There was a report in the media recently about an approach used in German schools to help manage the behaviour of children with ADHD.
ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is the term used for children who have difficulty concentrating, who demonstrate impulsive and sometimes uncontrollable behaviour, who are intensely and perhaps inappropriately over active and unable to be still and focus in the way their peers would.
You can find further reading about it here.
These behaviours can be difficult to manage either by the child themselves, or by parents and teachers who require their focus and attention or for them to behave in a way that is less disruptive to others around them.
As you can imagine in the formal situation of a classroom it can be a challenge for all if the ADHD is particularly severe. It has an impact on the child themselves and everyone else and can inhibit the focus and learning potential of all concerned.
In attempts to help these children manage their own behaviour, as is claimed, some schools in Germany have adopted the use of Sand Vests.
These are jackets with compartments integrated into them weighted with sand for the child with ADHD to wear. It has been claimed that the close and weighty feel of them is soothing to the child, even representing being held by an adult giving a hug perhaps, and apparently has a steadying effect on their behaviour.
It is intended that children wear them from choice only, and they are not a ‘punishment’ for their behaviour. Rather; an aid to managing it.
However, many people have concerns. There are no studies to show how the wearing of them may have a long term effect on a child, either physically or psychologically. And the practice of using them must inevitably vary between class, classroom and teachers. How much ‘choice’ a child has, who is powerless against the demands of a teacher anyway, must vary considerably. And whether a stigma develops from wearing the jacket remains to be seen. For although it’s been said that many kids are ‘keen’ to wear it, whether they have recognised ADHD or not, there is inevitably a novelty factor which could ultimately wane.
Another concern is the fact that the jackets are treating the symptoms and not helping the cause of these behaviours, which could be the stress of the class environment and learning approaches in many instances and not something necessarily inherent in the child.
There have been a number of parents who have chosen to home educate (also known as homeschooling) because their child becomes upset, unsettled and flares up in a class setting into distressing behaviours such as those attributed to ADHD. Yet when taken out of the classroom, and with varied and less formal approaches to their learning, the parents find that the symptoms of hyperactivity, inability to focus and general distress noticeably diminish.
So perhaps a better remedy would be to examine the learning climate more closely and ask whether it needs to change to better suit the needs of all children, rather than forcing them into a situation that neglects some needs and using such methods to make them fit.