Denise Bynoe’s son Malcolm was like any other child – active and curious – but over time she became increasingly worried about his performance at school.
Malcolm attended a prestigious private school but he was having a difficult time and Denise had no idea what was wrong.
“The reading part of it was really, really bad. My son could not even read a book and he was between Classes One and Two. He could not
read a book.”
“Mommy is a math person, we travelled a lot, he has all the experiences of travel, why is it that our own child has this problem? Daddy has a lot of CXCs. At first I was very hard on him, you need to do this, you need to do that, “ she says.
After a transfer from private school to St. Lawrence Primary the family learned that Malcolm was affected by the learning disorders: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.
“Malcolm was going to private school; they never told me what the problem was. Then I transferred him here (St. Lawrence Primary) that’s when I started to understand what was going on with Malcolm. His teacher explained to me what was going on. I never knew about dsylexia or ADHD ever.”
“He would be the first in our family dealing with it. He had all the symptoms, “ Denise says.
Malcolm’s story is common in classrooms but it’s often unrecognised.
The principal of the St. Lawrence Primary School, Gloria Bryan, said she became concerned after several of her students were consistently performing below standard.
“We know, we can tell when they are talking to you they are intelligent but it doesn’t translate to writing. We also have a challenge with some behavioural problems, they can’t keep quiet. There are some who can’t focus for a long time and there are others who will disrupt the classroom.”
This prompted her and eight other staff members to participate in a workshop held by the Ministry of Education and it was there they discovered the children would need professional help.
As a result, the school invited the ADHD Resource Centre to educate parents and teachers about the disorder at a lecture this past week.
ADHD is a behavioural problem that affects school age children and even adults.
While children with ADHD often understand what’s expected of them they have trouble following through because they can’t sit still, pay attention or attend
Director of the ADHD Resource Centre Allison Layne, says: “Many kids that have attention deficit will not remember much of what they have been taught and therefore it affects them academically.”
He pointed out that children with ADHD may often be affected by more than one disorder, including dyslexia.
“So we produce a child that is functioning academically below the standard of the class but also because the child is essentially now unable to function in the class he gets picked on by students, so sometimes he may be a little aggressive because he is not coping well with the circumstances.”
Layne told the gathering on hand for the lecture on Monday that there are three primary subtypes of ADHD – the inattentive subtype, the hyperactive and impulsive subtype.
“ And then there’s the combination of them,” he added.
Experts are still not sure what causes ADHD but more often than not it affects boys more than girls. Layne however cautioned that girls often manifest different symptoms.
“So very often the case of a girl who has Attention Deficit Hypersensitivity Disorder sits in the corner of the classroom and she pays complete focus as the teacher teaches the class, but it’s only when the test is given at the end of the term you look at the book and you don’t understand what’s going on, she’s been paying attention, never gives any trouble but in fact, for most of the time, that child is not in the classroom, she’s off somewhere.”
The Coordinator of the Caribbean Dsylexia Association, Yvonne Spencer was present at the meeting and she cautioned that while some children may be affected by ADHD and dyslexia, the two should not be confused.
“ADHD is a different sphere of learning difficulty, I call them busy bodies. They are into everything, they can’t settle down, they are not able to keep on task for any length of time whereas a dsylexic child, once you give them the tools that [they]need, they will get on, they will progress, they overcome it. I don’t know whether an ADHD child ever grows out of it, they might compensate and later on might be able to manage it.
The ADHD Resource Centre stresses that children with the disorder are not stupid – but rather they simply require patience, care and innovative techniques.
Early Childhood Coordinator and Head of the Infant Department at St. Lawrence Primary, Tracey Cox, says she focuses on meeting the specific needs of each child in the classroom.
“I try to bring in whatever manipulatives or teaching aids that I would need to accomodate for some deficiencies that the particular child might have, because some children learn by touching, some children learn by their visuals, so they need something to see, then some others learn by hearing . . . and there are others who need a combination of both, so you have to be very observant
as a teacher and understand how each particular child learns.”
Denise Bynoe has been seeing the results of the school’s efforts to
assist her son.
“My son read his first book for me in February, an entire book, still stumbling a little, but I didn’t have to correct him. He is now correcting himself and I have to thank the St. Lawrence Primary School.”