IRVINE — When Jann Glasser's 2-year-old son first started preschool, his behavior was so aggressive he lasted only two weeks before school officials asked her to remove him.
"It was scary," recalls Glasser, an Irvine psychologist. "He was biting and hitting . . . and walking on children when they took naps. At the school, they had no tolerance for this. The attitude was, 'Hey lady, you need to discipline your child.'
"I kept asking myself, 'What did I do wrong? Where is he learning this stuff?' "
The boy was later found to have attention deficit disorder, a neurobiological condition often associated with hyperactivity and learning problems that leaves children and adults unable to concentrate or sustain attention.
As do many parents of ADD children, Glasser grew weary of uninformed teachers who were quick to dismiss her child as simply unruly and out of control.
Finally, she discovered UCI's Child Development Center, a public school created specifically for children with attention deficit disorder.
It marked the turning point in her son's life. The teachers knew how to educate and control ADD children, and her son finally began to learn how to manage his disorder. Now 10, he is a straight-A student in Irvine public schools, where the teachers are knowledgeable about ADD and employ successful educational techniques to help him, Glasser says.
For years, many parents of ADD children have faced a frustrating uphill struggle to help their offspring cope at school because many educators and members of the public have been largely uninformed about the disorder that afflicts up to 2 million children in the United States, says James Swanson, director of UCI's Child Development Center.
But now, under a national effort to educate the public about the disorder and guarantee ADD children appropriate education and behavioral attention in the public schools, the problems that have plagued so many of these children and their families may be eased, he says.
On Sunday and Monday, UCI's CDC facility, which has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as one of four Attention Deficit Disorder Centers in the nation, will host a national conference on "ADD: Perspectives on School-Based Interventions."
The event will draw experts in the field from across the country to discuss the latest research into treatment and management of ADD children in the schools. Doctors, educators and parents will meet privately on Sunday to develop materials to be used by clinicians, teachers and families of ADD children.
Monday evening's session, which is open to the public, will include workshops from 5 to 6:30, dinner and discussions with the experts from 7 to 8:30, then a summary from 8:30 to 10. There is a registration fee of $25 for the workshops and dinner meeting. The summary presentation is free. For reservations or information, call the center at (714) 856-8700.
The workshops will focus on how to teach ADD children in a regular classroom; how to properly identify and assess the needs of ADD children in schools; and ways parents and educators can work together to help teach and manage these children.
The UCI facility is responsible for "summarizing what is known about effective educational and medical intervention for ADD students in the public schools," according to Swanson. Unique to this program is that it includes not just medical experts, but also people who are often the closest to these children--parents and educators. There needs to be a public awareness of how to deal with these children effectively, Swanson says.
"For years, schools refused to do anything for the management of these children. And for years, there was an overuse of medication in treating ADD. Now attitudes are changing," Swanson says.
UCI's Child Development Center has been one of the pioneer programs for the treatment of ADD children. The clinic opened in 1983 and performs about 400 assessments per year. In 1985, the school for ADD children was established. Through the California Department of Education, it became a model program for school intervention with ADD children.
The Irvine and Santa Ana unified school districts have begun using many of the CDC's programs and techniques in their regular classroom settings to help ADD children.
Sandy Thomas, of Children with Attention Deficit Disorder, an international parent support group, recalls "the nightmare" of sending her ADD child to schools in Massachusetts nearly 10 years ago and having him put in a closet because the teachers could not control him.
"No one knew what was going on or what to do with him. People thought if you yelled at him or spanked him enough he would get under control. The teachers were so frustrated, they would cry. Nothing worked," says Thomas, who is one of the parent advisers for the national ADD centers.