Archive for October, 2011

Are we over-diagnosing ADHD?

The other day, I had the pleasure of picking up my youngest granddaughter from school and taking her out for lunch while “mommy” went to an appointment.  When I handed the reins back to her mom a couple of hours later, the little one bounded into the back yard with her bottle of bubbles and happily began chasing after the dog.

As I drove off with that delicious visual in my head, I turned on the car radio, just in time to hear the news:  The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its guidelines for diagnosing attention deficit disorder.

It is now possible to diagnose and treat ADD/ADHD in children as young as 4-years-old.

Did I mention my granddaughters are 4 years old?

According to the lead researcher of the study supporting the new guidelines, “Treating children at a young age is important, because when we can identify them earlier and provide appropriate treatment, we can increase their chances of succeeding in school.”

I work with students with learning disabilities, so I know that early identification and treatment are important. And I know there are children whose behaviour and sleep patterns – even earlier than four years old – can make parenting a nightmare.  And, I believe that sometimes that might be have a neurobiological cause – and come under the label ADHD.

But – and I cringe when I write this because I know it makes me sound as old as I am – things were different when I was young.  There weren’t as many kids who couldn’t pay attention at school, or who couldn’t follow the rules – either at school or at home. I’m not the only one who remembers it this way.  When I talk to other old broads and aging gents, they say the same thing.

I just don’t have a memory of teachers having to focus their attention on specific individual children they way we do now.  Heck, I think I was the kid in my grade 5 class sent to the principal’s office  – and that was for being a recidivist gum chewer.

The point I’m circling around to is the shocking increase in the number of kids being identified with ADHD.  Even before these new guideline changes.

Between 2003 and 2007, the number of 4 to 17 year olds diagnosed with ADHD at one time in their lives increased by 21.8%.  The result of that surge is that now, nearly 1 in 10 kids has been diagnosed with attention deficit. And some 66% of them are being treated with medication.

Does this disturb you as much as it does me – to think we’re diagnosing more and more children as having a deficit or disorder and that we’re drugging over  66% of them every morning before we ship them off to school?

66%…drugged! And that’s only for ADHD.

If it’s hard to look back to my own childhood to get a sense of how many children were struggling with behavioural and attention problems, then it’s impossible to go back to the time before society was organized the way it is now.

But, I like to imagine way, way, way, back – like to the time when the Paleo diet wasn’t considered a fad.  I wonder about the behaviour and sleep patterns and attention span of children then – when they rose and rested on the schedule of the sun, ate natural food, and spent their days playing and running and chasing…and, well, just being.

I know humans are wired differently now – that eons of experience as a species have altered what we do and how we do it.  But, when I think about 66% of kids being drugged just so they can take part in the daily activity we say is so important….well, can you really blame me for being nostalgic?

Back to the present.  The scary-little-kids-being-diagnosed-with-ADHD-at-4-years-old present.

Do you think the increasing number of children being diagnosed with ADHD is merely the result of our being more knowledgeable and having better diagnostic tools?

Or, do you think there are other factors at play?

Talk to me.


Diane L. Duff is a certified high school English and French teacher and a former private school principal. She provides literacy and academic assessment / consulting to students throughout Ontario. As well, she conducts teacher professional development (and/or parent training) workshops throughout Canada in the areas of reading development, dyslexia, and structured language teaching. Diane is currently completing a Master’s degree in literacy and Montessori teacher training. For more information, visit

Chickpea Divan

Chickpea Divan

I’m always looking for veggie meals that will leave me with the feeling of comfort food, but a healthy version. This recipe is just the ticket. Warm, comforting but by using half and half instead of a thicker cream and chickpeas instead of meat it’s healthier too! This is a spin off Anna Olson’s Turkey Divan – same idea but no meat!

2 cups broccoli, cooked half way and then chilled in cold water to stop the cooking
3 TBSP butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloved garlic, minced
2 carrots, shredded
2 spoonfulls all purpose flour
1 TBSP minced fresh oregano
2 cups veggie broth
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup white wine
2 TBSP mustard
1/4 cup un-cooked quinoa
2 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I used cheddar), divided
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup bread crumbs
2 TBSP minced chives

In a non stick pan, melt butter, saute onions, garlic and carrots until soft. Add flour and stir to coat. Add liquid, mustard and quinoa and reduce until quinoa is soft and it is a thicker consistency.

Melt in 1.5 cups of cheese, add chickpeas and cooked broccoli.

Transfer to an oven safe dish, top with bread crumbs, left over cheese and chives. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Win a $7,500 Environmental Grant for Your School!

We only recently learned of this great contest opportunity being offered by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Earth Day® Canada. There is not a lot of time left to enter (deadline for entries is 5pm on October 14th!), so get your entries in for your chance to win 1 of 10 amazing green prizes

All students need to do is submit an original drawing of their favourite part of nature for the chance to have their artwork featured on a limited edition TD FEF reusable shopping bag and win a $7,500 environmental grant for their school! Simple as that! Read on for details.

How does it work?

Canadian students in grades one through eight can submit an original drawing that expresses the theme “my favourite part of nature.” Ten finalists will then be chosen by a panel of judges, and the winning entry will be chosen by an online public vote. Voting will take place between October 31 and November 11, 2011.

  1. For full information and contest rules, please visit The deadline for entries is 5 p.m. on October 14, 2011. Winners will be announced on November 16, 2011.

Grand Prize

  • $7,500 environmental grant towards the development of an outdoor classroom or a schoolyard naturalization project,
  • a digital camera, valued at approximately $250,
  • a litterless lunchbox for each student in their class.

Nine secondary winners will also each receive:

  • a $500 environmental grant for their school,
  • $25 cash
  • a litterless lunch box.
  • The drawings may also be featured in the 2012-2013 edition of Earth Day Canada’s EcoKids Calendar.

About Earth Day® Canada:

Earth Day® Canada (EDC), a national environmental charity founded in 1990, provides Canadians with the practical knowledge and tools they need to lessen their impact on the environment. In 2004 it was recognized as the top environmental education organization in North America, for its innovative year-round programs and educational resources, by the Washington-based North American Association for Environmental Education, the world’s largest association of environmental educators. In 2008 it was chosen as Canada’s “Outstanding Non-profit Organization” by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication. EDC regularly partners with thousands of organizations in all parts of Canada.

About TD Friends of the Environment Foundation:

Since 1990, TD FEF has provided more than $55 million in funding to over 20,000 grassroots environment and wildlife projects across Canada. In 2010, TD FEF provided more than $3.5 million in support of 970 projects. Thousands of donors give to TD FEF on a monthly basis and TD Bank Group contributes in excess of $1 million annually. TD also covers the management costs of running TD FEF, which guarantees 100 per cent of every dollar donated goes directly to funding environment and wildlife projects in the community where the donation was made. For more information on how to donate and get involved in your community, visit

Earth Day® is a trade-mark of Earth Day Canada (1991) Inc., used with the permission of Earth Day Canada (1991) Inc.

Why are we not asking more questions?

The other day I asked a group of parents what concerns them most about what goes on in their child’s classroom.

One mom said that what concerns her most is that she has no idea what is going on. When I asked what she wanted to know about, she said, “Everything!!”

Good for her. It is time we parents started to wonder – out loud – what is going on.

Long past time.

The biggest “What the heck was going on?” in my professional experience was the case of a girl who failed grade 7 in an Ottawa public school – for being truant and for not doing the assigned work.

Yes, the girl failed; she was not allowed to go on to grade 8.

But, in the bigger picture, the girl didn’t fail. The girl was failed.

Failed by the system that didn’t notice she couldn’t read. For 8 years, from SK to the end of grade 7 – no one noticed or did anything about the fact that she couldn’t read. Couldn’t read so much a picture book.

Failed by her parents who also didn’t notice her illiteracy and who dismissed her cries for help –the truancy and the refusal to do the school work – as nothing more than a poor pre-teen attitude.

Sadly, this is not an isolated case.

That pre-teen who couldn’t read Alborough’s Duck in the Truck at the end of grade 7 could well have been that cutie in SK who couldn’t rhyme or count words in a sentence, but who, the teachers said, “just wasn’t as mature as the other kids.” She could have been that angel in grade 2 who couldn’t count syllables or remember the alphabet, but who, the teachers said, “will catch up soon.” She could have been the shame-faced child in grade 3 whose report card always said how disruptive she was, but never mentioned that she didn’t read as well as a child in early grade 1.

There’s no excuse.

We begin teaching pre-reading skills in SK – and sometimes in JK. When kids enter grade 1, the academic focus is not much wider than emergent literacy and numeracy skills.

By the time a child is at the end of grade 1 – and usually a lot earlier – we know – if we’ve been properly trained to teach and assess reading – if her literacy skills are developing appropriately.

So, why is it that so many struggling readers are not being identified earlier?

Yes, we can blame the institution. If these children were patients under the care of a doctor, and the results were similar – we’d be reading about lawsuits for malpractice.

But, we also need to point the finger at ourselves. These are our children. We care the most. We are ultimately responsible.

What do we know about the curriculum in an elementary classroom? Have we bothered to find out how much time our children spend learning to read? Do we know and understand the approach the teacher is taking? Is that approach working for our child? Do we know about alternative approaches?

We have no problem checking site after site on the internet to find out what the milestones are for language or fine motor development when our children are infants. Do we demonstrate the same level of active curiosity and concern once we hand them over to the government’s schools? Or do we just wait for our children to be “educated” and handed back to us?

If our children needed medical care, would we offer them up as blindly to a surgeon as we do to their teachers and schools? Wouldn’t we do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions? Wouldn’t we demand to know what is going to happen in the operating room?

Why is it, then, that we don’t demand to know – in detail – what’s going on in our children’s classrooms?

Why do we settle for the impersonal canned comments on report cards?

Why do we settle for rushed teacher meetings in which the sole focus is the child – the one with the least power to control the outcome?

Why do we sit, like chastened children ourselves, trying to explain Suzie’s inability to get with the programme instead of sitting up straight, looking the system straight in the eye, and demanding an explanation of why the programme is failing to meet Suzie’s needs?


Diane L. Duff is a certified high school English and French teacher and a former private school principal. She provides literacy and academic assessment / consulting to students throughout Ontario. As well, she conducts teacher professional development (and/or parent training) workshops throughout Canada in the areas of reading development, dyslexia, and structured language teaching. Diane is currently completing a Master’s degree in literacy and Montessori teacher training. For more information, visit

Asian Marinara Sauce

Asian Marinara Sauce

Noodles of any kind are always a big hit at my house. There is something about them that the whole family loves. So warm, so comforting. But sometimes I grow tired of the same old same old. That’s why when I saw a recipe for Japanese Noodles in my Moosewood cookbook I was keen to give them a go. But of course in the hustle that is my week night I needed to make a couple of changes to the recipe for time sake. The finished product was something a little off the beaten path, but close enough to home that the kid gave it a thumbs up!


3 single serve packages of Udon Noodles (you can find these in most grocery stores near the rice noodles)

2 TBSP sesame oil

2 TBSP soy sauce

1 TBSP olive oil

2 cups diced salt free canned tomatoes

5 spring onions chopped finely

salt and pepper to taste

In a small pot add all ingredients minus the undon noodles. Bring to a simmer and let sit on low heat to warm through.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the udon noodles for 3 minutes, or by package instructions. Drain and return to large pot. Add heated sauce and serve immediately.

Lion Pose

Ever seen a lion, sitting tall and brave in the jungle grass? Maybe you and your child have imagined one during play, saw one in a movie or enjoyed an adventurous story together.  Lion pose is enjoyed by both children and adults, inviting or playful selves to shine through! Click below to experience the lion pose with your child.  Enjoy as your ROAR and play!

Little Lotus Yoga- Lion


Candace also blogs for
the Yummy Mummy Club!