Episode 3: How active kids learn

The Defiant Child

The angry child needs to speak his heart

In this episode Dr. Guffanti discusses the consequences of assuming that everyone learns the same way you do. When people who learn by watching or discussion, like teachers and psychiatrists, perceive children who learn by hands-on activities, they call them ADHD.

We will explore the cascade effect this has in the classroom including:

  1. What happens to the active child when he or she is in school?
  2. The daydream dilemma, the shrinks call it inattentive
  3. The three causes of academic problems
  4. Why playing games are a crucial treatment
  5. Why helping  your angry children  to speak their heart brings peace into the family

Download the episode here (mp3)

 

 

MT: Dr Guffanti, you believe that almost all ADHD is based on a basic misunderstanding created when people who learn by watching or discussion like teachers and psychiatrists perceive children who learn by hands-on activities. What happens to the active child when he or she is in school?

 

If the active child is active enough to qualify for ADHD then they are faced with this dilemma as they learn they move and as they move they disturb their visual teacher. The teacher then reprimands them. The females tend to stay in their seat because they are motivated by their relationship with their female teacher. (98% of Kindergarten teachers are female.) Over time usually around middle school their peer relationships start motivating them and they shift to daydreaming when the teacher speaks.

 

Daydreaming allows them to move mentally without getting out of their seat. The shrinks call the daydreamers, inattentive. The teachers don’t care as long as the homework gets done. Eventually, either the homework doesn’t get done or they start failing tests and the diagnosis is made.

 

The males are not relationship motivated, but hormonally motivated, adrenalin being the most influential hormone although the hormones surrounding food are pretty powerful. The female teacher usually is lost in how to deal with this simpler motivation system so they keep reprimanding which often raises adrenalin, encouraging our unwanted behavior.

 

Let me say at this point that when I was three and four I wanted desperately to go to school. My brother and sister were there. Lots of kids were there. And they had the best swing and slide set in the neighborhood. Sometimes I would walk over to the school and look in the window at the kids in class with longing. I was also very bright and very curious so I wanted to be smart like my brother and sister.

 

Within three months of going to Kindergarten I was kicked off the school bus. By the end of the school year I had been sent to the principal’s office so often that I called him “Prince.” He did not enjoy the relationship as much as I did and met with my mom to inform her never to bring me back to his school again. school What I had thought of as Heaven had become a living Hell.

 

In fact, every school I went to recreated this same experience. In grammar school the nuns called in my mom to discuss my attending another school. In high school I was expelled a month before graduation. In college I would come home and cry every summer. And in medical school the Dean talked to me about expulsion as well.

 

So while I, my teachers and the administration all agreed that I didn’t belong in school my parents never got it. They kept talking to the powers that be and getting them to let me stay. My dad was the most practical. He would say that while school is a waste of time in the end they will give me a piece of paper that is worth money. His advice was to go, work as hard as I needed to pass and try not to give the teachers too much grief as they are just trying to make a living.

 

MT: With that kind of track record how did you manage to become a doctor?

Actually, I would have to say God intervened. I asked the doctor who interviewed me why I got accepted to medical school. He answered, “I don’t know. I interviewed another candidate who had graduated with better grades and a better interview recommendation. But they took you instead of her.”

 

Let me say that when the people in charge of admissions don’t understand their own actions then I see the fingerprints of God all over the event. Let me also add that I am probably the only doctor you have met that never graduated college. I entered medical school after my junior year.

 

At any rate the point of this long story is that active kids don’t do well in the classroom setting. Unfortunately, while ADHD drugs don’t help academics or behavior, they do tend to keep the child in the seat. Sitting is so important that the APA has made it one of the 9 criteria for hyperactivity.

 

MT: Does anything else cause academic problems?

 

Yes, dyslexia or difficulty reading causes academic problems. If the active child is active enough to qualify for ADHD then about a third of them will be dyslexic.

 

MT: Why?

Remember I talked about the hidden price of developing the hands-on part of the brain was you stole experience from other parts? Well, dyslexia is caused by low phonemic awareness. Most people learn to read by matching the sound of a letter (the phoneme) to the letter in a word. Parents call it sounding out the word.

If you have low phonemic awareness you don’t hear the phonemes so you can’t sound out words. The cure for dyslexia is to practice with the 36 phonemes in the English language and build up your phonemic awareness until you can read normally. Do you see how if the problem is caused by stealing experience time then the solution is to add that specific experience time back? Giving phonemic awareness practice is the most focused and effective way to expand the brains phonemic awareness area to a size needed to learn to read.

MT: Are there activities you can share with parent of these kinds of children?

Yes, first I would like to put in a plug for games. When you are playing games you relax the learning environment by changing the expectations of both the teacher and the child. The teacher no longer expects the child to remain seated and the child has no worries about getting it right. All you need to do is to practice with the 36 phonemes in the English language using fun games. This will build up your child’s phonemic awareness.

For dyslexics it is important to link a phoneme with a letter or two. Like ch standing for chaa not kaaa huh. Often teachers will teach the phonemes and then have the student memorize the two or three most common sounds associated with that letter. This requires a greater auditory memory than many dyslexics have. Dyslexics are better off with one sound per letter or letter combo.

I created a reading program called Rocket Phonics that does all this. Just to make sure that my theory worked I asked UCLA professor James Catterall to analyze a study using Rocket Phonics. Our students gained nearly four months of reading skill for each month of the controls. During the study the Rocket Phonics kids played Go Fish and Bingo to increase their phonemic awareness. Since then we added Whack the Sound and Play and Read Baseball and a dozen more games.

MT: So you recommend playing Rocket Phonics phonemic awareness games?

Yes, it is marvelous to see a child learn to read while laughing and running around. It fits their learning style and their spirit.

MT: Would Rocket Phonics work for other children?

Yes, it works for all kids as long as they and their teacher enjoy playing. Usually the parent or older sibling will be the teacher. It will take about two years for a five year old to read at fifth grade level. In essence, they enter second grade reading at fifth grade level ready for any gifted program the school has. It gives the kids a lot of confidence. As Alison, one of our first students said, “I’m smart now.” She used Rocket Phonics 9 years ago when she was failing Kindergarten and her last test scores show her still in the top 10% of her class.

MT: Does anything else cause academic problems?

Yes, if the active child is active enough to qualify for ADHD then about half will have Oppositional Defiance Disorder or ODD. As you can tell by the name these active kids aren’t the cooperators the teachers want. My wife says that we just don’t think any of the rules apply to us.

 

 

MT: You have Oppositional Defiance Disorder?

 

I did. Mostly what Maureen sees nowadays is just the residual habits. When we first met I had it in full force. If untreated half of those with Oppositional Defiance Disorder will become Conduct Disorders and half of those progress to Antisocial Behavior often ending up in jail. As you might imagine we disrupt the average classroom. It was mostly my ODD behavior that generated the principal’s interest in my attending another school.

 

MT: Is Oppositional Defiance Disorder another hidden price the hands on learner pays?

Yes, if you look at the criteria of Oppositional Defiance Disorder you will see an angry child who is unable to control himself. Anger runs him. When I first met my wife she would say, “You weren’t angry. You were enraged.”

 

How does an active child end up so angry? Remember that in order to develop a hands-on learning expertise the brain must steal experience from either its verbal-auditory areas or its visual areas. Well, the verbal-auditory area develops our ability to speak our heart.

The ODD explode in anger, but the other emotions are left unspoken. As a result the ODD hold on to their pain and just get angrier and angrier.

 

Michelle, you’ve experienced being upset and calling up a good friend, talking and feeling better?

 

Yes.

 

Well, the ODD never have. Can you imagine what your life would be like without that kind of relief? My mom used to ask me to use my words. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

 

When I was 16 I was walking about and a kid started teasing me. I didn’t know his name and I never asked. I wasn’t interested in verbal repartee, but his words hurt just the same and he wouldn’t stop.

Without a word I walked over to him and picked him up. I carried him over to a brick wall and banged him into it until he shut up and then I carried him over to a garbage can and threw him in it.

I felt like I had communicated quite well, “Shut up; you piece of trash.” But expressing just anger doesn’t release the pain. In fact it still hurt 20 years later when I was telling my wife about it. As a result way too often my anger ran my behavior and I would simply blame my behavior on everyone else. It was obvious to me that this child was responsible for my throwing him into a garbage can,

This attitude of blaming your behavior on everyone else is the hallmark of ODD. As long as my behavior wasn’t my fault then I didn’t have to change. The attitude is generated by never experiencing speaking your heart and feeling better. All the other behavior criteria are examples of the angry child this inability to speak your heart creates. I first learned to speak my heart when I was 38. It was like a miracle. I couldn’t believe that words could make so much of a difference. Later on we will look at all the criteria of ODD and discuss how to teach those angry children to speak their hearts. This really brings peace into the family.

[Summary:]

MT: Okay, the active child has problems in school because most teachers are visual and their movement upsets the visual teacher. In fact, one of the nine questions used to define ADHD – hyperactive type is: Does your child leave his seat inappropriately? This is seen most often in boys because boys tend not to suppress their behavior to please the teacher where as young girls will.

Girls are more likely to become daydreamers later on when the teacher relationship isn’t that important to them, but they don’t want to be caught leaving their seat. This starts in middle school and is called ADHD – inattentive type.

You have been studying!

MT: Really there is a second misunderstanding going on in the classroom the difference between how to motivate boys versus how to motivate girls. …[add more of your thoughts here]

MT: Beyond all this there are two other problems that interfere with schooling: ODD and dyslexia. Both are common occurrences among the kids labeled ADHD.

MT: Dr Guffanti, you believe that almost all ADHD is based on a basic misunderstanding created when people who learn by watching or discussion like teachers and psychiatrists perceive children who learn by hands-on activities. What happens to the active child when he or she is in school?

If the active child is active enough to qualify for ADHD then they are faced with this dilemma as they learn they move and as they move they disturb their visual teacher. The teacher then reprimands them. The females tend to stay in their seat because they are motivated by their relationship with their female teacher. (98% of Kindergarten teachers are female.) Over time usually around middle school their peer relationships start motivating them and they shift to daydreaming when the teacher speaks.

Daydreaming allows them to move mentally without getting out of their seat. The shrinks call the daydreamers, inattentive. The teachers don’t care as long as the homework gets done. Eventually, either the homework doesn’t get done or they start failing tests and the diagnosis is made.

The males are not relationship motivated, but hormonally motivated, adrenalin being the most influential hormone although the hormones surrounding food are pretty powerful. The female teacher usually is lost in how to deal with this simpler motivation system so they keep reprimanding which often raises adrenalin, encouraging our unwanted behavior.

Let me say at this point that when I was three and four I wanted desperately to go to school. My brother and sister were there. Lots of kids were there. And they had the best swing and slide set in the neighborhood. Sometimes I would walk over to the school and look in the window at the kids in class with longing. I was also very bright and very curious so I wanted to be smart like my brother and sister.

Within three months of going to Kindergarten I was kicked off the school bus. By the end of the school year I had been sent to the principal’s office so often that I called him “Prince.” He did not enjoy the relationship as much as I did and met with my mom to inform her never to bring me back to his school again. school What I had thought of as Heaven had become a living Hell.

In fact, every school I went to recreated this same experience. In grammar school the nuns called in my mom to discuss my attending another school. In high school I was expelled a month before graduation. In college I would come home and cry every summer. And in medical school the Dean talked to me about expulsion as well.

So while I, my teachers and the administration all agreed that I didn’t belong in school my parents never got it. They kept talking to the powers that be and getting them to let me stay. My dad was the most practical. He would say that while school is a waste of time in the end they will give me a piece of paper that is worth money. His advice was to go, work as hard as I needed to pass and try not to give the teachers too much grief as they are just trying to make a living.

MT: With that kind of track record how did you manage to become a doctor?

Actually, I would have to say God intervened. I asked the doctor who interviewed me why I got accepted to medical school. He answered, “I don’t know. I interviewed another candidate who had graduated with better grades and a better interview recommendation.  But they took you instead of her.”

Let me say that when the people in charge of admissions don’t understand their own actions then I see the fingerprints of God all over the event. Let me also add that I am probably the only doctor you have met that never graduated college. I entered medical school after my junior year.

At any rate the point of this long story is that active kids don’t do well in the classroom setting. Unfortunately, while ADHD drugs don’t help academics or behavior, they do tend to keep the child in the seat. Sitting is so important that the APA has made it one of the 9 criteria for hyperactivity.

MT: Does anything else cause academic problems?

Yes, dyslexia or difficulty reading causes academic problems. If the active child is active enough to qualify for ADHD then about a third of them will be dyslexic.

MT: Why?

Remember I talked about the hidden price of developing the hands-on part of the brain was you stole experience from other parts? Well, dyslexia is caused by low phonemic awareness. Most people learn to read by matching the sound of a letter (the phoneme) to the letter in a word. Parents call it sounding out the word.

If you have low phonemic awareness you don’t hear the phonemes so you can’t sound out words. The cure for dyslexia is to practice with the 36 phonemes in the English language and build up your phonemic awareness until you can read normally. Do you see how if the problem is caused by stealing experience time then the solution is to add that specific experience time back? Giving phonemic awareness practice is the most focused and effective way to expand the brains phonemic awareness area to a size needed to learn to read.

MT: Are there activities you can share with parent of these kinds of children?

Yes, first I would like to put in a plug for games. When you are playing games you relax the learning environment by changing the expectations of both the teacher and the child. The teacher no longer expects the child to remain seated and the child has no worries about getting it right. All you need to do is to practice with the 36 phonemes in the English language using fun games. This will build up your child’s phonemic awareness.

For dyslexics it is important to link a phoneme with a letter or two. Like ch standing for chaa not kaaa huh. Often teachers will teach the phonemes and then have the student memorize the two or three most common sounds associated with that letter. This requires a greater auditory memory than many dyslexics have. Dyslexics are better off with one sound per letter or letter combo.

I created a reading program called Rocket Phonics that does all this. Just to make sure that my theory worked I asked UCLA professor James Catterall to analyze a study using Rocket Phonics. Our students gained nearly four months of reading skill for each month of the controls. During the study the Rocket Phonics kids played Go Fish and Bingo to increase their phonemic awareness. Since then we added Whack the Sound and Play and Read Baseball and a dozen more games.

MT: So you recommend playing Rocket Phonics phonemic awareness games?

Yes, it is marvelous to see a child learn to read while laughing and running around. It fits their learning style and their spirit.

MT: Would Rocket Phonics work for other children?

Yes, it works for all kids as long as they and their teacher enjoy playing. Usually the parent or older sibling will be the teacher. It will take about two years for a five year old to read at fifth grade level. In essence, they enter second grade reading at fifth grade level ready for any gifted program the school has. It gives the kids a lot of confidence. As Alison, one of our first students said, “I’m smart now.” She used Rocket Phonics 9 years ago when she was failing Kindergarten and her last test scores show her still in the top 10% of her class.

MT: Does anything else cause academic problems?

Yes, if the active child is active enough to qualify for ADHD then about half will have Oppositional Defiance Disorder or ODD. As you can tell by the name these active kids aren’t the cooperators the teachers want. My wife says that we just don’t think any of the rules apply to us.

MT: You have Oppositional Defiance Disorder?

I did. Mostly what Maureen sees nowadays is just the residual habits. When we first met I had it in full force. If untreated half of those with Oppositional Defiance Disorder will become Conduct Disorders and half of those progress to Antisocial Behavior often ending up in jail. As you might imagine we disrupt the average classroom. It was mostly my ODD behavior that generated the principal’s interest in my attending another school.

MT: Is Oppositional Defiance Disorder another hidden price the hands on learner pays?

Yes, if you look at the criteria of Oppositional Defiance Disorder you will see an angry child who is unable to control himself. Anger runs him. When I first met my wife she would say, “You weren’t angry. You were enraged.”

How does an active child end up so angry? Remember that in order to develop a hands-on learning expertise the brain must steal experience from either its verbal-auditory areas or its visual areas. Well, the verbal-auditory area develops our ability to speak our heart.

The ODD explode in anger, but the other emotions are left unspoken. As a result the ODD hold on to their pain and just get angrier and angrier.

Michelle, you’ve experienced being upset and calling up a good friend, talking and feeling better?

Yes.

Well, the ODD never have. Can you imagine what your life would be like without that kind of relief? My mom used to ask me to use my words. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

When I was 16 I was walking about and a kid started teasing me. I didn’t know his name and I never asked. I wasn’t interested in verbal repartee, but his words hurt just the same and he wouldn’t stop.

Without a word I walked over to him and picked him up. I carried him over to a brick wall and banged him into it until he shut up and then I carried him over to a garbage can and threw him in it.

I felt like I had communicated quite well, “Shut up; you piece of trash.” But expressing just anger doesn’t release the pain. In fact it still hurt 20 years later when I was telling my wife about it. As a result way too often my anger ran my behavior and I would simply blame my behavior on everyone else. It was obvious to me that this child was responsible for my throwing him into a garbage can,

This attitude of blaming your behavior on everyone else is the hallmark of ODD. As long as my behavior wasn’t my fault then I didn’t have to change. The attitude is generated by never experiencing speaking your heart and feeling better. All the other behavior criteria are examples of the angry child this inability to speak your heart creates. I first learned to speak my heart when I was 38. It was like a miracle. I couldn’t believe that words could make so much of a difference. Later on we will look at all the criteria of ODD and discuss how to teach those angry children to speak their hearts. This really brings peace into the family.

[Summary:]

MT: Okay, the active child has problems in school because most teachers are visual and their movement upsets the visual teacher. In fact, one of the nine questions used to define ADHD – hyperactive type is: Does your child leave his seat inappropriately? This is seen most often in boys because boys tend not to suppress their behavior to please the teacher where as young girls will.

Girls are more likely to become daydreamers later on when the teacher relationship isn’t that important to them, but they don’t want to be caught leaving their seat. This starts in middle school and is called ADHD – inattentive type.

You have been studying!

MT: Really there is a second misunderstanding going on in the classroom the difference between how to motivate boys versus how to motivate girls. …[add more of your thoughts here]

MT: Beyond all this there are two other problems that interfere with schooling: ODD and dyslexia. Both are common occurrences among the kids labeled ADHD. And both part of the hidden price their brains pay to specialize in hands-on learning.

Yes, neurons and muscles don’t develop if you don’t use them. The motto, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” really applies here. The family pays the price until they discover the specific activities that their active child needs to fill in his or her gaps.

MT: Will you be discussing those activities in another episode?

And both part of the hidden price their brains pay to specialize in hands-on learning.

Yes, neurons and muscles don’t develop if you don’t use them. The motto, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” really applies here. The family pays the price until they discover the specific activities that their active child needs to fill in his or her gaps.

MT: Will you be discussing those activities in another episode?

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