How to educate a child with ADHD

ADHD is all the educational discussion these days. How do you educate a child with a different learning method without compromising the essence of the material  you must teach? One head of school put it to me thus, “trying to teach a child with ADHD in a typical classroom setting is like locking a tiger in a cage and expecting them to be OK  with that.”

Clint Pulver – His Viral Video

You must have seen that video of Clint Pulver, the child with ADHD whom with the guidance of a caring teacher, saved him from the judging and cruel world around him. Instead of reprimanding him for his fidgeting, he told him, after calling on him to stay after class one day, “I don’t think you are a problem, I think you are a drummer.”

(If you haven’t seen the video, take a moment to watch it. It will move you to tears https://www.westernjournal.com/l/slarson/little-boy-adhd-becomes-successful-musician-thanks-one-caring-teacher/)

This simple and moving video and story has garnered millions of views on social media, not because of its daredevil stunts or its novel invention, rather it is because it is a most basic fundamental teaching that is so rare in today’s society.

King Solomon says in Proverbs 22:6, quoted by the Alter Rebbe in the second section of Tanya, “Educate a child according to ‘his’ ways, and even when he is older it won’t leave him.” This verse has been the source of myriads of articles, lectures and ideas of not being judgmental of children who learn differently, rather to find that secret sauce that speaks to them.  

If you can accomplish this, then you will be an effective teacher and the student will be able to be the very best student that they can be. Helping a child who is a round peg in a square world thrive and reach their maximum potential.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into this for a moment. The Alter Rebbe continues in his essay to ask a basic question. If the way you are teaching the child is inauthentic and incomplete, since you must alter the “regular” or “natural” way of teaching, to help the struggling student comprehend, then what is the value of the latter half of the verse “even when he is older it will not leave him?”

Have you really done him a favor? You’ve altered or possibly watered down the teachings, in order that you can get through to him, but at the end of the day, what he has now been taught, is compromised material?

After a lengthy exposition, the A”R concludes, that in fact no such compromise has been made. There are different levels and methods by which to connect, love and comprehend (as it were) Gd, and by extension to understand any wisdom or information in this world.

There is the “traditional” method, that you study and you have immediate positive  results for your efforts. However, this traditional method is not so traditional. Most people don’t operate at that level. Only the truly righteous.

Most people work in a more contemplative and ongoing development modus operandi. Meaning, with slow and continued thought, one can develop a love for Gd. When one goes through the process – process being the key word – they can work their way up, stage to stage, level to level, to get to where they need to be in their academic journey.

 “As water reflects the face of a person, so too does the heart of man reflect what it is putting out.” Meaning, if we put out love to Gd, Gd will reflect that back to us. The point being that it is a educational process, not necessarily a destination. Your training the child in a system of thought, a process of knowledge attainment, will reflect back and reward him with success.

As such, if you teach the child according to ‘his’ way, and teach him to be contemplative, even if that is an alternative way from the traditional way, he will always be able to fall back onto that system of thought and be able to connect, study and learn.

This wisdom is ancient and modern all at the same time. King Solomon, the wisest of all men, knew what psychologists and educators today or just figuring out. If you try to force a child to study in a preordained proscribed format it will not only not work, it will backfire. The child will feel broken and depressed by their inability to “keep up” and will not learn the data being fed to them, and furthermore, they will quite possibly rebel, as no one wants to feel like a perpetual failure.

Yet, if you teach a child according to ‘his’ way, meaning, if you teach him, using language and systems that ‘he’ understands and connect with; if you teach him a technique that is basic and foundational upon which he can always fall back on when things aren’t going right, then “even when he gets old, it won’t leave him.”

You will have not only given him fish to eat, and not only a fishing rod by which to fish for his own fish with, but you will have taught him how to make a fishing rod when he has nothing!

Now that is a victory.

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