Students with ADHD - what does this actually mean?
To gain a basic understanding of students with ADHD and how this impacts the learning in our classrooms.
The following article was taken from the ADHD Factsheet from the Kids Health from Nemours website
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a medical condition. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in friendships.
What Are the Signs of ADHD?
All kids struggle at times to pay attention, listen and follow directions, sit still, or wait their turn. But for kids with ADHD, the struggles are harder and happen more often.
Kids with ADHD may have signs from one, two, or all three of these categories:
- Inattentive. Kids who are inattentive (easily distracted) have trouble focusing their attention, concentrating, and staying on task. They may not listen well to directions, may miss important details, and may not finish what they start. They may daydream or dawdle too much. They may seem absent-minded or forgetful, and lose track of their things.
- Hyperactive. Kids who are hyperactive are fidgety, restless, and easily bored. They may have trouble sitting still, or staying quiet when needed. They may rush through things and make careless mistakes. They may climb, jump, or roughhouse when they shouldn’t. Without meaning to, they may act in ways that disrupt others.
- Impulsive. Kids who are impulsive act too quickly before thinking. They often interrupt, might push or grab, and find it hard to wait. They may do things without asking for permission, take things that aren’t theirs, or act in ways that are risky. They may have emotional reactions that seem too intense for the situation.
Sometimes parents and teachers notice signs of ADHD when a child is very young. But it’s normal for little kids to be distractible, restless, impatient, or impulsive — these things don’t always mean that a child has ADHD.
Attention, activity, and self-control develop little by little, as children grow. Kids learn these skills with help from parents and teachers. But some kids don’t get much better at paying attention, settling down, listening, or waiting. When these things continue and begin to cause problems at school, home, and with friends, it may be ADHD.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed?
A doctor will give your child a check-up, including vision and hearing, to be sure something else isn’t causing the symptoms. The doctor can refer you to a child psychologist or psychiatrist if needed. To diagnose ADHD, doctors start by asking about a child’s health, behavior, and activity. They talk with parents and kids about the things they have noticed. Your doctor might ask you to complete checklists about your child’s behavior, and might ask you to give your child’s teacher a checklist too.
After gathering this information, doctors diagnose ADHD if it’s clear that:
- A child’s distractibility, hyperactivity, or impulsivity go beyond what’s usual for their age.
- The behaviors have been going on since the child was young.
- Distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity affect the child at school and at home.
- A health check shows that another health or learning issue isn’t causing the problems.
Many kids with ADHD also have learning problems, oppositional and defiant behaviors, or mood and anxiety problems. Doctors usually treat these along with the ADHD.
How Is ADHD Treated?
Treatment for ADHD usually includes:
- Medicine. This activates the brain’s ability to pay attention, slow down, and use more self-control.
- Behavior therapy. Therapists can help kids develop the social, emotional, and planning skills that are lagging with ADHD.
- Parent coaching. Through coaching, parents learn the best ways to respond to behavior difficulties that are part of ADHD.
- School support. Teachers can help kids with ADHD do well and enjoy school more.
The right treatment helps ADHD improve. Parents and teachers can teach younger kids to get better at managing their attention, behavior, and emotions. As they grow older, kids should learn to improve their own attention and self-control.
When ADHD is not treated, it can be hard for kids to succeed. This may lead to low self-esteem, depression, oppositional behavior, school failure, risk-taking behavior, or family conflict.
What Teachers Should Know
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) causes students to be more inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive than is normal for their age. ADHD can affect a student’s behavior, learning, emotions, and relationships.
Some students with ADHD have received misguided scolding for not listening, not paying attention, or not trying. This can put them at risk for low self-esteem, depression, anger, or school failure. Teachers can help students learn to manage the issues ADHD causes and provide encouraging support.
What Teachers Can Do
- Reduce distractions by seating the student near you instead of a window.
- Talk with parents and ask for their help. Keep a daily journal of behavior and progress notes to share with parents.
- Teach the student how to use a scheduling and assignment book.
- Teach good study skills, including underlining, note-taking, and reading aloud to help with focus and information retention.
- Give clear, brief instructions.
- Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces.
- Stay on the lookout for positive behaviors to praise, such as staying seated, not calling out, taking turns, etc.
- Pair the student with a buddy to do an end-of-day checklist so the right books, materials, and other important stuff go home.
- Be sensitive to self-esteem issues. Provide feedback to the student in private, and avoid asking the student to perform difficult tasks in front of classmates.
- Ask the school counselor, psychologist, or special-ed teacher to help design behavioral programs to address specific problems in the classroom.
- Allow the student to have brief, regularly scheduled exercise breaks. Find opportunities for the student to be active, such as standing while working on assignments or delivering materials to the principal’s office
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. How does this understanding of ADHD help you with the students in your classroom?
2. What challenges do you think a student with ADHD will face when learning in the classroom environment?
3. What elements of your teaching practice will you change now that you have this information?
Please join the conversation by either answering these prompting questions above OR by adding your own ideas and thoughts around this topic in the conversation thread below.