My long-term future plan is to develop a new model of education, one that can be implemented in the context of a privately run school, available to all children with a diagnosis of ADHD irrespective of socio-economic status. For those children from lower income families, scholarships will be available by way of philanthropic donations and grants. The primary aim is that the unique methods of teaching and infrastructure can be easily replicated. The school will provide highly skilled and trained professionals taught in the positive teaching method. Provision will be made for children from the ages of 5 until 19 years; age will be split across upper and lower schools. The school will primarily enrol children with ADD/ADHD and mild comorbid learning differences such as dyslexia. The number of children per classroom will be small and the learning environment structured while allowing room for creativity and expression. Children, if need be, will have access to one on one teaching. Symptoms of ADHD will be managed with holistic support, mentoring, and an affirmative communication method. I have provided some of my ideas below for a more holistic education and translational curriculum.
Physical exercise is considered key to mental well-being. A wide-range of sporting opportunities therefore will be provided ranging from athletics, martial arts, football/soccer, tennis, baseball, rugby, cricket, netball/volley ball and hockey. All children will be encouraged to learn to swim. Children in the upper school will receive life-guard training which they can use to get part-time jobs during the summer. Support to secure scholarships for college for those gifted in the sporting arena will also be provided.
The creative and performing arts should be a prominent feature of a school specialising in ADHD and should include a range of classes from photography to acting, dance and musical theatre.
The Acquisition of Practical Skills
The school should ensure also that a range of practical skills are available in the upper school including accounting and how to manage monthly budgets; navigation: getting from A2B with smart phones, and modules such as how to survive in the real world: applying for college and jobs. Nutritional sciences will be compulsory starting at age 5 and students will contribute towards planting, growing and maintaining fruit and vegetable gardens as well as learning to prepare and cook wholesome, delicious meals with the ingredients they grow. If the school has sufficient space some small farmyard animals such as chickens/hens and rabbits will be kept. There will be lots of opportunity for excursions and field trips which will further foster team-building and social communication skills.
The school should provide each child with a personal mentor as well as opportunities to benefit from in-house counselling, anger-management classes and social skills training as appropriate. The new model of education should employ an in-house educational psychologist whose role will be to track the performance of each child building on strengths and weaknesses as the child develops and matures. Occupational therapists should provide brain-gym techniques amongst other skills to those children who require additional support with hand, eye and motor co-ordination. Mindfulness meditation and yoga should be encouraged throughout the school. Helping children with relaxation and breathing techniques can serve as a tool for the regulation of their flight/fight responses and improve emotional well-being.
Art, Design and Technology
Children with ADHD often have advanced visual skills and therefore the inclusion of a state-of-the-art art and technology department is advantageous. Teaching a wide range of artistic and craftsmanship skills including carpentry and metal-work will foster artistic and creative abilities. Students should have opportunities to design and develop their own artistic portfolios centred on varying themes with the aim of show-casing their work, for example, in the school’s own art gallery. All children should be taught information technology classes. Computer skills can aid visual arts and projects such as Building and Designing a web-page using Word Press or Tumbl.
Children with ADHD should be encouraged to have the opportunity to learn and advance their entrepreneurial skills. For example, they could choose to be part of an event organization module which would include designing, hosting and organizing a chosen event alongside staff members. The children could appoint a team leader within their peer group and learn skills such as advertising, public relations and fund-raising.
Music is an integral part of life and every child should at least have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. The opportunity to choose an instrument of choice or chorus e.g., learning to sing should be provided. Musical skills should be developed over time with appropriate nurturing and encouragement. There should be opportunities to join the schools Jazz band or orchestra. Children showing promise in music should be encouraged and taught to read music and eventually compose their own pieces.
Nutritional Sciences/School Meals
School-meals should be made from scratch with fresh, local, organic produce. All meats should be free-range, grass-fed and organic. There should be no pre-processed foods and all food additives, chemicals and preservatives should be avoided. Children should be given food allergy testing upon joining the school and intolerances to food should result in individually tailor-made menus. As we have learnt, food plays a key role in the behavior and learning of school-children yet is persistently overlooked. Children should learn how to prepare delicious recipes and most of all enjoy eating them. The school should have a juice bar and children should be able to create their own juices with opportunities to win competitions such as “juicer of the term”. Local farmers and chefs should be invited to the school to play an interactive and educational role. The children should have the opportunity to develop their own recipes, photograph their food, create their own food blog and cook for parents on special occasions. Children should also learn about the importance of using fresh ingredients and the role food plays in the protection of disease.
Alternative educational qualifications or work placements should be provided to upper-school students expressing an interest in specific business, sporting or creative interests. Schools should liaise and work closely with a range of businesses in chosen areas such as sporting and creative industries. Pursuing an academic education is not for every young person and this model of school should offer a tailor-made approach when organising work placements across a wide-range of domains.
This section has provided some preliminary ideas in relation to a curriculum which may better suit children with ADHD or related learning differences. Above all, the website has demonstrated that there is a genuine need to invest more in children with ADHD in order to provide them with the same real chance of an education as their peers without the condition. The adverse risk factors associated with ADHD have been presented. We have further learnt that the social exclusion and discrimination of this group of children is a very real phenomenon. Change has to happen to prevent the continued risk of educational failure in children with ADHD. I hope you will share my dream and passion in creating and implementing a paradigm shift in the way we think about the education of children with ADHD. I am sure you will agree that every child irrespective of learning difference, disability or diagnosis is entitled to access a non-discriminatory but above all happy and memorable education. We have a collective and moral duty to provide every child with a decent chance to fulfil their potential and achieve their dreams. The current model is not working – it’s time for change.