21 Sep Case Study: Phoenix and ADHD Medication September 2016
I did a debrief for a young man, 15 years old who came out as an Expedition Leader profile. That means he was potentially a Sensational genius. But you’re never your profile until you tell me ‘oh my gosh that’s so me!’
So, I got to do a debrief with him via Skype, so I could not only just hear him but I could see him too. His mum knows a little bit about Ignition! said that she was sure he had a lot of Nova genius. She thought he was an Astronaut profile and yet he came out completely the opposite as an Expedition Leader profile.
So as I’m doing the debrief and I’m trying to explore ‘is this person really this profile?’ Where he kept agreeing with some of the Sensational genius there were things that were just not congruent. His learning style was much more visual in the way that he described how he could help himself learn and he got excited about using his imagination and using post-it notes and colours and all the rest of it; and there were other things within the conversation as it went by that just didn’t seem to fit with this Expedition Leader profile and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until right towards the end of the debrief mum happened to share with me that when he had done his profile he was still at school, it was school term and when he’s at school he takes ADHD meds. He takes ADHD meds during school time but he doesn’t take them during school holidays and by the time I got to Skype with him he’d been off his meds for several days because it was school holidays.
Now I think that’s really interesting and it’s really infuriating. Why would you, and I asked mum this, why would you medicate your kid just during school time and not all the time? If like you say he has ADHD then surely that’s all the time? She said ‘well, the reason that he takes meds when he’s at school is because otherwise, the teachers can’t cope with him’. I just think, how rude is that that we would drug our kids just because the teachers can’t cope with our kids! We are drugging the genius out of our young people because our teachers don’t know how to handle them in the classroom. Maybe if they taught in a way that our real people learned then they wouldn’t have challenging behaviours they would have engaged students.
So, Phoenix told me that when he takes his ADHD meds he feels more grounded, that it slows him down and that he can concentrate a little bit more on what the teacher is saying, otherwise he gets distracted because they’re not engaging enough for him. Now, what was lovely was that Phoenix was attending a course with his mum two weeks after that debrief that I was going to be part of. So I said to mum, ‘when you bring him to the course, I want you to bring him without his meds, let’s see how he really learns’. Is he really ADHD or is it just that that teacher can’t hold his attention, because I have witnessed a really brilliant young man with such amazing thinking capability that I just wanted to see who he really was without being medicated.
Mum was really nervous about it but she did promise me that she would bring him along. We agreed that she could bring his meds but she couldn’t give them to him. If it was a problem that he did have an attention deficit then we would play it by ear and if necessary he would be allowed to take his medication. That boy, at 15 years old came and did a class with 30 adults. We ran long hours so 8.30 in the morning until 8.30 at night, 10 o’clock at night, 11o’clock at night. That young man was totally engaged the whole way through, he didn’t fidget, he didn’t have any destructive behaviour, he took tons of notes. He was like a little sponge, he just lapped it all up completely. He not once needed to take his medication, there was no attention deficit whatsoever. He was just like so focused and loving the whole class.
So do we really have a generation with so much ADHD or do we have a school system that does not teach in a way that our young people learn? When will we bring our teaching systems and skills into the 21st century and recognise that people learn in different ways and we need to engage with young people in the way that they learn, not how we teach and not make our young people wrong for learning in a different way than we teach. Our kids are being punished because our teachers are teaching them in a different style. So it’s about time we stopped judging our kids, understood them and allowed them to be who they are. Stop drugging the genius out of our kids and allow their genius to shine.