Amelia* was seven when she joined our family. She exuded a zest for life that was contagious. She had beautiful, long brown hair and was a doll to shop for. She was our first foster daughter in this house full of boys. Amelia was significantly delayed in school, functioning about a year behind her peers. She had a few close friends, including imaginary ones that she played well with. Amelia did not show the typical symptoms of ADHD, rather than being hyperactive, she was hyper focused. She could organize her toys for days, draw and colour for hours and loved to spend time swinging on the playground. Her fixation on these pursuits made it hard to pay attention to anything else around her. Amelia was with us for nearly a year and taught us to better appreciate family and to always celebrate our cultural heritage.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has become one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in children. It is also one of the most controversial as there are many schools of thought on the cause and the treatment of this disorder. This is not a new disorder as there have always been children in the classroom who cannot sit still and pay attention. What has changed is that the number of children who are diagnosed with ADHD has grown exponentially. Approximately 1 in 20 children in Canada are diagnosed with this disorder. This means that there is at least one child with ADHD in every classroom.
- Is easily distracted and does not give full attention to school work
- Has difficulty remembering things, especially when given lists of tasks
- Appears forgetful and disorganized
- May be called a day dreamer or disruptive
- Appears to be very impatient and had difficulty waiting his/her turn
- Acts without thinking about the consequences
- Often blurts out inappropriate comments and interrupts conversations
- Appears to fidget and move around in their seat frequently
- Unable to sit still, constantly moving
- Talks non stop
The cause is unknown although there seems to be a link to genetics and environmental factors.
The characteristics of ADHD are highlighted when children enter the education system. The majority of children with ADHD demonstrate academic problems in nearly every subject. They can be considered impaired learners as inattention in class significantly reduces their ability to learn and retain the information that is being taught.
Children with ADHD are often diagnosed with behavioural issues first. They find it hard to self-regulate and can exhibit antisocial behaviour, outbursts from frustration, noncompliance and irritability.
There is no cure for this developmental disorder although there are many interventions that may help a child to improve and manage the characteristics of ADHD. Interventions can include behavioural support, therapy and medication.
- Reduce distractions such as loudly ticking clocks, bright lights and situate the student away from windows and doors
- Arrange seating so that the child is at the front of the class, close to the teacher
- Draw the child’s attention to their school work by defining their work space with an individual desk, name tag and learning tools
- Be organized, give the child a visual schedule at their desk, break the school day into sections that the child can visualize and manage, use a solid routine
- Give the child more time to process information, break work down into smaller pieces, give a checklist for long assignments
- Allow for standing or body breaks frequently
- Give the child a fidget to use during class, an object that they can sit on or touch, feel and fidget with without distracting others in class
- Implement a token economy system that has clear expectations where the child can receive positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviour
- Use a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach that allows the student some freedom in choosing their task or assignment
- Employ the Collaborative Problem Solving model whenever possible where the child is an equal participant in solving any problems that may occur (Recommended reading: Lost at School by Ross Greene)
I love this Ted Talk by Stephen Tonti. He describes ADHD as being “attention different” and makes the statement that we should “embrace cognitive diversity”.
I found this article interesting as it suggests that children with ADHD are “self medicating” with electronics rather than excessive use of technology being the cause of ADHD.
This article has two interesting visuals to help children who have ADHD. They are helpful strategies but a little vague on the “how to”.
This is a great list of teaching tips for children with ADHD!
More fuel to the controversial fire in this article.
*Names and some details have been changed.
I am fortunate to have a background working with exceptional children and managing a program for children with special needs. As the parent of twin boys who have both been recently diagnosed with ADHD I find this topic both fascinating and controversial. I think that it is important to understand that every child is an individual first and should not be defined by their diagnosis. And every family has the right to treat the condition however they see fit. I do believe that the decision on how to treat your child (if at all) should be made after careful consideration, education, implementation of behavioural modification plans and consultation with professionals (teachers, counsellors, Pediatricians etc.).