Just before the race, I instructed my son to do eleven strokes per minute if he wanted to go faster and win the International competition, so he altered his stroke and brought back the medal. Many kinesthetic learners has this “perfect rhythm” in them, and I found out that this ability is common among athletes.

My oldest child can tell you how many beats there are in a minute without a metronome, so when the coach needs him to do a certain number of strokes per minute or the music teacher needs a precise number of crotchets in a bar, using “faster” or “slower” will confuse him.

He needs them to be specific to deliver what they require him to. Kinesthetic intelligence is the giftedness in movements and rhythms.

Kinesthetic Intelligence and ADHD

Kinesthetic learners do not function well in school environments, because they need to move around to think, and are often labeled hyperactive. Therefore, when faced with such students, many teachers will ask their parents to check if the kids have ADHD. Sounds familiar?

I sent my other son to a pretty good kindy when he was four-years-old, and the teachers were a helpful lot. One teacher reported him walking around the classroom when she was teaching the continents and oceans. She thought he learned nothing since he was just walking around the classroom, visiting the reading corners, picking up books, shifting here and there. She was shocked when he could regurgitate all that she taught when they had to do the worksheets.

He even went around coaching his classmates who were one year older. I often wonder if she had chained him to the chair, would he learn or remember as much. I knew he needed to move to think.

But this kind environment is not to be found in a formal school setting, he had much trouble explaining why he had to go to the toilet often because he just could not sit on the chair for that full period without dozing off, he couldn’t think and function without moving his feet and shifting his body.

In the end, like every good educator, the teachers and principals told me to check if he had ADHD.

After a good sum of money spent, one psychologist confirmed he had ADHD after a few questionaires, and another psychologist did a thorough test and said he could focus and had no attention deficit. We were asked to put him on Ritalin, anyway, to ‘test if it works’.

To Drug or Educate?

As a parent, I do not believe that my son is a lab rat, so I refrained from putting him on drugs, to the dismal of his teachers who branded me an irresponsible mother.  But I was determined to empower him to work in classrooms again without drugs.

When he started university studies at twelve, I was given the chance to observe him in lecture theatres.  Unlike primary schools, universities neither limit the number of toilet visits nor forbid walks to refresh. Every 50 minutes, he will move to a new lecture theatre or tutorial room, and he would grab that opportunity to find a Subway or Coke, which energizes him.

It occurs to me that the working world, just like the university, allows freedom to walk and pace about, so putting him on drugs just so he can operate in the classroom seems wrong.

Read the story of Gillian Lynne with Kinesthetic Intelligence, an excerpt from Sir Ken Robinson’s Book: The Element.

Strangely, this need to move can be viewed as an intelligence and gift or a disability depending on the environment and how we want to read things. For me, to be different is a gift and every gift can be a two-edged sword: if we choose to focus on its negatives, the problems become bigger and bigger, but if we focus on the positives and spend time nurturing that gift, it becomes easier to teach the child to assuage the pain of being different and release him to learn how to behave in an acceptable way.

So the next time a child is prescribed Ritalin, we should really think hard if we want the drug to act as the chain that puts him on the seat, killing his gift at the same time, or take the more painful route of teaching him to exploit his own gifts and learn to blend into his environment at the same time.

I am not sure if the disease is fictitious, but the over usage of drugs on our children is worrisome. Today, one out of ten ten-year-olds is on Ritalin, and one wonders the coins in whose pockets are jiggling.


“ADHD is the prime example of a fictitious disease”

~Psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg, the Father of ADHD

Leave a Reply