Monday, June 25, 2012
Last Child in the Woods ~ Chapter 8
Hi everybody! Sorry for the late post on this week's reading. We were on vacation this past week, got home last night, and woke up this morning to a sick husband and even sicker little one. But I really want to get the points up about Chapter 8, because it's a good one!
Chapter 8. Nature-Deficit Disorder and the Restorative Environment.
This chapter starts out discussing something that is near and dear to my heart, since I just pulled my last child out of public school. I have been disturbed for years about the programs that are pulled from the public school day in an attempt to make our kids "smarter" and to meet the requirements of the ridiculous "No Child Left Behind" act. Page 100 wonders if it could possibly be a coincidence that at the same time schools were taking PE out of the public school day that a drastic increase in childhood obesity started to occur. I think we all know the answer to that. But I didn't know that there are schools that actually allow for students to earn PE credits ONLINE? Are you kidding me?
And here's another "coincidence" found on Page 101 ... that at about the same time we moved from the Second Frontier of the 1950's family farm community to the Third Frontier of today, that there as been a drastic increase in ADHD diagnoses and the prescribing of Ritalin or its equivalents. At about the same time kids stopped living outdoors doing chores, playing, fishing, running around the neighborhood, kids started being diagnosed as hyperactive.
Is Ritalin over-prescribed? I believe it is. Here is my story. Starting in about the 3rd grade, teachers started telling me that I needed to have Dawson tested for ADHD, and I refused. My response was always that he could concentrate on anything he wanted to for hours, and I was not going to have him medicated so that he would be quiet in school. I told each teacher that they had full authority to discipline him in whatever way they thought was best to get him to behave. (And all the while I was thinking, "Well, if you were a good teacher, he'd probably be interested enough to pay attention.") Teachers didn't discipline. Teachers kept telling me he needed to be medicated. I became his teacher. And, he's a good student who is not hyper AT ALL.
90% of Ritalin prescriptions are written for boys. Boys need more activity. Give boys more activity and the numbers of prescriptions will likely decrease.
But there are cases were Ritalin is necessary. My niece is one of them. She is Dawson's age. Her ability to focus on ANYTHING was impaired. She was always like a bull in a china shop, racing from one thing to another. She was clumsy. She ate all the time to fill agitated feelings of boredom. Her grades suffered. She was struggling. The right ADHD medication made all the difference in the world to her.
Page 103 starts talking about the Restorative Environment. The author states, "too much directed attention leads to what [the Kaplans] call 'directed-attention fatigue', marked by impulsive behavior, agitation, irritation, and inability to concentrate ... If you can find an environment where the attention is automatic, you allow directed attention to rest. And that means an environment that's strong on fascination." What this says to me is that the answer always seems to be to direct kids' attention into something, usually sports. But the study by the Kaplans found that green space play allowed the brain to actually rest and attention was restored. Can't you just feel that in your bones? You've got a hyper, agitated kid. You do one of two things: put him in a structured, directed activity for hours at a time (like soccer), or you let him out to play in his backyard for those same hours. The latter seems more peaceful to me. How about you?
Page 106 discusses the benefits to concentration on making near-home nature visable. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking, "If I were a teacher I would do lessons outside, or by a window, or something." And then I remembered ... I am a teacher! And I have been wondering how Eli will adapt to homeschooling. And reading all of this made me re-think having Eli and Brynne do their schoolwork in the office. Maybe, instead, they should sit at the kitchen table where they can see the grass, trees, birds, birdhouses, flowers, hummingbirds, wind, rain, sunshine, etc. Eli has trouble concentrating. Maybe seeing nature will help with that. It's worth a shot!
Getting our kids in nature settings takes work by us, the parents. And there are days I don't feel like making that effort. But, the research is showing, and we all know from our own childhoods, what a difference it makes! Parents cannot be lazy in this area, but many are. To them it's just easier to pay the $4 generic Ritalin co-pay monthly than to make the efforts to help their children overcome their issues naturally.
"If, as a growing body of evidence recommends, 'contact with nature is as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep, then current trends in children's access to nature need to be addressed.' What do you think about that?
Leave me comment about how you felt about Chapter 8, with a link to your blog post if you have one. I intend to reply to all your comments and visit your blog posts this week. I am sorry I haven't done that, yet. I have been reading your comments, though. By Friday, let's read Chapters 9, 10, and 11.