Friday, January 16, 2009

Relevant and irrelevant noise

This week we had a bit of a breakthrough in the war on AD/HD, math facts, and getting work done in a timely manner. We went to the library and learned something about noise.

The boy has some serious problems with distraction. He is easily bored and thus easily distracted from boring things. Maybe this is part of his problem with mastering math facts - they are boring, no? I've often wondered if that was the entire problem - math facts are too boring to memorize. A child who can memorize a good portion of the Westminster Shorter Catechism with little trouble ought to be able to master 7x6, right? At one time, after an intensive week of "Catechism Camp" he was able to recite the first 36 answers, including:

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

They aren't all that long and hard, and I'm pretty sure some (maybe most) of those first 36 are gone now, possibly replaced by boring math facts.

But anyway, math facts must be mastered if one is to get to interesting math. So one day we found ourselves with several needs: to take the Girl Scout to her meeting 20 minutes away from home, to avoid driving back and forth, and to get some work done. So we stopped in to a library close to the Girl Scout meeting location.

The boy sat himself down at one of the study carrels, those desks with walls around them. He set to work on his math. He was done in record time, with a higher percentage of right answers than normal. And way less trouble and frustration than normal. Then he did some reading and answered some comprehension questions on a book he's reading. And then he did some grammar work. All in a fraction of the time this takes at home.

When I asked him what was different he said "it's so quiet." But of course it wasn't all that quiet. There were people talking, and walking around, and tapping on keyboards and dropping books.

The difference, we think, was that the noise was neither relevant nor interesting to him. Not like, say, the dog scratching to get out the back door to chase squirrels. Or the many other noises at home. Or, just imagine the noises at school! Think a classroom of 30 kids has some relevant or interesting noise going on? The poor kid's head would explode!

Yesterday we tried as best we could to duplicate the library conditions. I removed a wall map that his work table faces. We had a silent half hour with no one talking, just working. He put on the noise-canceling headphones.

It worked a little, but not as well. Still, we are on to something. The AD/HD doc listened to our story and agreed. We need to play around with it and see what we can do. In this small house it's hard to find a really quiet place.

Probably we'll find ourselves spending more time at the library. Oh darn.

1 comment:

Sheryl said...

"Probably we'll find ourselves spending more time at the library. Oh darn."

The next time I go shopping I'll buy you a sympathy card. ;-)