DSM: Sudbury and learning disabilities or low IQ's

Melissa Bradford (mbradford@mediaone.net)
Fri, 12 May 2000 08:46:25 -0500

Dear Becky,

Melissa from LVS here. I don't have all the answers to your questions, but
I will try to answer some of them. My children attend a Sudbury school in
Illinois that I helped found, and I formerly taught 8th grade in public
school for 7 years.

First you asked:

> : My question is what is your take on kids with low IQ's (71) and having a
> : difficult time reading attending a Sudbury school?

I can't answer that because I don't have direct experience with this one. I
will tell you what I told a parent in a similar situation who did an
enrollment interview at our school. When it comes to a question of low IQ,
the parent must really make the call. Only you know how well this child
functions, and how much he/she needs special learning situations. I view
low IQ as a very different situation from LD/ADD, mainly because I'm not
sure LD or ADD exist, but I'm pretty sure low IQ exists.

 Do you see kids make
> : gains when the pressure is off of them (I know the answer to this one)?

The general answer to your question is yes, including the LD/ADD situation.
With respect to your specific question of low IQ, I can't answer that one.

> : Has anyone watched a child with learning disabilities similar to mine go
> : through a Sudbury school?

We don't really track such things, and Sudbury Valley does not either to my
knowledge. If you have read some of the SVS literature, you know that they
have never seen a student develop a so-called learning disability there.
Also, they have not informally noticed any difference between kids who were
supposedly previously diagnosed LD or ADD and any of the other students.

My informal observation of students at LVS who were previously diagnosed
with ADD or LD is that their problems, if they had them, had nothing
whatsoever to do with "ADD", and had a great deal to do with either 1)
things that were going on, or had gone on, in their nuclear family, or 2)
the fact that they did not fit in with the traditional system and such a
label was the easy way to explain it.

With respect to "emotional/psychological difficulties", as Gerald Phillips
said, that is a bit broad. In some cases, I would say that a Sudbury school
is not equipped to handle such difficulties, but it would depend on what the
difficulties were, and how severe they are. I have seen cases where the
child was too damaged to be successful in a Sudbury school, because he/she
would not learn to take responsibility for his/her actions. Unfortunately,
a Sudbury school is not really able to handle such children, at least in my
limited experience.

> : Could I hear some of the results, what the child
> : was like, what happened to the child?

These ADD/LD children definitely made strides. I can't be specific for
reasons of confidentiality.

> : Also what about diplomias, or GED's,
> : how does the graduation process work?

SVS and LVS award diplomas to students who successfully defend a thesis,
something along the lines of "why you are ready to become a responsible
member of the community at large".

If you want to read an outstanding book on LD/ADD and medicating our
children, I recommend "Reclaiming Our Children: A Healing Plan for a Nation
in Crisis" by Dr. Peter R. Breggin. He is an outspoken critic of the
practice of medicating our children into submission, and questions the
existence of ADD/LD, and has lots of research to support his views. Here is
my favorite quote from the book (I have lots of them):

"Suppose a group or children is standing on the shore of an island waving
their arms crisscross above their heads in the universal distress signal.
Now imagine that a 'hospital ship' spots the children and comes ashore.
Suppose further that the doctor orders the nurses to give the children
Prozac or Ritalin to abort their signals of distress. Now suppose the ship
departs without finding out why the children are alone on the island, where
their parents are, what dangers are surrounding them, or even whether they
want to be rescued.

"That of course sounds ridiculous. Yet in ways small and large this is
happening throughout the nation. Millions of children are desperately
signaling distress and doctors are sending them home with drugs that supress
their ability to communicate their distress." (p. 142)

It is my personal belief that ADD is an attempt to explain why people who
are expected to spend their time doing unnatural, boring activities all day
don't want to do them. It is not normal for people to sit at desks all day
doing paperwork. It is unprecedented in human history that we have so many
adults and children doing just that. Our bodies and brains are not designed
to do such activities for long periods of time, especially boys & men. Some
say, use performance-enhancing drugs, such as Ritalin. I would like to know
why it is OK to do that to children for the sake of making teachers' and
parents' lives easier, but it is not OK for athletes to do it? Why can't
anybody pop a Ritalin when they want to be able to concentrate better on an
exam, or on their paperwork? "Hey, I don't feel like balancing my checkbook
today, I think I'll go down to the local school and buy a Ritalin off some
kid." It is frightening to me that we don't look at the cause, we only
treat the symptoms.

With respect to learning disabilities such as dyslexia, from the research I
have read, learning disabilities are simply developmental differences that
children grow out of, given time. Unfortunately, school magnifies these
differences and make a normal developmental variation into a big problem
that can stay with someone for life.

Well, I could go on and on about this, but I guess I'll stop here. It
happens to be an area of interest to me. Hope this is helpful. Best of
luck to you.

Melissa Bradford, LVS

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