January 2013 -A new year is the perfect time to for an introduction.
I have been a pediatrician for a while now and a husband and father to our 6 children who are rapidly growing up and leaving home. They are good kids but half of them had problems in school and home with short attention spans and short fuses. Their personalities and styles of learning and behavior were all very different but some were much more challenging than others in academic, social and spiritual arenas.
There is today an epidemic of children who are struggling at school. They are constantly at odds with the system and are hopelessly unorganized. They have trouble keeping friends. At home there are constant arguments and physical fights with siblings. There are addictions to video games or computer time, unfinished homework and bedtime battles. The well-meaning but conflicting advice from relatives, friends and self styled know-it-all experts proves to be worthless. Parents feel both guilty and powerless as they watch their cherished child spiral downward out of control.
These children defy categorization. They don’t fit well into the school's definition of a good student – one who sits quietly, writes neatly, follows the rules, pays attention and memorizes facts to be correctly repeated on request. They are instead bursting with energy and excitement. They have a million new ideas and perspectives that they want to share with everyone loudly and immediately. They notice incredible new details that most of us miss. They are persistent, determined and passionate about their feeling and ideas. They do not have a medical disorder - they are just a little different in a world that often doesn’t value their gifts.
Trending psychobabble, expensive leafy garden supplements and shallow religious formulations of tough love are no help. What parents really need is a comprehensive, practical approach that helps them understand how their child’s brain works. The best solution is a parent-led team approach centered on the strengths of the child.
My personal experiences and professional training eventually led me into a medical school practice which is limited to children and adolescents with school and behavior problems. Over the years I have listened carefully and learned valuable lessons from the parents and children that I work with. I know there is hope for these families. Parents can find the answers to help their children achieve their best potential in grades and relationships. I see it every day.
I teach parents to use my medical problem solving strategy. If it works for me for to manage a fever, it should work as well to help them take charge of their child's school and behavior problems. We focus on defining the chief complaint and making accurate diagnoses by using information from history, physical and laboratory testing. Next we develop a logical multidisciplinary treatment plan and evaluate the results by measuring risks and benefits. Parents learn how to recruit and coordinate a team of experts in education, psychology and medicine for advice on learning disabilities, ADHD and emotional concerns. All decisions, however, are completely in the hands of the family.
Our goal is for children to reach their full potential. Everything we do should clear their path to consistently achieve their best capability in academics and relationships with their family, friends and themselves. Their self-esteem, confidence and happiness are at stake. We look forward to discovering how to make the diagnosis in our next installment.