'A Tongue In Cheek Humor Column For Parents of ADD and/or LD Children'
By Roberta Mann, Pseudoanalyst Extraordinaire
Today's Topic: Probable Cause
In the media today I have repeatedly seen stories of varying detail relating to what is referred to as the 'sudden phenomena' of enormous amounts of children who supposedly suffer from the disability ADD. At first I dismissed these accounts, but as the media droned ever on, almost obsessed with debunking this 'newfound myth,' I took the time to try to analyze the origin of the problems that do seem to afflict so many of our school-aged children today. What I have uncovered will amuse some, startle others, and cause some among you to actually leap uncontrollably from your chairs, shouting, "EUREKA!"
Have you ever found yourself laying awake in bed at night, way into the bewitching hours, staring at the ceiling, and wondering, sometimes guiltily, what happened to cause your child's ADD and comorbid behaviors? Have you blamed everything, from a bump on the head to a DPT inoculation, combed over every moment of your child's life, from conception to the present, and still not felt like you could put your finger on precisely when and where the cause occurred? Well, fret no more. Your search is over. The affliction your child has is VERY real, and it has a name: SS/MBS. That's right...Sesame Street/Muppet Behavior Syndrome.
In the past 20 some-odd years, not coincidentally coinciding with the burst of ADD diagnosed children on the American scene, parents and children alike have found themselves delighted with the lively antics of Sesame Street and those quirky yet entertaining Muppet characters. Please note the use of the words 'lively' and 'quirky,' these have also been used to describe our children.
Fast-paced, that would describe the energy behind this one hour information and entertainment packed infomercial for dysfunctional behavior. Not only are our children's young minds mercilessly barraged with bits of, admittedly, sometimes useful information, this information is so entertaining and packaged into such quickly paced segments that, after being exposed to learning pertinent concepts at this speed, what child could or would want to sit still in a classroom for Ms. Smith's rendition of the ABC's?! Why, Grover already taught them that, in 60 seconds flat, while standing on his head and juggling cookies with his feet! Number concepts? Who could feel inspired to endlessly recite their times tables after watching The Count continually interrupt Luis doing the Fix-It Shops books to count every item that he sold that day, while Luis takes it all in good humor, smiling through what we as parents can only recognize as his patient exasperation? Why, after being taught like that, even I would be tempted to squirm in my seat, call out in class, and look wistfully out the classroom window, daydreaming of the good old days, when learning meant enjoying the show Sesame Street, screaming out what I was learning in unison with a friendly, furry character while hopping with him on one foot, and boredom did not exist.
Now, let's take an in-depth look at some of the more visible Sesame Street Muppet characters and their dysfunctional behaviors, keeping in mind that these characters helped to mold our own children's social behaviors, as they are undoubtedly the most omnipresent of the preschool cartoon-type role models.
I can't ever remember seeing a more obvious case of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior in my life. Here we have a character who not only delights in the counting of every object that he can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel, but who simply MUST count these objects to fulfill his own lust and desire for completeness. Really rather frightening. To top it off, the other characters that surround him, including the adults, do nothing to discourage or help him with this painfully obvious disorder, nay, they actually ENCOURAGE his uncontrollable behavior, at times even asking for it and supplying him with items to count! The adults surround and support him with enabling attitudes, much to the twisted delight of all observers, while taking glee in it and often laughing out loud. Frightening, really.
*The Cookie Monster
Here is a character that perseveres on one thought only: acquiring cookies to eat. Perseverance is something we often see as a comorbidity in our ADD/LD children, and Cookie Monster is a friendly advertisement for this behavior. He will impulsively steal, manipulate, trick, do anything necessary to attain his goal, a mouthful of cookies. All he talks about is cookies. All he dreams about is cookies. All he thinks about is cookies! Do the adults around him feel any true intervention is required to help this obviously nutritionally disabled, cookie obsessed creature. Of course not! They simply allow the behavior to continue, with an occasional somewhat supportive, loving sigh of, "Oh, Cookie!" Add to this fact that there are no consequences for any of his behaviors...he can do as he pleases to get the object of his desire. The word 'no' is not a word he has been enabled to understand. The worst of consequences I have observed is an occasional adult shaking his or her head and simply walking away. Pathetic. It's a wonder his character hasn't passed away from scurvy yet! And there is a great chance that, as he grows older, the object of his passion will also evolve into a more adult one. People, this is the stuff that stalkers are made of!
Has anyone ever seen Elmo sit still for more than a few minutes without squirming, wiggling, getting up, whining, or interrupting? Does he have one problem he can solve without adult intervention? Is he in a constant quandary about what MIGHT be? Does he display enough symptoms of depression to send your child running from the room in tears? 'Nuf said!?
Big Bird is really in his 20's, people. Yet he wanders around and the adults that surround him fuel his demented fantasy that he is still somewhere around the age of 5. He forgets what he's doing, he loses things regularly, yet his adult companions treat him as though he were a helpless child and enable him and even make his problems more fun than anything by making them into a game. They all look for things he's lost together, repeatedly forgive him for forgetting to give messages and complete responsibilities that he's said he would complete, and baby him incessantly while joking about his behaviors. Big Bird is ADD to the max, and the adults that are supposed to be helping him to grow up and be an independent adult in the real world not only enable his behaviors, they condone them by participating in his manipulative games and making having his disability fun for him! Would you want to have to grow up and become proficient at grown up things if everyone around you sent you the message that you didn't have to because they would not only cover for you time and time again, but actually REWARD you for your childishly irresponsible behaviors? I wouldn't! Unfortunately, he is on the road to becoming a welfare dependent or homeless adult.
*Oscar The Grouch
Can you say Oppositional Defiance Disorder, boys and girls? A surefire way to get Oscar to do ANYTHING is to tell him NOT to! Socialization problems? Oscar wrote the book! I DARE you to try to be his friend! He hates everyone, hates everything, and makes it very clear that he wants to be left alone. If anyone attempts intimacy, he attempts to repel them by disgusting them. If that doesn't work, he retreats into his own little trash can world, slamming the lid loudly behind him. Crying out for help in an obvious manner? You betcha! Adult reaction, "That's our Oscar!" Big grins all around.
And ALL of the above characters talk to themselves out loud nonstop when left alone.
So...the next time you feel like crying, feel guilty, or feel like blaming yourself for your child's ADD and/or LD, clear your head, recall this column, and write a letter to PBS! Tell them that you resent the fact that they have exposed your child needlessly to the affliction of SS/MBS. DEMAND that your child be deSesameprogrammed IMMEDIATELY! And don't forget to block that dysfunctional educational channel! You wouldn't want your children sneaking to watch this questionable material without informed adult supervision!