Time, Maturity and the ARTS Can Work with ADHD

In an October 25th Newsday letter to the editor, DonnaRicci,a mother from West Islip  was urgedto medicate her son for displaying attention deficit hyperactivity disorderbehavior by his elementary teachers, school psychologist and schoolofficials.  She resisted: “I would sitthere in tears, never believing it.” She  believed that her son would grow out of itwith time and maturity. He did. With diet, nutrition, and flexible learningstrategies, her son, now 15 thrives. 

She concedes how teacherscan become frustrated with having to discipline students while trying to teachthe required curriculum and how too much is expected of young children.  She asked, “Why must so much be crammed intoa young brain, not developed enough to absorb information on a permanent,sustainable level?” She suggested re-examining the educational system,instead. 


Seven or eight-year-old boysare immature and wild with energy; yet, this is perceived as abnormal behavior?  As a middle school teacher and a mom of an active “speeddemon” son (an observation from his then first grade teacher) I understood, as didshe, how boys need to fidget and move.  WhenI taught 8th grade English, I made sure that some time during aclass session students were given the opportunity to get up and movearound.  Drama strategies facilitated allof my class lessons to insure that students had an opportunity to takeownership of their learning utilizing an  integrated arts praxis pedagogy. A correlation couldbe drawn to improved testing  results on NewYork State ELA scores.

Ross Rosenfeld’s opinionthat some children need more structure is noteworthy; however, Ricci added howsports, music lessons and the like are fundamental in helping train the brainto focus.  Case in point:  “Our son has been taking guitar lessons fortwo years, and his grades have improved significantly.” 

Let’s hear it from you:  Doyou think ADHD behavior  is exaggeratedand overly diagnosed? How does integration of the arts help to encouragelearning?

Testimonial #6: Irene Sole

How has your life been indeliblytouched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledgehow they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who youare today?

Dr. Brann Wry,Director of the Performing Arts Administration program at NYU. He brought thereal life challenges that Arts organizations have in the economy and how we, asArts advocates, can meet those challenges with sound business decisions inorder to perpetuate a thriving Arts community.

How are the artsre-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your localschools?

Frankly, I’dlike to see more emphasis on Arts programming in the local and borough levels.I’d like to see a broad spectrum of neighborhoods involved in local projectssuch as theatrical and musical performances and visual displays of creativeprojects. There are pockets of these projects around the Boroughs but it needsto become more widespread which will enable a wider participation to explorecreativity. The flip side has equal importance by the exposure to Art and tosee the creative experience manifested. Therefore, striving toward theobjective to instill the understanding of the need and importance of Art in ourlives.

Testimonial #5: Rachelle Bradt, RB Learning Environments

How has your life beenindelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason andacknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you tobecome who you are today?

Art was part of everythingwe did in Miss Kieser’s classroom, where I spent a wonderful time from grades 1through 3.  She played the piano and we learned to sing in tune. She was drawing on thechalkboard and we were all drawing in our notebooks. Then some words wereadded, and we started to write. Everybody learned to read and write. The notion that someone might not [readand write], didn’t even occur to us. We had no art teacher, because everyteacher had to know art.

We had a huge sandbox in the classroom in which we put mountains and rivers,houses, people and animals. They all had to be counted; that’s how we learnedmath.

I’ll never forget when she came [to class] with a chocolate bar that had to be divvied upamong all the children in the class. That’s how we learned division.

Art was part of everything we did. And Miss Kieser drew me a fabulous colorpencil study of two shells along with a poem by a famous poet (Eichendorff):

“There is a song that sleeps in all things,
As they linger in their dream.
And the world will start a-singing,
Once you’ll find its magic beam.”

And it did.

How are the artsre-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your localschools?

“I learned how to be areal artist. I will remember everything we did.I was trying to do my best butit wasn’t easy because I had never done that before, but you showed me.” (Carla,4thgrade student, PS 132, Manhattan)

“I have learned a lot about my students’ interests and needs. The sketchbooks are a wonderful tool for teaching and have encouraged writing immensely.(Juan Paredes, 4th grade teacher, PS 115, Manhattan)

“My students are paying more attention to detail! They have become visualthinkers. They approach my projects with much more confidence and have reallytaken art seriously as a subject. (Integrating art making with reading andwriting ) has changed the way that I teach my students.” (Wiley Nelson, ArtSpecialist, PS 8, Manhattan).

The 9-11 Memorial Site

On September 13th I visited the 9-11 Memorial Site. It was truly an inspirational experience in so many ways. The solitude, solace, serenity and sheer beauty of being one with the elements was spiritually uplifting. I felt as if I became part of a canvas, similar to Seurat’s vision in Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George: an aesthetic coalescence of art and reality. It truly was – IS – a testament to those lives lost on September 11, 2001.

Thank you to all those people whose efforts to make this hallowed ground a spiritual retreat for everyone to reflect, remember, and realize the sacrifices made by those we honor.

We will never forget.

How do the arts serve humanity as reminders of lessons lost and learned?

Testimonial #4: Justine Beirne, MA Philosophy Columbia University

A teacher that touched my life…..I have to say, that to choose one is an injustice as the English department of Vernon Township High School was really one of the best, in my opinion, in the entire world. However, if there is one person I remember it is James Walsh, my junior year high school English teacher who pushed me to explore the aesthetic theory used in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. He simply kept asking me to point to the place in the text that made me make the conclusions I was making about the literature. To this day, through two Master’s programs, an honor’s thesis, and more than 400 pages of academic writing I hear Mr. Walsh’s voice: “Go back to the text.” He made me feel like a proper academic. But he made me EARN it.

The arts are re-igniting my community by…. Looking at modernism and deconstruction is the only way to live in our new fast-paced global society peacefully. The avante garde, the new, the unusual, the Lady Gaga’s of the world who make us question the way we label an experience with a concept. The arts force us to question our human habit of labeling experiences as good or bad, and extends our empathy to those we otherwise would not understand. They are the only instrument for peace in a post-modern global culture.