Environmental factors are overlooked in managing and changing behaviors of children with ADHD, LD and NVLD. Class time and curricula are getting the focus of the scientists and those charged with improving our teaching methods for this group that has for generations slipped through the cracks of our traditional educational platform. Considering that most school days consist of no more than seven periods of 45 minutes, or 5 hours and 15 minutes of direct instruction, or 26 hours and 15 minutes over the course of a five-day week. There are 168 hours in a week.
So, how are we doing with our children during the almost 142 hours that exist around these academic time periods? What kind of consistency exists during the many hours that habits are being learned? For that matter, is there consistency in the academic model of our middle and high schools that promote the transference of novel learning experiences to long term memory storage by means of repetition and positive reinforcement?
Children need to feel connected. For young people, who we become as adults, is actually a compilation of the experiences that we encounter. Certainly, genes play a major role in predispositions to learning skills, social behaviors, and general mental and emotional wellness. However, the power of environment, around the clock and over the course of calendar years, can truly neutralize just about any flaw that our predisposed genetics suggest.
Keeping children connected with their educational and after school/weekend environments is as impactful as a sharp, responsive, tailor-made educational experience. “Does what I think or do matters? Am I valued and needed in my community? Do adults and peers expect the best from me?”
Once we understand the deep and powerful impact of a consistent, supportive and thoughtful environment on positive developmental growth of our children, then we will truly have solved the riddle of how to best educate and inculcate positive values into our children, making them healthy and productive citizens not only of our country, but of our global community. Twenty-six hours of classes is only 15 percent of the hours that our children live weekly.
It is in this 85 percent of time spent living and learning where I have experienced that boarding school environments have a large advantage in restoring positive life habits and self-image of our middle school boys who have experienced the damaging mismatch between their learning style and traditional education practices and environments. How to translate some of this consistency and control over these fragmented, inconsistent, and fast-paced lives of our children is a pressing issue that demands our attention in the discourse of how we best raise and educate our children to keep them, and ultimately our country, competitive and healthy.
—By James A. McDaniel, Headmaster of Linden Hill School