ADHD & Art in Juvenile Corrections

We got a new student in detention last week. He’s from a somewhat distant town, and he says he’s being assigned to some long-term program to help him “focus.”

The first couple of days with him were a little confusing. He was  doing independent work to catch up on credit deficiencies, but when he got done with that, he reluctantly joined the group work in the classroom.

I couldn’t figure him out for a while. He seemed to be annoyed at everything and to spend a good deal time gazing into space, so I’d gently remind him to get back on task, and then he seemed quite annoyed.

Then it came time to do Art. We were doing some watercolors in the style of Beatrix Potter, and he changed into a different boy: focused, intent, and successful! He drew beautifully and patiently.

Finally the staff caught up with me and told me that he has severe ADHD. NOW I understood, except for one thing: when he does art, he doesn’t seem to have it.

What if some kids don’t thrive sitting silent and still for six hours a day? I would guess that most kids don’t want to sit still and quiet all day! Instead of such an emphasis on quiet work, seat work, perhaps it’s time for active cross-curricular instruction.

For sure, students will be able to demonstrate their true understanding by doing meaningful projects, understanding which standardized tests cannot really show.

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