Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jan. 8, 2012: Education: Part Two: Sweet Destruction and the Busy Child

At times I’ve thought that Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder might be the product of boredom, and in some cases it might. But I’ve also been treated to a view of erratic busyness that can only be described as obviously abnormal and unhealthy. A teacher coping with this understandably might despair of imparting any learning.
I mentioned before my adventure of taking a child (an eleven year old boy) to New York to see the Christams tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The expedition included his mother, an eight year old girl who was his neighbor, and a friend of the mother.
Six hours into the trip (the first three hours had been spent on the bus), the boy was not just obsessed with getting a baseball cap as I mentioned before, but was actually hurling himself against lamp posts and the walls of buildings. He was incapable of looking at anything except baseball caps, and was fairly unresponsive when spoken to.
He had started the day in a normal, enthusiastic way, excited about the bus trip, thrilled at sitting up front with a broad view of the passing landscape, and chatting with the amiable driver. He had a grand time on the subway too. Though the tree at the Met didn’t greatly impress him (weren’t those angels like the cone angels at Wal-Mart?) the swords and armor at the Met were a wondrous discovery for him. How did he soon become this crazed being hurling himself into buildings?
Let’s look at what actually happened on this trip.
Before we got on the bus we bought breakfast sandwiches and coffee and sodas at a convenience store. By the time we reached New York, the boy was thirsty and had another soda. After the subway trip uptown and the bus across town, it was time for a hotdog and soda outside the museum. Half an hour later we had to leave the museum because another soda was needed. By this time the boy was using the emptied soda bottle in his right hand to rapidly beat on his left hand. And he was becoming unresponsive. Unfortunately, we got wedged into a terrible crowd on Fifth Avenue by Rockefeller Center, but by the time we got ourselves safely over to Sixth Avenue, it was time for another soda. At the Port Authority Building it was suppertime. The boy had a fine looking hamburger with all the trimmings, but ate only the bun, while drinking another soda and eating a dessert. His mother said nothing about what he did and didn’t eat, fearing no doubt that if she crossed this super-charged child, she’d have a screaming banshee to deal with.
While our dietary precautions lead us to monitor fat intakes, just how much sugar do we take in? This child had so many calories to burn that he was very literally bouncing off the walls.
Sodas, in that ancient time when I was a child, were a rare treat. Actually I only got Coca Cola when I had the flu, and then only by the tablespoon. Those were ancient times. Now soda is for many of our population the primary beverage. More cautious parents may prefer fruit juices, but that’s no answer to the sugar intake issue.
How much of ADHD may be caused by excessive sugar intake?
I’m not going to blame the soda bottling corporations that are making hearty profits, nor the pharmaceutical firm that profits from Ritalin while we drug our children into a semblance of calm. Parents and school cafeterias are where the problem may well begin. Try stopping all this business with the sodas. Why not drink milk? And why the Hell does McDonalds charge more for milk than for sodas? Let the fast food restaurants do a public service by SUBSIDIZING milk consumption.
(When our farmers here are being forced into bankruptcy because of the controls on milk prices, one must ask why milk is so expensive for the consumer?)
And if the child has a milk allergy, water might be considered a possible beverage for children?

Katherine Ashe is the author of the  four volume Montfort novelized series