Tag Archives: education

Restless Leg Syndrome – Why teachers should know the signs…


Why ADD and ADHD are not always the answer…

As a schleg-pain-symptomsool year begins in the US, teachers meet their new students and settle into their routines as they bravely tackle a year’s worth of curriculum.  Inevitably, it doesn’t take very long for many teachers to start to look at some of their students more closely and wonder if there is something they are missing.  Often times, we as educators turn to the “go-to” answers.  Do they have ADD? ADHD? Learning Disability? Counseling?  Speech?  Separation Anxiety?  We try to make the symptoms fit.  But sometimes the go-to  list does not have the right answer.

While some studies show that a child with ADHD may have RLS and a child with RLS may have ADHD, medical professionals are still not sure if they are linked.  That said, RLS and ADHD can look very similar in a child in a classroom.  Ever have a student who just gets up and walks around or is constantly fidgeting in their seats or can occasionally have random outbursts or may appear to be tired or seems too distracted?  Or ever have a child that is all of those things?  It is very easy as educators to think, “I wonder if he/she has been tested for ADHD?…”

As a parent of an 8 year old with Restless Leg Syndrome, when I encounter a child with those symptoms I also think, “I wonder if he/she has RLS…?”  But I consider myself fortunate.  When my daughter starts a new school year I do not give my daughter’s teachers a chance to ask those questions.  I am fortunate to have the answer for them, but it is easy to see why, after explaining her symptoms her teachers inevitably ask, “are you sure she does not have ADHD?”  And it is even easier to find yourself dealing with a parent who looks exhausted, feels helpless and is turning to their child’s teacher for help.  I personally know how desperate someone can feel when their 8 year old is going on her 6th night strait of four broken hours of sleep!

What is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes classifies Restless
Leg Syndrome as a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them. Symptoms occur primarily at night when a person is relaxing or at rest and can increase in severity during the night. Moving the legs relieves the discomfort. Often called paresthesias (abnormal sensations) or dysesthesias (unpleasant abnormal sensations), the sensations range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.   NINDS goes on to say that, Childhood RLS is estimated to affect almost 1 million school-age children, with one-third having moderate to severe symptoms.

In other words, there is a chance that at some point you will probably work with a student that has Restless Leg Syndrome (whether or not they have been diagnosed or not).  While there is growing evidence that children with ADHD have RLS and vice versa, it is important to note that not all children with RLS have ADHD and not all children with ADHD have RLS.  Recent research by sleep specialists indicates that at least 25% of the children who have a diagnosis of ADHD may truly have Restless Legs Syndrome or Periodic Limb Movements or a combination of the two. That said, all children with RLS have an overwhelming desire to move in an effort to reduce the symptoms.

It is also important to know that children with RLS often have broken sleep and can often be tired and cranky during the day.  This can be very frustrating for everyone involved in that child’s life.  Living this first hand, I can attest to how difficult it can be for an 8 year old to function on four broken hours of sleep a night.  So much so that after many years of varying treatment plans, I vividly remember calling my daughter’s second grade teacher and asking her to tell me what my she was like in school as we were finally getting to meet her for the first time as she was starting to sleep for more than 4 hours a night consistently (and so were we!).  For more specifics on RLS symptoms  and sleep check out Cleveland Children’s Clinic.



RLS in Kid Speak

For many children with RLS, explaining what is happening to them can be difficult.  Often times, they will try to hide it (like my daughter) or be so uncomfortable that they have to move and will use different words (that may seem crazy).  Those words include;

  • WigglesRLS-Facts
  • Squiggles
  • Spiders
  • Creepy-Crawlies
  • Pins and Needles
  • Ouchies
  • Hurtizes
  • Itchy,
  • Pulling
  • Crawling
  • Cramping
  • Tugging
  • Tingling
  • Burning (nothing worse then a child telling you they feel like their legs are on FIRE!)
  • Gnawing
  • Coca Cola in the viens

They may also describe the feeling as numb, hot, or cold.  Sometimes they cannot even explain it other than having an overwhelming desire to move.  In my experience RLS can make a child hot one minute and cold the next.  My daughter often wears layers as she is freezing in the morning, hot in the afternoon and cold again at night.

But articulating that can be a challenge and often takes some detective work on the part of the adults.  When my daughter was really young, she would cry and grab her legs.  As she learned to speak, we found it easier for her to point on a drawing or draw the feelings herself.  During her pre-school age, she would  often refer to her pain as spiders, creepy crawlies, or just cry in pain.  Now she is able to articulate a pain scale, specific feelings and the severity of them.  She is even learning ways to self control her symptoms and knows is getting better at communicating that with her teachers.

What tooctopus-licensed2 do for wiggles, squiggles, spiders, creepy-crawlies, pins, needles, heeby jeebies, and ouchies…

There is a lot you can do for a child with RLS (or one that has similar symptoms) without anyone in the class ever knowing.  This can include;

  • Let them be the messenger and run an errand
  • Having them walk to what they need supplies wise instead of bringing it to them
  • Let them be the teacher’s helper
  • Let them stand, or sit, or move to the carpet area depending on what they need
  • Additionally the following “tools” have a big impact without a lot of investment;
    • Balance balls are always a great way to let them move without being a distraction
    • Bouncy Bands  around the desk for them to put their feet in is also a great way to get they “worms” out
    • Free-choice seating is another way to create an inclusive classroom
      • A contract for students and parents for free choice seating can be found here
      • A video on seating choices can be found here
      • Pins on free-choice seating can be found here

RLS foundation

The Restless Leg Foundation has a tremendous amount of resources to help people gain a deeper unRLSHOMELOGOderstanding of what RLS is, why people get it, and how to live with it.  Their work towards awareness and advocacy is my inspiration for this post.  As educators I believe it is important to always be learning.  This site can provide you with far more resources as well as answer specific questions about RLS.

Other Helpful Sites

While RLS has a wealth of knowledge, there are some other sites that are useful in helping to gain a deeper understanding of RLS.  They include;

Often times the key is knowing the signs as to not make it worse for the child.  Telling a child to sit still may have long term negative effects.While some children may be very vocal about their symptoms, others, like my daughter, go out of their way to try to make sure no one knows that she needs to move.  Her only giveaway is her toes curling all day long in her shoes!  That said, regardless of what it is that a child may be dealing with I firmly believe that an inclusive classroom is critical to having a positive learning environment..

Disclosure – I am not a doctor, nor am I an expert on Restless Leg Syndrome.  That said, I am a mother of an 8 year old who was diagnosed with RLS and childhood insomnia at the age of 4.  There is no question that my daughter has been living with RLS since birth, it just took 4 years and a lot of doctors to get to that answer.

Monday’s Dilemma – Colin Kaepernick, The National Anthem and Freedom of Speech

The following is the first in a series of learning activities that bridge current events and the Common Core.  For more Monday’s Dilemma learning activities, click here

football-clip-art-RiGELRMiLSubject: ELA, English, Writing, Reading, Social Studies, Humanities

Common Core: Writing Standard 1

The Dilemma: On Thursday, August 26 during a preseason NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the decision not to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.  His actions have caused a media frenzy with people taking sides – those who support Kapernick’s decision to as a testament of the Second Amendment to freedom of speech.  Others have called it a disgraceful and disrespectful to the very country and people who have fought to protect his rights that afford him the opportunity to get paid to play a game for a living.

Learning Activities:

  • Discuss what Freedom of Speech means (tie to the Constitution of The United States and the Second Amendment
  • Review/Introduce what the difference between fact and opinion is
  • Review/Introduce the skills and content needed to develop an argument (based on grade level – i.e Grade 7 needs to make a claim and acknowledge the counterclaim)
  •  After previewing the video comprehend what the two opposing views are on Colin Kaepernick’s actions
  • Pose the question – Do you agree with Colin Kaepernick not standing during the National Anthem?  
  • Students should be prompted to do one of the following;
    • Engage students in a discussion about the topic and encourage them to draw their own conclusions and include their reasons why (Lower Elementary/Upper Elementary)
    • Develop a short essay in which they argue for or against Colin Kaepernick’s decision (Upper Elementary/Middle Level)
    • Design notes to use in presenting a short speech that argues for or against Colin Kaepernick’s actions (Upper Elementary/Middle Level)
    • Working in teams present an opening argument for a legal case regarding the Second Amendment using Colin Kaepernick’s actions as a foundation for their position. (Secondary Level)
    • Create a letter to Colin Kaepernick supporting or disagreeing with his actions (Lower Elementary/Upper Elementary/Middle Level/Secondary Level)
  • Prompt students to remember to include the following;
    • Cite evidence from one of the news stories.
    • Include a clearly developed position for their argument
    • Include opposing viewpoints (Grade 7 and up)
    • Keep personal opinions to a minimum (they can be included in the conclusion or introduction of their work, but should not be the focus of their work)

Resources: Below are various news articles, videos, and opinion blogs about Colin Kaepernick sitting during the national anthem and should be used to help students develop their position on this topic.

Colin Kaepernick’s official statement regarding his decision not to stand during the National Anthem – “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

San Fransisco 49ers official statement regarding Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the National Anthem“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

General News Stories about Colin Kaepernick’s actions

News Articles Supporting Kaepernick’s actions

News Articles Disagreeing with Kaepernick’s actions


Are we targeting the “right” gender

Recently Verizon kicked off a widely publicized media campaign “targeting” girls and STEM education.  The purpose of the campaign is to encourage more girls to pursue careers in the STEM industries.

While I do believe in the importance of encouraging more girls and young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math I can’t help wonder if the Verizon campaign’s message is doing harm as well as good.  Historically, girls do better in school than boys and while the data for career choices that Verizon puts forth is correct and there is a disconnect shouldn’t we as society be focusing on the real problem now – boys and their continually struggles with education.

Take a look at this video which highlights some of the statistics from a 2010 Newsweek article on the statistics of the current trends of boys in Education

Many argue that we as a society are focusing our education on the wrong gender.  That we are continuing to promote a myth about education and STEM while ignoring the real problem.

Shortly after Verizon released their marketing campaign NPR published this article –  The Modern American Man, Charted.

One graph in particular,

chart on education

really points out the differences in the success among girls in education over boys. And while the article does point out that girls are less likely to pursue higher degrees in STEM they are far more likely to pursue higher degrees to support their career goals. (Thank you @ronishayne for the link!)

There are two sides to every story and in this instance, and Verizon makes a compelling case in their campaign which in part is encouraging America to support young girls and be mindful of what you say to them to avoid gender biases as you can see from the  two PSA’s below;

As a woman, I would have rather seen Verizon promote education and push a campaign that would support learning  on both ends of the gender spectrum.  I think it is important girls be encouraged to play in the dirt or pick up a power drill (I have owned one since I was a teenager and my parents never told me not to get my dress dirty or put down a starfish.)  However, I think a commercial with boys being encouraged to design fashion, cook, tend to people’s needs a nurse,  or even teach would support a campaign that is working on counter-acting gender bias but in many ways creating it by only targeting one gender.