If I had a dollar for every time that one of my friends told that me that their little brown son, grandson, nephew or godson was recommended to be placed in special education or to be tested for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, or ADHD, I would be building a mansion and living next door to Oprah Winfrey. I get so sick and tired of hearing that intelligent, little brown boys always need medication or need to be tested for ADHD. This is not always the case. I know because my son was one of them. I approached this with much dismay but with eyes wide open. I’ve learned quite a few things on this journey and naturally I’ve formed some opinions and here they are:
As with anything, I believe that there are two sides to every story. There are a lot of common denominators with some of these families who are experiencing these situations. It appears to me that the little brown boys in suburbia are getting called out on their behavior a little bit more than those in urban areas or their inner-city counterparts. Could it be that the race ratio for brown kids is different in the suburbs? And those that are not familiar with our culture could possibly feel threatened? Yes, threatened by a five year old. Sounds silly, but I think that there is a strong possibility that inner-city teachers know how to deal with kids from all backgrounds, whereas the ones that may teach in suburban areas may only be familiar with certain demographics and how they can relate to (or not relate to) certain types of children.
I’m not an educator, so I don’t know the teachers’ prerequisites and preparedness for cultural differences in the classrooms. However, I do feel as though some young, unexposed teachers are just not prepared to deal with our little brown boys, even in kindergarten. Of course, I’m not a male either, but I am a mother of the little brown boy who they tried to push into this category, at one point in time. So I’m very passionate about this. So passionate, that I feel as though certain teachers need to study cultural differences, in order to better understand the genetic make up and disposition of little brown boys and know that their learning style is diametrically opposed to the learning style and the attention span of let’s say, a Caucasian little girl. Therefore, there could be some pro-active measures put in place. And should there be disruptions or interruptions during class, I think the teacher should be prepared to deal with them and put forth the effort to integrate and re-direct them instead of isolating, ostracizing or separating them from the rest of the class.
Let’s be clear, unacceptable behavior is unacceptable behavior and it needs to dealt with accordingly. But can’t we deal with unfavorable behavior without punishment and taking the easy way out and saying “give them medicine” and simply use consequences? When these teachers suggest that these boys need to be medicated, what have they done previously or prior to making this suggestion? All parents of these little boys should be asking that question. You also need to demand that you observe what’s going on in the classroom. I have seen my child behave the same way his counterpart was misbehaving, but the teacher’s reaction and response to my son seem totally different from that of his peer. Why you ask? It may have something to do with that teacher’s perception of my child and his upbringing or background. My favorite expert on this topic, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, National Education Consultant and best-selling author stated that, “…if they [teachers] create stimulating culturally relevant learning environments, our boys will excel in school.” I totally agree.
To go back to what I was saying about two sides to every story, I’m speaking now about the other side…parental accountability and responsibility for these so-called “ADHD” children. Believe it or not, there are some parents who seem to think that raising children is the teacher’s responsibility and its NOT! It’s still the parents’. Another thing, how many times have you seen a young mother yelling and screaming to the top of her lungs at a toddler? If she’s screaming at the baby like that in public, God knows what she’s doing in the privacy of their own home. I am a recovering yeller myself. I understand the damage that yelling can do to children. It makes them anxious and guess what? We are so wonderfully made, that sometimes our bodies adapt to things and we get used to them. Therefore, if the child is used to his parent yelling all the time, they may not be so quick to respond. Naturally, because it’s become a common occurrence and a part of their everyday life. Unfortunately when they don’t respond to all the yelling, the parent often takes it to the next step and starts to use aggressive parenting: more yelling, spankings, whippings, etc., which isn’t always the answer. So when Mrs. Johnson, the soft spoken kindergarten teacher, speaks to little Bobby in a very quiet calm and peaceful tone, he may not respond to it because that’s not what he’s used to hearing and most likely, she [the teacher] will not get a a favorable response from him.
Another thing, some parents need to get off of Facebook and go to bed at night, so that they can get up on time and stop yelling at the kids when they’re running late. When you start your day off being yelled at and being told, “Hurry up, you gon’ make me lose my job!” that carries over into the child’s day – and unfortunately,they are too developmentally immature to process all of that. Therefore, you have potentially ruined your child’s chance at having a good day. This makes them “difficult to deal with”, according to the teacher.
As we talk about parental accountability, we have to make sure as parents that we’re being advocates for the children. We have to make sure that the teacher’s suggestion for a diagnosis or for special education is not the first, but the last resort. We must make sure the home environment is one that is conducive to good study habits, safety and familiarity. Not having structure and having different people in and out the house, can lead to anxiety which is a natural response/behavior in children.
A lot of people will suggest that ADHD stands for “Absent Daddy from Home Disorder” but as health care professional, I tend to lean towards it meaning “A Demand for a Healthy Diet”. For me, depending on the source, especially if they have vested interest in the the child, I call it, “All Down Hill Destination.” From personal experience, once I started reading food labels of the foods I was pumping into my son’s body (and I thought I was doing the right thing), I realized that it was poison! Once you modify your child’s diet and stick to it, you will most likely see a change as a result of it.
The sad truth is that, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 2% of the nation’s teachers are African-American males. This means that there is a strong possibility that our babies can go from kindergarten to 12th grade without ever seeing an African-American male teacher during their entire school career. I feel like sometimes special-education is a dumping ground for a little brown boys, because of the disproportionate amount of them in the special education classrooms.
Teachers, I salute you. Everyday, you’re faced with unforeseen challenges, yet you continue to work with our kids, day in and day out, despite being one of the most underpaid, most noble professionals to date. Parents, let’s continue to be children’s cheerleaders, get them help if they need it, and just don’t fall into the special education trap, simply because it makes someone else’s life easier.
BMWK – have any of your kids been recommended for special education or recommended for testing for ADD or ADHD? What were your initial thoughts and actions? Please share with us additional actions that parents can take on behalf of their children if this situation arises? Educators, please leave us your input on this topic.
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