Failing grades, behavioral problems and social woes make life a battle for children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and parents have explored prescription drugs to counseling to combat the symptoms. But when traditional solutions proved unsuccessful, parents and teachers sought an alternative approach that targets the cause, not the symptom, and treats ADD like a gift, not a disability. Their solution is represented by the mantra "I love my ADD!" and it promotes health over medication, and working with, not against, ADD learning styles. Known as the Results Project, it has found a way into homes and classrooms nationwide, not to mention a growing number of schools created specifically for ADD children.
Why love ADD?
Most ADD children in traditional schools have not been given many reasons to love their ADD. Mercy Terrill, a former special education teacher and parent, knows this firsthand. While teaching, she had seen ADD children become depressed after being reprimanded and put on prescription drugs. When her own six-year-old daughter, Elisa, began showing ADD symptoms and a doctor recommended medication, Terrill was determined to find another answer.
"I had worked with kids who went on and off prescription drugs, and I didn't want that for my daughter. They had lost the shine in their eyes, their creativity, themselves," the Tampa, Florida woman says.
What Terrill found in the Results Project was a network of parents and educators who had faced the same frustrations with ADD. Steven Plog started the Results Project, which emphasizes nutrition and self-esteem, to help others come to terms with the problems he faced as a child.
Boasting a 20-year career in sales, Plog never understood why doctors kept telling him he was "broke, and needed to be fixed." He knew he had ADD, and as an adult, he learned to use its positive aspects to his advantage.
"I'm creative, I have energy, I have charisma and I think outside the box," Plog says. "It had never dawned on me to focus on the positives of ADD."
Plog likens his ADD-friendly approach to the success seminars he endured as a salesman. He teaches ADD children to appreciate their multi-tasking abilities, and he refers to them as "QuickSmart Kids."
"It's amazing for their self-esteem. ADD people are so sensitive; you cannot say, 'You have a disability. You don't fit in.' But you tell them, 'You're okay,' and they can't get enough of it," Plog says.
In 1997, Plog took his Results Project to the Israel Academy, an alternative school in Chicago. The students ate healthier lunches, and parents agreed to give their children nutritional supplements. The experiment succeeded, and Plog was asked to visit schools in Detroit, Michigan and Winnipeg, Canada.
It was not long before Plog began lending his support to the Results Academy, a private school for ADD children near Houston, Texas. Its founders, Tom and Catherine Bray, felt such a school was the best option for children like their son, Dylan.
The Brays equipped their classroom with computers, stand-up desks and tables with tall chairs. They implemented computer-based lessons that allow each child to work at his own speed, letting teachers give students more one-on-one attention.
"A right-brain learner can't stare at the wall all day. This school works with the attributes they have and promotes personal development," Plog says. "Finally, these kids were getting the grades their parents always knew they had the potential to get."
A second Results Academy has since been established in New Hampshire. Although the curriculum has been well received by the students and parents involved, funding has been problematic, and some Results Project supporters aim to make public schools more ADD-friendly.
K.B. Austin, EdD, regularly educates public school teachers about ADD learning during in-services. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and has been called to school districts all over the state.
"We go through exercises that teach them what to do with ADD learning styles, and most of them are shocked," Austin says. For example, Austin suggests letting a child work on an assignment for 10 minutes, then switching activities, then going back to the original assignment. A child with a short attention span is more likely to finish all his work than if he is forced to complete one assignment at a time, she says.
"A child shouldn't have to sit down for hours a day. That's not natural," she says. "You never know who the next great artist or inventor will be. Don't stifle their creativity."
Attitude is everything
Since Luke Stevenson's nine-year-old daughter, Bailey, started the Results Project, the changes have been drastic. Stevenson, of Tahoe, Nevada, said parenting became much easier once Bailey heard the words, "I love my ADD."
After discovering the program, he moved Bailey to a new school because of problems with her ADD symptoms. She had been temperamental and had difficulty making friends, and he wanted her to start the new school year with a clean slate.
"This kindness, this sweetness has come out in her recently," he said. "She's such a bright girl; she shouldn't be having behavioral and social problems."
At a recent Results Project class, Bailey shared her testimony that she had been doing better in school and felt better about herself because ADD was no longer a problem.
Terrill has seen equally pleasing results in Elisa, now seven. She is glad she did not force her daughter into a "cookie cutter mold" and could see a difference in less than a week.
"She says being ADD means she can do anything," Terrill says. "She likes herself and says everyone else is just 'multiple-thought-impaired.'"
For information on the Results Project, visit www.resultsproject.net