No waiting for hyperactive kids

To prevent tantrums, British amusement parks let hyperactive children go to the front of the line, reports the Times of London. Children with attention-deficit disorders “cannot cope with the stress of waiting,” tourist boards say.

Teachers have criticised the scheme, saying that it undermines their efforts to encourage patience and it would be better for children with ADHD, attention deficit and hyperactive disorder, to learn how to wait.

Via Nothing To Do With Arbroath.

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  1. tim-10-ber says:

    hmmmm…seems like a way for parents to excuse a child’s behavior to me. Not to mention how many of these kids truly have these extremely hard to diagnose conditions and how many of the kids have learned their inappropriate behavior gets them special attention. Give me a frigging break!!!

  2. Another example of medicalising poor behaviour that would benefit from a more intensive application of discipline, rather that rewards for playing up.

    The number of times I’ve had students reject any encouragement towards good behaviour by saying that ‘this is how I am’ instead of taking the responsibility for improving themselves …

  3. I recall the summer that my son’s misdiagnosis and subsequent inappropriate regime of medication pushed him into “mixed states” mood swings. Even going to the grocery store was a harrowing experience than none of the onlookers could possibly understand. When I finally was able to have him accepted in a residential treatment facility, I began to understand what hypervigilance and traumatic shock syndrome were all about. It wasn’t until after he was released (without a change in either diagnosis or medication) that I had amassed enough knowledge to ask some appropriate questions about the possibility that his medication was causing his behavior, rather than helping with it. It looks ridiculously simple to an outsider. I assure you, it is not. It did not help that the line staff of the treatment center (where our prescribing doc–who is in fact among the best available–was medical director), at base viewed behavior problems less as a symptom of a medical issue and more as poor parenting, poor discipline, or general lack of understanding of behavioral norms. Their activities were all structured around “teaching” better behavior. Kids were kept at a distance from one another, spent a lot of time sitting, indoors. Although I didn’t see it much, both seclusion and restraints were among the acceptable tools (I will say that I did observe the proper monitoring of seclusion, in a room with an open door and an adult posted continuously outside.) Between the doc and line staff stood supervisory personnel who believed that their care was in danger of being abused by parents who just wanted a baby-sitter–and put everyone under pressure to show progress and return home.

    But–the disconnect between the doc’s role as diagnostician and prescriber and the staff’s role as controllers probably contributed to the continued misdiagnosis.

    This particular nightmare returned to me as I read teachers (and others in the comments to the original article) arguing that kids and parents should just “get over it,” and that they preferred to “teach” kids better behavior. I recall how frightening a trip to the grocery store (to get a prescription filled) was with an elementary age kid who was behaviorally like a two year old on speed. I remember how differently he perceived the world at many different junctures–how crushingly difficult it was to try, really try to do things right in kindergarten and NOT be the one kid chosen as student of the day. The melt-down when his ticket wasn’t drawn as a winner at a school function. How not winning a carnival game on an afternoon out from the treatment center threw him into depression. How old he was before he had a birthday party that he actually enjoyed.

    And as all this was going on, few teachers understood. Many wanted to “teach” the appropriate behaviors by not recognizing the reality of his difficulties. Bystanders gave us looks. Finding involvements outside of school was next to impossible unless I could be included as well. In fact, there are “intensive” behavior interventions that are appropriate–as Glen suggests–but they are not of the “suck it up and live with it” variety. Nor is it helpful for a kid with bad and good days to spend all of their good days living in punishment for the bad ones.

    It looks as though the accommodation offered by the amusement park is similar to what might be offered to someone with a physical infirmity who gets a preferred parking space. There is a process of medically documenting the infirmity and a tag of some kind provides a limited advantage. Disney, and other, parks in the US have already figured out how to do this on a wider scale.

  4. I’d be surprised if this isn’t done in the US, or will be soon. If it’s a recognized disability, I don’t see how they can not provide the accommodation.

    I empathize with families of children with severe AD/HD; one of my children receives therapy for inattentive type. Still, it’s hard to muster much sympathy over this; there is no universal right to a fun day at the amusement park.

    We avoid rides with long lines because it’s boring to wait and a waste of time.

  5. much easier to go to a “place in line” or fast-track ticket – go do something else until it is your turn. Many other ways to tackle this question – without asking other parents of non-
    AD/HD to leave.

  6. Can I demand to go to the front of a grocery line because it’s 5:15 pm, I have a meeting I have to be at by 6, I’m tired, and there’s a screaming child behind me?

    No? I thought not.

    I empathize with people with ADHD children, but wouldn’t it be a better lesson to help them learn to cope with the annoyances of daily life, rather than to allow them to the front of the line? By doing something like, “We are number 140. We will go get a drink of water now and come back when they are calling number 130.”

    Because otherwise, in 10-20 years, we will see adults throwing tantrums in grocery stores so they can get to the front of the checkout line.

  7. What has happened to the nation that brought civilization to the far corners of the planet?

  8. It’s hard to learn effective coping skills when your brain and your body are pulsing. ADHD isn’t behaviour, it’s brain chemistry. Discipline doesn’t work, medication and behaviour mod do. A place in line ticket makes much more sense (and is probably a better idea, in terms of revenue enhancement, too) than forcing kids to stand around like statues.

  9. It sounds as if this is about the revenue enhancement more than it’s about the ADHD kids’ needs. KateC made the good point that medication and behavior mod work better than discipline (although the idea that ADHD kids are incapable of discipline is offensive). The bigger picture (and this is taking the behavior mod path): if there’s an ADHD kid in your family (as there is in mine), spend as little time as possible at amusement parks (as compared to other fun recreational experiences); choose uncrowded days; choose uncrowded rides; choose only one long line per day, if any; involve the child in choosing which long line s/he chooses to tolerate; have something to occupy her/his hands; you get the picture. The “jump to the head of the line” option ought to be for kids (like those with autism) who have not just self-control issues but also understanding issues. If a child with normal intelligence and understanding is always being jumped to the head of the line because of a diagnosis of ADHD, s/he is being taught a) that s/he’s broken, and b) that s/he’s entitled.

  10. I agree with Jane- if you’ve got an ADHD kid, don’t bring him/her to an amusement park with long lines.

    Now if we were talking about allowing families with ADHD kids to bypass long airport security lines, that I could understand permitting. Families don’t have a choice about going through airport security the way they do about visiting an amusement park.

  11. “It looks as though the accommodation offered by the amusement park is similar to what might be offered to someone with a physical infirmity who gets a preferred parking space.”

    It is nonsensical, indeed shameful, to compare someone classified as ADHD with someone who has a physical infirmity. Darren is correct to ask what happened to the nation that brought civilization to the far corners of the planet. Answer: It became soft, weak, and unable to set standards.

  12. What we dont want to do is reward negative behavior on a consistent basis as that will only reinforce the negative behavior (ADHD or NO ADHD) So I am wondering….a child may have the opportunity to go to a theme park maybe once a year if he/she is very fortunate…will that occasion make such a big impact effecting the way the behavior is managed the rest of the year??? Probably not. What is more important is the focus on the other 364 days out of the year. (3 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction can be very powerful in shaping behavior)
    So if they want to let ADHD kids go to the front of the line, fine. Personally I would only be for it in more severe cases…but lets get real, we are all BORED OUT OF OUR MINDS in line…why cant the have entertainment in lines for us like the do in NY city. Ever waited in line to see the Statue of Liberty? The Street performers were like a mini circus.

  13. Wow. There are a lot of misunderstandings out there! And CW, YES, I have seen plenty of people say that you don’t have to go on an airplane/ go home in comments sections of other blogs. When does it end?

    I have a non-verbal autistic child who would NOT function on a line. Should he never go to the amusement park? Never? Because it’s not a “right?”

    I understand that things like this could be abused easily. But no reason that, say, someone like me could have staff help by checking in and saying, we can’t wait ON THE LINE physically, but we will be over here waiting for our turn. If the wait time is half an hour, we can be waved over in half an hour. Some places I’ve seen they give necklaces to the person who would have been on line BEHIND them, and then wave the special-needs family on that way when the fellow with the necklace gets to the front of the line.

    I sure wouldn’t want to hog everything with a me-first attitude. But I also wouldn’t want my child to NEVER, never have the experience other kids do because his disability is difficult in this way.

    I think we’re mixing up severe, severe medical problems with the simple ADHD/ Johnny doesn’t sit still in class kind of thing. I’m just advocating for a little grace sometimes.

  14. Mrs. C makes good points. Also, we have to realize that there are kids with “real” ADHD, the true brain chemistry issues which are organic and persistent… and then there are kids who are given that label for a variety of reasons…it gets more funding for schools is often a claim, but I also recall reading some interesting discussion about the natural variation in the way that kids’ brains develop…some of those kids “diagnosed” with ADHD are simply developing at a rate which is incongruous with the expectations of the school system. There is natural variation in the way kids develop psychosocially and biologically, and some of those outliers get the label when what they really need is time to develop. I think we’re way too quick to “diagnose” in the US.

  15. In my professional experience, most of what is labeled as ADHD is actually just lack of discipline. Not all, however. The genuine condition is real and serious. BUT – even for those with the genuine condition, they need to learn to live in society, and this kind of thing DOES NOT HELP!

  16. This is a very complicated issue. I don’t have “answers” except the creation of a respectful learning culture encourages common decency.

    Too much of this discussion has been cruel.

  17. Deirdre Mundy says:

    My brother and I had true ADHD– we still ahd to wait in lines. But it was helpful to have a bit more space so we could pace, spin, jump, etc.etc. ADHD kids CAN wait in line without freaking out–they just need wiggle room.

    A better solution might be roomier lines…….

    ADHD isn’t just poor discipline, but for most kids it’s not an insurmountable obstacle—it takes these kids more time to learn self-control (or less disruptive fidgeting behaviors….) So yes, choose lines carefully, let them bounce around and sing in line, and make sure it’s a line for a ride they WANT to go on. (Playing games in line helps too!)

    But let them go to the front? No WAY! My daughter is ADHD too, and I want her to learn to ‘pass’ in society, so she can have an actual life. Giving ADHD kids an easy way out is just forcing them to go through life as a behavioral cripple.

    On the other hand, we ARE homeschooling, since her organizational/behavioral skills are not up to par with her academic sckills. So we’re working hard on appropriate behaviors and socially acceptable coping skills. But we still expect decent behavior out and about.

    We do try to choose ‘fun’ activities that make it easy for her to behave. But she’s already at the point where she could probably handle an amusement park on a cloudy weekday…as long as we only stayed 3 or 4 hours and watched what she ate….

    Anyway, while ADHD is a lifelong ailment, kids CAN and SHOULD learn to cope in normal life situations. Parents who take the easy way to the front of the line NOW are just making their kids’ lives harder LATER.


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