ADHD and Our Little Brown Boys – Why One Mom is Sick of it?

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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.

 

About the author

Sheree Adams wrote 114 articles on this blog.

Sheree is a wife and WAHM of three who passionately blogs about marriage, family, health tips and more as Smart & Sassy Mom. Sheree is committed to helping blended families and keeping marriages strong, healthy, fun and SPICY!

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13 WordPress comments on “ADHD and Our Little Brown Boys – Why One Mom is Sick of it?

  1. Ronnie Tyler

    As a mother as an African American boy, I have experienced this too. But I have mixed feelings about the topic. My son’s kindergarten teacher first mentioned that there may be some hyperactivity with my son. But I thought, she is labeling my son…she is no doctor…she is not qualified to say. So I changed his diet and I became more involved as a parent. I volunteered at his school and was present at all school events and field trips. But by second grade, there was still something there…and he was having problems with many of his relationships with his friends inside of school and outside of school. So that is when I sought therapy through my insurance company. And once I found a doctor that I trusted…we worked together to do what was best for my son.

    I think you are right. We need to be advocates for your children. And if your child’s teacher makes a recommendation…then it is up to you to get to the bottom of it.

    But, I caution people about saying “all kids are being mislabeled” because some people’s kids do have ADHD.. or Autism…or issues ..and they are not getting the help that is needed for their kids….they are shrugging it off as ..they are targeting our black kids. There is also this thing in the black community where there is no such thing as ADHD, autism, depression…and they don’t get the help that they need for themselves or their kids.

    I don’t know the answer…and I am sure there are many many kids being put into categories that they should not be….so the only thing that I can recommend is that you fight and work on behalf of your child.

    Reply
  2. Karla

    I am a school social worker, so often I am the one called in to a classroom to observe a student’s behavior, give the teacher suggestions and recommendations. I agree that a significant portion of parents in the inner city , think that the school is suppossed to do everything. Well we don’t and we can’t. I have two boys, one has ADHD and I diagnosed him well before he even started kindergarten. I however did not put him on medication until the 2nd grade because I wanted to observe him and see if his hyperactivty, low tolerance for frustration, social skills, memory and organization would get better as he got older…it didn’t. The school he attends did not come to me, they just kept sending him home with behavior notes (mostly talking, incomplete work, daydreaming). So, being the advocate for my child and KNOWING that things were not going to get better, I requested a 504 plan, which allows for special accomodations and modifications to my child’s academic experience. I was the one who sent the behavior rating scales to the school and harassed everyone until I had his 504 plan completed. I also am not against medication because I see how it helps and I see how little brown boys, whose mothers or fathers or whomever is taking care of them are very quick to say no to meds, yet they want to see improvements. Well, its not going to happen, mainly because they are not going to clean up the diet (healthy foods cost more), they are not going to set a structured schedule at home to help with organization and memory, they are not going to take time to process frustrations or give advice on social skill. So, in the long run, boys who have ADHD and are not medicated continue to misbehave, be off task, have incomplete work, poor social skills and lower academic achievment which leads to a dislike of school. My son is very intelligent, he is in 3rd grade goes to 4th grade for reading, likes to create things and is curious. So many other children I see, could be the same way, yet they aren’t getting medical treatment and they are suffering and failing in school. Because if the little brown boy can’t attent to a worksheet that takes 10 minutes, how is he going to sit and focus on a test?

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      I have to say this is not just for little brown boys but little girls as well. I am experiencing issues with my daughter right now but is not going to rush into a diagnosis at all. Only thing that I might agree to is medication because I know how she acts at home and the daily notes on my daughter from her teacher. Without the teacher taking these notes I would be at a loss of what she is actually doing in class let alone my own observations when I come to the school. I am still giving some more time on the issue I have given ourselves my husband and I until January to go ahead with the medicine and see what needs to be done. Keep us in your prayers at this point we don’t need anyone telling us what to do with our child but we will keep watching and praying and asking the Lords guidance on what directions we need to take next. Thanks enjoyed getting insight from everyone:)

      Reply
  3. Diedre Stephens

    As a parent and educator, I have witnessed a lot of brown boys being labeled as ADD or ADHD. It seems like it is the easy way out now. Easy way out for who? Both teachers and parents. It is easier for some to take their child to the doctor and get them medicines for hyperactivity, instead of changing their home environment. A lot of the students who I feel are not ADHD or ADD, who have in fact been diagnosed have unstable lives at home. Most are from single parent homes and are seeking attention. The problem is children are raising children. I am 26 and teach 5th grade. Some of my students’ parents are younger than me. I was raised in a single parent home and know how it feels not having a parent around, so I try to talk to these parents and find ways to help their children. Teacher preparation programs include courses on teaching diverse students, but they do not prepare teachers for the behaviors we encounter from students. This is a major problem in our community and education system.

    Reply
  4. Erica Harris

    As an educator,I can say that there are times when ADHD is thrown around more often with little brown boys than other students. I have had many students enter my classroom already labeled as ADHD students or extremely hyperactive, and many of them were wrongly labeled. As we all know there are many factors that can determine how children react to different situations or environments. I chose to have conferences with the parents to see what led to the ADHD labeling and were there any other factors coming in to play(ie, home life, family, lack of sleep,poor nutrition, etc.). After monitoring the children daily, I noticed a pattern in certain students. A few students would complete their classwork before others and they became bored(then the acting out began.). Some students didn’t write, speak or read as well as others( after that they became uninterested and chose to distract their classmates.). To make a long story short, there are children out there with ADHD, but a lot of children are diagnosed with this that really are just misunderstood. It takes not only the teachers but the parents as well to make sure they research all avenues before accepting this diagnosis.

    Reply
  5. Melinda

    I have two sons (ages 6 & 7) that were diagnosed with ADHD last year. My sons have always been hyper but I contributed this to the fact that they are boys. I did not feel initially that this was ADHD.
    My boys are involved in sports and they have both parents living with them. We do have a large family (5 children) and both my husband and I work outside the home. So, our home life isn’t what I would describe as quiet or boring.
    We decided to get the boys evaluated after their teachers started constantly sending home notes and the principal kept calling us. My boys did not respond well to some of the teachers and they were not completing their work in class or listening to instructions. So, after some therapy sessions and appointments with the pediatrician, we decided to put the boys on medication.
    I find it ironic that when the teachers had trouble with my oldest son, they would send him to the one and only black teacher in the school (who is also the only male teacher in the school). This black male teacher has told me on several occasions that he has never had a problem with my son. Thankfully, my son has him as a teacher this year and my son is excelling academically and socially.
    I view the medication as a temporary fix, because I am going to try everything I can to get these boys off this medication.

    Reply
  6. TRenekia Gilmore

    I work in the school system as a school psychologist. The over- identification of black boys  in Special education is not just a suburban problem. It is a national problem. The rates are just as high if not higher in urban areas. I agree that cultural competency is lacking with many teachers regardless of race. I, also, see classroom management is lacking as well which lead to many of these referrals. I’ll admit that many of my colleagues assess to look for a number rather than looking at the whole child (home, school, social, community) to see the best way to intervene. I’ve also see that parents must understand that the only person that can effectively advocate for their children are them. Some parents do need parenting skills bc I do see many anxious children perceive as ADHD when actually there is a lot of stress in the home. Please ask questions, seek second opinions, ask what interventions have they done (besides sitting him close to the teacher), go observe the classroom, sit & talk with the teacher & offer what works at home. AND Do Not Sign Anything if it does not feel right! Ask for mediation. Bring someone who is knowledgable about laws & assessment with you. I work in it & have been frustrated myself. Yes, there are children with this disability but not as many as it is lead to believe. Make them do the interventions, talk to your doctor, research it yourself, observe your child at home, talk to other professionals who specialize in these disability b4 you sign anything. Out of my frustration, I wrote a short about it that aired on national tv but you can still see it online. http://www.iepfilm.com

    Reply
  7. Lets talk

    I am on both sides or may be I should say the other side of this, as a parent of a 13 year old “daughter” with ADD/ADHD, our girls are often overlooked.
    Don’t discount a people may say to you about your child, in my case it was a trusted friend who was also a school teacher who noticed symptoms in my daughter. After doing my own research and talking with my child’s Doctor I found a specialist and had her tested. I can now tell you that my daughter who once struggled in school, was once on a IEP (Individual Education Plan), is now a getting A’s and B’s in school and no longer in need of a IEP program.
    We as a parents , our community and especially in our church’s; have to get over the stigma that depression, ADHD etc is something to be ashamed of or don’t exist. It is very real and people are not seeking the help they need. I was also one of those people, until I walked in those shoes.

    Reply
  8. Laborndcluv

    I do not have children, so I know that many of you will discount everything I say because of that fact; however, I grew up with a hyperactive brother. That’s what they called it back before all this ADD/ADHD stuff came about. According to my mother, even as a baby he didn’t take naps during the daytime. I also have to say that I believe a VERY SMALL portion of children really do have anything wrong with them that needs to be treated medically and its very disturbing to me that so many of our children are on medication. If my brother was in school now, they would definitely try to put him on medication. He was super bright but exhibited all the symptoms that some people are stating above (unable to focus, talking, etc). He was put out of one school just because they couldn’t handle him. My mother found a magnet school for him (and me) that was a gifted magnet and had quite an unorthodox way of learning. He absolutely excelled because the focus at the school was creative learning and not sitting down and being still, passing tests, or raising our hands before we spoke. My parents also kept him busy through sports, church activities, etc. and we ate very healthy (i.e. very little processed food). I agree with the article, many other cultures already have negative ideas about our boys (even very little ones) and treat them accordingly. I just wish all options would be exhausted before accepting a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD so quickly for our black children. I 100% agree with the article that in many instances, it is the WAY in which our children are being taught that is the problem, not our children. Let’s stand up for our children and not allow them to be labeled at such a young age. In addition to Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, Dr. Jamila Gillenwaters in Los Angeles is a consultant that conducts workshops for teachers on how to teach students in a culturally responsible manner.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: Is Educational Disparity Our Generation’s Civil Rights Issue? | Black and Married With Kids.com - A Positive Image of Marriage and Family

  10. Shynell

    I want to thank you for writing the article and exposing a situation many parents of “brown kids” face. I will not repeat many of the comments already posted but I will say this is not a cultural issue as outlined by the writer. The cultural issue is the choice to medicate. The cultural is is accusing the teachers for not understanding your child. As a mother and registered nurse, I have dealt with this issue extensively. I chose to medicate to give my son a chance in life. He is one of the ADHD gifted children and it is now reflected in his grades(Principals Honor Roll), his attitude and more importantly his self esteem. It does a child damage to keep hearing, stop it, sit down, come here, stop talking……….the list goes on. Lastly, take some time and research all the successful people that have a history of ADHD, you will see that the only thing new about the issue is the name. I have a 50 y.o white co-worker that took Ritalin when she was young…..I wish my mom had medicated me!

    Reply
  11. Another Anonymous Poster

    1) It’s good to be careful but sometimes it is ADHD. Our children sometimes have issues and sometimes ADHD is one of them. Be observant. Keep a diary. Let someone else observe.

    I am the married, mom of 2 black sons. Third grade teacher said she thought our son had attention issues. I didn’t think so but I continued to observe. After much personal investigation on Google, I determined he was having Absence seizures. After we got employed again, and had health insurance, I set up an appointment at the epilepsy clinic and the diagnosis was confirmed. Do you know how many people in my family, including my husband, said nothing was wrong??? I ignored that and pressed on until I found the answer.

    A simple generic med was prescribed and it changed his life overnight. Now he is a thriving 15 year old freshman.

    2) Why do we trivialize the fact that the MAJORITY of our sons have no father in the home? If I told you that 70% of moms abandoned their families I don’t think anyone would play that down. Fathers are IRREPLACEABLE. Fathers are irreplaceable and they have a profound affect on a boy’s behavior and a girl’s future relationship with men. Fathers in the home, do more than organic food and homeschooling ever will. Yes we need dietary improvements, and home schooling is a strong option but a child’s father, not uncle, not boyfriend of the week, in the home TRUMPS everything.

    3) At our sons high school, they had a regular orientation and later they had special ed issues night. There were only 2 black folks in attendance. Everyone else was Anglo. These Anglo parents were angling for every issue you could imagine to advocate for their child. I think too often after going through all that we do, we can’t handle something being ‘wrong with’ our children. But that is our ego talking. We are here to advocate for our children – male and female.

    I hope that we embrace our roles as realistic parents for our children’s sake. Our children need us to advocate on THEIR behalf.

    Reply
  12. Donata Joseph

    Hi great article, but your post was very one sided… you mentioned ADHD several times but what do you say to the parents that have a child that truly has ADHD? Being an advocate for your child, observing them and looking at the whole family structure and how your child behaves in school is a big indication on whether they have ADHD or not. Yes there are many children misdiagnosed and alot that should be diagnosed. It’s easier to see it in boys because they are more hyper than girls who more daydream and are inattentive. The key is for parents to educate themselves. Saying no to a suggestion that a teacher makes without following through and observing your child yourself is denying the child a chance to get a better education in the long run. I know, my son was diagnosed at 5 now 8, I still struggle with not putting him on medication earlier. I was so against it. Within the last year I realized that not allowing him to take the meds that will help him focus in school has caused him to fall behind. Do I recommend each parent to jump and give their child meds without learning everything there is to know about ADHD no. Your child’s treatment consist of a combination of things to help them stay on track… eating healthier, lots of exercise to exhaust all the energy they have, getting to bed at a decent time so they are not tired and aggravated more in school the next day, counseling and IFFF all else fails meds and all that I just mentioned. ADHD is a life time diagnoses that goes into adulthood the earlier the family really comprehends what they are dealing with and work together to help the child, life get better. I know because I also have ADHD visit our website for more information adhdfdn.org or read the story of my son in the January issue of Essence 01/2013 pages 91-95 (Alicia Keys on the cover).

    Reply
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