For another viewpoint on teaching children read:
My Final Paper
By Roberta Aaronson



What About MATH?
There are only two possible learning blocks when it comes to math:

1. Lack of proficiency in addition, subtraction and multiplication (mental math).

2. Lack of proficiency in studying... a math book.

By the 3rd grade, students should be gaining the ability to study their math book to tutor themselves.

When these skills are not taught, traditional tutoring can only assist with easing current math difficulties. The result is that most students will need a tutor again in the future. The solution is to learn to study one's own math book and progress oneself from there. How valuable would that be?

Teaching a Child on Medication

Tracy Sherwood has tutored children for 32 years

Over the past thirty-two years, I have had consistent and ever-increasing success with many child and adult barriers. From the under achiever to the severely learning disabled. Dyslexic, epileptic, mentally retarded, mild brain damage, ADD, ADHD, autism and more. I've tutored students of all ages with audio/visio barriers, emotionally traumatized, average, gifted, unfocused, low confidence, disorganized, defiant, and the just plain struggling.

My success depends on ignoring the labels and concentrating on discovering the missing basics, assessing learning aptitude and tapping into hidden potential.

There are only three instances where I cannot make good progress with a student:

1. Where there is extreme ongoing conflict within the home or close vicinity of the child and one or both parents are  not willing to participate in coaching and training to resolve the sources of conflict. Good optimum progress is also inhibited when parents do not desire to learn the teaching and communication techniques. I do not accept students to be dropped off for their tutoring sessions. I help the parent as well as the child. This is key to the fulfillment of my guarantee to parents.

2. When the child is neurologically and irreparably affected to the  degree that he or she cannot demonstrate signs of conceptual intellect and interact with some form of conceptual communication. I can tap into and build on present conceptual interaction.

3. When the child is under the influence of or has an extensive history of psycho-pharmaceutical medication, I find the child or adult does not retain information well. I would prefer to sit under the table with the child if needed, or customize physically active and therapeutic sessions... and establish communication at that level and progress from there. I need the child to be drug-free. This is very simply based on my personal experience.

Barring only these three, I can guarantee excellent results with any student who comes to me.

The topic in this issue focuses on #3 - psych0-pharmaceutical medication. I am not an authority on medication; I am an authority on teaching children on and off medication. That is my field of expertise.  I cannot recite the long list of side-affects of one drug or another or its generic name and so forth. If you want scientific information such as this, there is an ocean of information from an abundance of experts just on the Internet alone. My favorite web site? http://www.alternativementalhealth.org

If you are interested in information about teaching children and adults on medication as apposed to no medication, I can tell you what I know from years of experience:

To begin, there is absolutely no difference in teaching an attention deficit hyperactive child than in teaching an autistic child, or a dyslexic child, or one with mild brain damage and so on. The academic techniques do vary; my choice of words may vary; the materials, demonstrative methods, speed of teaching and so on, vary widely with each disability and even with each level of aptitude within each disability.  But the teaching is not equivalent to the materials, the words, or the subject matter being taught. Those are simply tools and subject matter for teaching. The teaching is in the quality of communication one establishes with the student. And this in effect, does not vary.

You can have all the credentials, gadgets, materials, and even chairs with built-in restraining devices, loudspeakers for your voice to impinge and auto-shake mode for moments when your student wanders off into never- never land. But if you have much experience trying to get a child's attention, you know that not one single above tactic will get, hold and focus that child's attention on what you have to say when effective communication is missing.

I was thrilled in the beginning years of my tutoring when a child was finally prescribed medication. He could finally sit still in that chair and learn! Well, I was half right. He could sit still, and he looked like he was learning, but more time and experience proved me wrong. These kids weren't retaining information as well as I thought and they certainly weren't able to 'think with it'.   For some reason they were not able to approach their full potential.

Information is only as valuable as it can be put to use in life. Many years of tutoring kids on meds and others supposedly in dire need of meds, revealed much to me. The best way I can share my insight with you is to tell you some of my experiences. In this issue, I will tell you my most recent story.

 Four two months, I've been tutoring two boys labeled with ADHD, ages seven and nine. In our first telephone consultation, I explained to the mother that I have not had success tutoring kids on medication and my reasons made sense to her.  She was excited to schedule our testing appointment and without  my advising her to do so, she decided to take the kids to the doctor to get them off the meds as soon as possible. They both had taken the medication seven days a week for about 4 months. The medication had changed several times and she was concerned about all the side effects and the fact that the meds would not 'cure' the ADHD.  

In the interim, we did the testing with the boys on medication and I was very aware of the limitations in my test results. But we did the testing near the end of the day when the meds had worn off and that gave me a better picture of everything I wanted to view. 

I found both of the boys to be severely lacking in academic basics and neither could read.  The eldest was totally incapable of focusing for more than a few seconds. We spent more time gathering his attention by far than getting actual testing done. But this was part of the testing - seeing what it takes to gather his attention and how long and how well he could focus. I found both boys to be very intelligent - although not attributed to past education. The doctor had already been seen and the testing appointment was done on the final day of medication for both boys.

Our sessions were twice a week for an hour each and progress was bewilderingly slow. After two months these same techniques would have any other comparable kid much improved with greatly increased focus and ability to relax.  It wasn't happening.   I tried the most effective techniques I knew that worked well with other kids having similar barriers and no history of medication. There was a little progress in phonics and focus, but it was only about 20% of what it should have been. Then, three sessions ago, I realized the boys were still on the medication. I told the mother that I can see they are still on the meds and reminded her that I couldn't guarantee results with kids on meds. She apologized for not telling me about it and explained how they were getting in trouble at school and that they were off the meds for one day and went wild.  They had not been taking the meds on weekends.

She took them off the meds with doctor supervision and we had two med-free sessions. The mother sat in these two sessions to observe, as she frequently did. At one point, she looked at me and cocked her head to the side and her eyes opened wide. She had seen it. I don't think she had ever been aware of seeing this before, but she had. Now she was aware of seeing it. What did she see? Before I tell you, I will describe what she usually sees; what she is in constant battle with, and what many of my readers may be in constant battle with as well.

Our two months of sessions had been chaos. It was like having a speech to deliver to a riot. If  you can picture a meek, little old lady lacking strength to carry a message barely above a whisper to an angry rioting crowd, you're not far off. Now picture this lady with a fog horn, the swat team and a couple of cannons, that stills the crowd for a brief moment... and then the rioting continues.   Several times the army is able to gather a few glances and even a few apologies accompanied by some heads bowed in shame or defeat. And just as she begins her speech of wisdom, the rioting cuts loose once more. 

Sound familiar? Any words of wisdom actually received by this student, are not absorbed or made sense of to any significant value. They may be 'recorded' without thought, and rattled off later without analytical value. 

This boy had absolutely no control over his body, his thoughts or his attention. None.  Zero. If I shot off a firecracker, he would become excited about firecrackers but that newly diverted attention could not be redirected to learning.  If I placed my chair directly facing his with our knees touching, and held his shoulders so as to face me, he would hold his body there and look at me. But he wasn't home. Any available analytical awareness over himself would wake him up just enough to realize that he's being difficult. But that would only serve to withdraw him further into his protective world. It would do more harm than good. 

I could make him hold still. I could intimidate him and control him with a my mental force and threats and he would sink into apathy and surrender to me. His body would drain of energy and his head would drop in defeat.  Am I the winner? Is he now ready to learn?  His meds are believed to have long since worn off, but he's still on auto pilot not only from the camouflage of the meds, but from protective self-conditioning to tune out. And I can't reach him. 

In this defeated state, he would wine, he would put his forehead to mine to divert my attention in on myself and off of him, he would almost cry, complain, anything to avoid this horrid force of focus. He would occasionally try to focus, but he wasn't present for progress because the drugs were blocking our contact. He sat there in a mental straight jacket.  I'll tell you why I know this...

My touch, tunes in to the being himself, and is so validating and inspiring, that a med-free hyperactive child cannot long tune me out and cannot help but make progress. There is something that takes place that the child usually does not recall ever experiencing, and that is being reached - not physically and not with words, but by another being who is right there with him, at that moment, acknowledging his presence. 

His body may be buzzing around like a hummingbird on speed, and his attention may be flitting from thought to thought and object to object, but he is accessible. Knowing this, I feel no upset about his flits and flights from the chair, his comments on some object or his questions about the carpet. I answer his questions, but not until he looks at me for the answer. Then I answer him with complete interest in his question and with unquestionable respect. He is a little thrown off by my interest and care while he searches for another question, partly automatic and party to test my patience. I again have genuine interest in his question or comment and look at him completely tuned in to his interest. This is not reverse psychology. This is real communication. He is no longer being forced to tune into me and my agenda and he is absolutely bewildered. And at that moment, he looks at me to figure out what's up and it happens. I have eye contact. I have spiritual contact. I have him with me for that moment. And I do not abuse it. I enjoy it and he perceives my enjoyment of it. My face shows interest only because I AM interested. I'm not faking it. My interest is in him. Not as a subject, but as a spiritual being. And suddenly, he knows that he perceives it too and probably has rarely, if ever, experienced this. 

What occurs here, is that we have cut through the automatic responses, the defensiveness, the built up energy that never seems to be released because it is always suppressed by the agenda and/or the degradation from others. Nervous energy, coupled with real physical stress from nutritional deficiencies and possibly allergies, are harnessed up and cannot be released through actions demanded by the control of others. 

It's true that this stress can be registered on a chemical level. But chemical imbalances are not the source of the chemical reactions or the cause of the attention deficit or hyperactivity. They are the result of all of the aforementioned i.e., nutritional deficiencies and/or allergies and/or emotional stress stemming from the human environment. This stress causes a chemical reaction just as a sudden threat of a rattlesnake strike will shoot adrenalin through your blood in overwhelming surges. The ADHD child however, has continual stress keeping these surges constant, however less intense. But he will experience an easing off when in a calm and supportive environment. His energy may still be very high, as should be in a child. But it is more focused and productive when the environment allows for it. 

He is also not in need of tuning out for self-protection or getting into trouble just to have his weight felt. His weight is being felt. But it's not the weight of his body, his bodies activity, or his behavior. It's the weight of his very presence and the weight of the value of his communication. Having that felt is life changing for the child as long as it is his to have. When he becomes secure that it will not go away, and his body is relieved of any nutritional deficiencies and allergens, he will be accessible to teach and to enjoy, with all normal childhood energy in tact. 

And the little successes that follow tune him in more and more. But that can't occur when he's taking the medication. He's just not home for me to reach. These two med-free sessions were wonderful. The youngest was calm and his older brother had nervous energy which dissipated as the session moved along. He found himself intentionally getting distracted just to test his freedom from control. But that in itself is progress because he is gaining some control of his hyperactivity just by so doing. He made tremendous progress in both med-free sessions and his mother took the news home to her husband.

But this is only the beginning of a dedicated journey of about four months. And outside influence will make all the difference in our progress. First of all, concurrent with the med-free sessions, the teachers and assistants couldn't handle the boys off the meds; especially the oldest boy. They both had to be picked up from summer school because of their uncontrollable hyper behavior.  Her husband was losing it and wanting them on the meds and they were arguing about to medicate or not to medicate. She called me in desperation and fear of losing ground we had made. I calmed her first and foremost and gave her some homework.

She did more research on nutrition and allergies and their relation to ADHD and then we had a home consultation with herself and her husband to bring some understanding to what the boy was going through and what will turn things around. The boys were with an aunt, so we had 2 1/2 hours to sift through pros and cons and at end, both parents were in agreement and very excited to move on, med-free.

So now I can continue progress with these two highly intelligent and able young boys. They will be out of danger of toxic medications, their side effects, and nutritional stress brought on by them and the stress of life.  They will be reachable spiritually, as individuals and normal body function and education will follow. It will be a joy.

                                         Tracy Sherwood

 

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