa:

I think that can all be linked back to lack of parenting. I think many of those kids receive no discipline at home and therefore think they can do whatever they want at school. I don't know what the correct solution would be, because it's not fair to the teachers and the other kids. I don't think diagnosing all these kids with some sort of "disability" and throwing money at it is going to correct the problem. Just a thought but maybe our school systems have also slipped on their discipline. Maybe we need more time outs and detentions again. I can't remember children behaving that way while I was in school. If anything I WAS the problem child because I never shut up and I can assure you I spent many lunch hours with the teacher because of it. In 5th grade I had to sit my desk next to the teacher’s desk so I couldn’t talk to my friends. I learned to shut my mouth. I do think this is a product of our "everybody's a winner" society and we need to go back to where we were 20 years ago, where children were rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad behavior. This live and let live attitude is not helping anyone or building stronger more confident children. But again I don't know how you fix that as a society, you have to change the attitude of today’s parents, and I don't know how to do that.


Well said! Our schools still have detention. :)

Amie - posted on 11/08/2009

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Quoting Theresa:

Amie, it seems as though your case is a clear cut example of a correct diagnosis and/or treatment for the most part.

What about the cases of children walking out of classrooms without permission, sitting under tables during instructional time, hitting and biting other kids, yelling, screaming, throwing objects and disrupting the classroom lesson and routine to the point where overall teaching is affected?

How long should these behaviors be ignored? I hear parents all the time say, "kids will be kids", or " the schools have too high an expectation for kids so young", or " my kid is only 5, 6,7 years old" or "my kid is normal, it's the school's that are abnormal".

Is it wrong for a school to receive money for these students? This funding provides money for counselors, therapists, specialized classes and workshops that parents either can't afford or refuse to utilize because they don't want to accept the truth. What is a school to do? Teachers can't teach, students can't learn and parents are frustrated.


As in my first post, I'm in Canada. Our system is different. Those children are not tolerated. The schools will only put up with so much. I do know personally of one student, at the age of 9, who was removed from the public school system last year through expulsion. His parents refused to address the problems and the school could not keep him as he was a liablity, not only to himself but other students and teachers. I don't know where he is this year as his family has either moved to another school district or he is in social services care. I'm not sure which it is but I do hope social services has that child. He had some pretty big issues to handle. 



The behaviors you are talking about though are not tolerated at all here. If a child becomes especially disruptive they are removed from the class. If it continues to happen the principal and parents are involved. Our schools here have a zero tolerance policy for misbehaving of that sort. Kids are young but the rules set in place are simple enough for them all to understand. If the parents though will not intervene our schools do have the authority to go to social services and other authorities to have the child assessed. It is about the CHILD not about the parents.



It is not wrong for the schools to receive money for these types of students. However our system is set up different. In rural areas the specialized classes are lumped in with the mainstream school because of size and space issues. There's no sense opening two schools when one has the room to accomadate. I'm in a urban center though so mine is bussed between the two.  Schools should be run all about the child, not all about the funding. If schools are striving for a certain amount of "special" children so they can get more funding then something needs to be drastically done to change how the system is in the states. As it is I think it's needed anyway.



Our high schools are even harder and have higher expectations of the students. At that age the students are old enough to know and understand fully. They have 3 chances before they are out. It may vary by district and some leniences are allowed but for severely problem children they are removed from the setting.



These children, elementary and high school, are all fought for though. All measures are taken to keep them in school. Whether it's one on one teaching in a separate room each day until they are able to go back to the classroom or if it's moving them to another school to see if that works better. Everything is tried before they are given the boot and have to work out on their own (parents) what to do about their education.



 

Charlie - posted on 11/08/2009

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I agree too Christa , unfortunately its now a case of ignore everyone because they are probably just naughty kids OR drug everyone and slap a label on them .
This is completely unfair to everyone , unfair for the children who really do need the attention and support from professionals such as therapists , counselors and trained teachers in working with behavior challenged children and its unfair to the children who don't need to be labeled and put on medications who only need a little discipline and adult guidance .
I think a lot of teachers are are now breaking under the extra burden of doing jobs meant to be done by parents at home .

Jenny - posted on 11/08/2009

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I agree Christa, we are just excusing bad behaviour and poor parenting in a majority of these cases. While there are legimate mental issues with some kids I find a lot are just lazy parenting. I see it all the time in my daughter's school. One little girl has been repeatedly warned to stop wearing high heels, mini skirts and midriff baring shirts in GRADE TWO. The other day she ran out the door in bare feet and her mom didn't say a word. I've talked to her about it before and she doesn't want her daughter to mad at her! We don't have kids to be our friends. But then again this woman had her first kid at 15 and now has four (by four different dads) at the age of 23. All the kids (except the baby) are showing major behavioural issues and she is an excuse factory. I find it extremely frustrating that some prents are just not willing to put the effort to properly raise their kids.

[deleted account]

Amie, it seems as though your case is a clear cut example of a correct diagnosis and/or treatment for the most part.



What about the cases of children walking out of classrooms without permission, sitting under tables during instructional time, hitting and biting other kids, yelling, screaming, throwing objects and disrupting the classroom lesson and routine to the point where overall teaching is affected?



How long should these behaviors be ignored? I hear parents all the time say, "kids will be kids", or " the schools have too high an expectation for kids so young", or " my kid is only 5, 6,7 years old" or "my kid is normal, it's the school's that are abnormal".



Is it wrong for a school to receive money for these students? This funding provides money for counselors, therapists, specialized classes and workshops that parents either can't afford or refuse to utilize because they don't want to accept the truth. What is a school to do? Teachers can't teach, students can't learn and parents are frustrated.

Amie - posted on 11/07/2009

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Oh reading the article I do remember reading it now! lol! Thanks for that though. I bookmarked it so I can look into it some more. I know here in our city the University hospital handles the medical marijuana. One of our friends has Lupus and she has a card and uses. Though I think she smokes, not entirely sure. I think I'll talk to her too when I have a chance. =) Thanks again!

Amie - posted on 11/06/2009

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This is another thing that is different from Canada to the US and possibly other countries. Our schools don't get more funding for having a certain number of children with special needs. Depending on the need they are either removed from mainstream school altogether and put with others like them in special schools. Or in cases like my daughter she is bused back and forth between a learning disabilities school and her main school.



Nicole's teacher and we had concerns about her in kindergarten. But with the way things are here the specialist she was sent to didn't want to diagnose her until she had at least one year of school behind her. Which was fine, some kids do outgrow these things and it isn't a real concern.



At the beginning of Grade 1 she was sent back again to her specialist. We filled out forms, the school did, her GP did and she saw a psychologist. We tried a natural path with her but it failed miserably. By the end of Grade 1 she was falling behind. So in grade 2 she was put on low dose Ritalin 2.5 mg twice a day. (a 5 mg pill cut in half) She did improve but by the end of the year she had plateaued. Even with upping her medication to 1 5mg pill and 1 half pill it didn't work.



So we applied for the learning disabilities school on the advice of the psychologist. She was accepted and in Grade 3 she started going mornings at her main school and afternoons at the learning disabilities school. It did wonders for her. They teach in a different manner so the kids learn how to learn around their disabilities. She had gone through a big growth spurt during Grade 3 as well and was upped to 2 5mg pills a day.



She is now in Grade 4. She started having problems with the regular Ritalin over the summer. Her appetite was waning and she was having problems going to sleep. So at the beginning of this year when we had her regular appointment with her specialist (every 3 months) I expressed my concerns. He didn't want to do anything about it so he's been cut out of the picture with a clear reason as to why. He may not like it but my daughter comes first. She is now seeing the psychologist regularly instead. She's been put on slow release Ritalin (20mg). She's doing much better with it. She eats like a horse again and has no problems going to bed. Her schooling had improved drastically last year and they had wanted to mainstream her back but we agreed on one more year. It will give her and them a chance to really concrete the skills she's learned so it should not affect her schooling anymore. I know she would be happy to be mainstreamed back too. She gets tired of busing back and forth. She also knows though that we are doing this for her and for her future.



I was diagnosed with ADD as a child. Though I only had mild ADD whereas Nicole has severe ADHD. It still made my life harder. I was able to get through school and university but it was a lot more frustrating than it needed to be. Especially on my parents. My sister also has ADHD, my mom has chosen not to medicate her. I've told my mom she should, she is not like me, she can't and isn't coping well. But my mom is a firm believer in no meds. So my sister at the moment is in modified classes (because mom won't even apply for the learning disabilities schools) and is struggling immensely. I wish I could do something for her but at this age she's old enough to make her own decisions. Mom has got her so scared of taking meds she won't even go for herself. I will continue to hope that she sees how good it is doing for Nicole though. Then maybe that ingrained fear will be overridden and she will do something about it on her own.



I also have a nephew (honorary-none of my siblings have kids yet) with Apraxia. He was diagnosed 4 months ago and he is in now in a specialized school for kids like him. It has done him so much good. He's started to talk again (he hasn't spoken since he was 2, he's now 4) he's potty training, he's slowly coming out of his shell and progressing fast.



Here I don't think they are over diagnosed. Our doctors don't really push pills, our schools don't have an incentive other than wanting the best for the children. It's not a bad thing to take the time to find a proper diagnosis, if there is one. Nicole's took a year, mine was done in Grade 1 also, my sister's in Grade 3 and my nephew took 2 years.



I do think teachers are more aware of the warning signs though. I can't speak to the funding issues though, it's just not an issue here.

Charlie - posted on 11/06/2009

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I am also in ECE and think ADD, ADHD is overly diagnosed although that is an issue with doctors not teachers .
As a teacher i have had to face a few parents and referred them on to get their child evaluated , this is not an easy thing to do believe me and yes i would prefer not to have to break it to a parent that their child may need assessment for Autism but someone has to do it , i don't think at all its about money we as teachers care for those children too and as someone separate from their family circle often we see with "open" eyes .

Really only good can come of getting it checked out you will either find out early and learn the tools to deal with any condition your child may have give them a chance at an easier life OR they find out there is nothing to worry about .

I have to say , personally i get frustrated when it is completely obvious a child needs to be assessed and to get help and the parents wont act out of their own bruised ego or pride Or they are completely blinded by love ( and it happens so often) , Do it for your child not for you ( you being in general ).

Dana - posted on 11/06/2009

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I copied and pasted this from another community where I had answered the same question. Just thought I should rat myself out. lol



I think some kids are more excited than others, some are more subdued and some meet right in the middle. I'm not exactly sure what the deal is but it seems all of us grew up perfectly fine without the meds being crammed down our throats. I've never heard of the reason being money for schools but, I don't doubt it either. I've always wondered if the teachers just don't want to deal with a physically or mentally active child.

Like Susan Sarandon once said (quoted loosely) "Where will we get all of our artist's if we drug all our children"

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