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Misperceptions on A.D.D. May Promote Stimulant Use

To the Editor:

As advocates and representatives of the parents to whom you refer in your article "Experts, Educators Question a.d.d. Diagnoses" (related story), we are compelled to respond to your presentation of the results of efforts to have attention-deficit disorder included as a separate eligibility category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Those efforts resulted in a lengthy and thorough Sept. 16, 1991, policy memorandum from the U.S. Education Department to all chief state school officers clarifying state and local responsibility to provide services to eligible children with A.D.D. (under Part B of the I.D.E.A. and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act).

The omission of this critical information may lead to a misperception about state and local responsibility to serve children with A.D.D. in America's schools. Furthermore, by overlooking this in-depth policy memorandum, you may inadvertently be contributing to the use of stimulant medication as the "quick fix" sought by schools and parents, a concern raised with emphasis in the article. No reputable expert supports the use of medication as the sole course of management for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Yet, too often, needed in-service educator training and development of effective school-based practices for children with A.D.D. get pushed aside as naysayers resurrect the "Does A.D.D. really exist?" debate.

Educators need to stop shadow-boxing and begin to address the problems experienced by their students with A.D.D. Until schools become responsive to the educational needs of these students and find methods to effectively educate them, unfortunately medication will continue to be the "quick fix."

Mary Fowler
Sandra Thomas
Fran Rice
Fair Haven, N.J.

To the Editor:

Your recent article about attention-deficit disorders, while perhaps inaccurately titled, presented a valuable overview of A.D.D. in the classroom.

Two important points need to be stressed. One, Ritalin, or any other medication for A.D.D., cannot be used in isolation. Our organization, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders, strongly advocates a multimodel treatment program that includes educational interventions and behavior-management techniques. Second, a comprehensive evaluation is crucial. Chadd urges any parent who suspects his or her child has A.D.D. to seek out a physician or mental-health professional who is knowledgeable about A.D.D.

Regarding your report that some educators fear parents will push for a diagnosis of A.D.D. so their children can receive special services, you should have pointed out that a diagnosis of A.D.D. is not sufficient by itself to merit special services. A.D.D. must have an adverse impact on a child's educational performance.

Your readers may want to know that chadd has over 600 chapters nationwide that can be invaluable resources to educators. We have published an educators' manual and developed an in-service program for educators, in addition to publishing a quarterly magazine.

JoAnne Evans
National President
Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders
Eau Claire, Wis.

Shared Decisionmaking and 'Egalitarianism' Backlash

To the Editor:

At times during Steven Barone's diatribe against shared decisionmaking (related story ), he seems to be making some sense. In fact, his belief that there are dysfunctional teams is probably quite accurate. But, as in much of psychology, he loses reality shortly thereafter.

His complaint, that somehow his expertise is overlooked in the group process and he actually has to listen to those less informed and less knowledgeable, rings hollow. After 26 years as an educator, 10 of those administering special-education and counseling programs, the one thing that is clear to me is how bogus so much of what passes for "expertise" in the field really is.

In the area of disabilities, the diagnostic manuals reported some 60 disabilities 20 years ago. Today, there are over 240. I've received reports for the same child from two major research hospitals diagnosing "learning disabilities" and attention-deficit disorder, with diametrically opposed "remedies." Neither of the "experts" from those institutions spoke to anyone in the schools.

If our psychologist expert Mr. Barone finds it disconcerting that individuals are using, in his eyes, less than meaningful content in discussing educational issues, I say it is fair play. Just let's not blame it on shared decisionmaking. Actually, if he decided to actively participate in the process, he might learn something.

Barnett Sturm
Superintendent of Schools
Cairo-Durham Central School District
Cairo, N.Y.

Self-Styled 'Good Ol' Boy' Counters Rodeo Criticism

To the Editor:

Elizabeth Knowles (related story ) is a knee-jerk reactionary of the highest inclination. In her letter, Ms. Knowles wrote of rodeo as a sport that "harmed and tormented animals for entertainment."

I grew up and worked in rodeo for a large part of my life. Animals associated with rodeo are some of the best-cared-for species in the world. They work two or three days a week for, at most, eight seconds a day. Tough duty! They are well-fed and carefully cared for. They are worth good money. Any action involving them is less traumatic than most professional athletes experience. Their living is guaranteed. The cowboy's is not. If the animals did not have these jobs, they would end up as human or pet food. I think they'd prefer the job. Also, I cannot even estimate the number of times I've seen the animal win.

Even some of us "good ol' boys" are doctoral candidates. Ms. Knowles does not have the corner on the market. I never dreamed, however, that that candidacy gave anyone a holier-than-thou, look-down-your-nose advantage.

Ms. Knowles, you've seen rodeo from the edge, but you certainly don't know much about it. As a doctoral candidate, you should know that it is not wise to form a hypothesis from a biased opinion sans total research.

Dick Schaffan
Willow City Schools
Willow City, N.D

On Low Dropout Counts: Author Responds to Critic

To the Editor:

Philip Gris‚'s letter responding to our Commentary, "Cooking the Books on Dropout Rates" (related story ), missed our central theme (related story). Our point is simply this: The high school dropout rate in many states and communities is much higher than education leaders acknowledge.

It is true, as Mr. Gris‚ points out, that we did not identify every place a student might be who fails to graduate with his or her classmates. In addition to the possibilities we mentioned (private school enrollment, G.E.D. classes, etc.) some students get their diplomas a year early and some get them a year late. But even if these students were identified and assigned to their proper cohorts, that would not significantly change graduation rates over the long term.

Mr. Gris‚ also notes that some inner-city youths who fail to graduate on time are incarcerated, a possibility we did not mention. This is true, of course, but that hardly elevates their status above that of a dropout.

Mr. Gris‚ also pointed out that the six-year graduation rate for college students is low at many postsecondary institutions. We agree. In Louisiana, the six-year graduation rate at some of the state's regional institutions is less than 30 percent.

Dismal college-completion rates, however, should not divert our attention from the problems in our high schools. Indeed, the two are clearly related. Inadequate high school preparation contributes to the fact that many college students fail to graduate. In Louisiana, for example, 50 percent of the state's first-year college students take at least one remedial course.

We can debate until doomsday about what the exact dropout rates are, but the central fact remains: A high percentage of the nation's young people, particularly in the inner cities and impoverished rural areas, fail to succeed in high school. We won't solve this problem until we admit it exists.

Richard Fossey
Associate Professor
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, La.

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