As a first blog entry for our Learning and Wellness Center we decided to share some valuable information regarding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as it seems to be rather prevalent in our society. It influences children’s self-esteem and self-perception along with their social interactions and academic performance. This negative influence continues into adolescence and naturally, affects in negative ways family interactions and every day family life.
ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines rather challenging; primarily in ADHD, three dimensions can be observed: inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).
Individuals with ADHD typically have trouble getting organized, staying focused, making realistic plans and thinking before acting. They may be fidgety and unable to adapt to changing situations. Children with ADHD can be defiant, exhibiting social limitations and in some cases aggression. For each child with ADHD different strategies and different approaches work due to individual differences and unique personality and behavioral traits (DSMV-TR, 2016).
Typically, the inattentive type exhibits some of the following characteristics:
- Doesn’t pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school or job tasks.
- Has problems staying focused on tasks or activities, such as during lectures, conversations or long reading.
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to (i.e., seems to be elsewhere).
- Does not follow through on instructions and doesn’t complete schoolwork, chores or job duties (may start tasks but quickly loses focus).
- Has problems organizing tasks and work (for instance, does not manage time well; has disorganized work; misses deadlines).
- Forgets daily tasks, such as doing chores and running errands. Older teenagers and adults may forget to return phone calls, pay bills and keep appointments.
The hyperactive/impulsive type can exhibit the following symptoms:
- Fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Unable to play or do leisure activities quietly.
- Always “on the go”.
- May talk too much.
- Has difficulty waiting his or her turn, such as waiting in line.
- Interrupts or intrudes on others (for instance, cuts into conversations, games or activities).
Some general recommendations include but are not limited to the following:
- Behavioral therapy focuses on managing the symptoms of ADHD.
- Training on behavioral strategies that improve structure and organization.
- Studies have found that a combination of behavioral therapy and medication works best for most people, particularly those with moderate to severe ADHD.
- Other children and families may benefit from additional therapy specific to problem behaviors (Rader, McCauley and Callen, 2009)
Out of everyday practice, observation and interaction with students and professionals, the following recommendations for teacher strategies are most successful:
- Changes to the classroom setup.
- Alternative teaching techniques (visual, multisensory, co-teaching, etc.).
- Place a child with ADHD away from windows and near your desk.
- Create a quiet area free of distractions for test-taking and study.
- Keep instructions simple and structured using charts, and other visual aids.
- Use visuals: charts, pictures, color coding.
- Create outlines for note-taking that organize the information as you deliver it.
- Create a quiet area free of distractions for test-taking and quiet study.
- Test the student with ADHD in the way he or she does best, such as orally or filling in blanks; give frequent short quizzes rather than long tests.
- Divide long-term projects into segments.
- Tell students what your expectations are from the start of the lesson.
- Vary the pace and include different kinds of activities; vary the type of assessment.
- Many students with ADHD do well with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense.
Finally, parents are one of the most important factors in how their child will manage and progress academically and emotionally. Some of the following strategies always prove useful:
- Structure, routines and clear expectations.
- Clear schedules.
- Confirming that instructions are understood – simple language and demonstration.
- Focus all your attention on your child when talking to him/her.
- Avoid multitasking when having a conversation with your child.
- Maintain communication with the child’s teacher and specialist.
- Model desired behavior (DuPaul and Stoner, 2014).
Most importantly, both parents and educators as well as other professional experts must focus on the student’s effort in a consistent manner and meaningfully reward good behavior, commitment to academic improvement, and small increments of progress. This way the child will feel supported, nurtured, encouraged and safe; only this way can he/she be able to believe that success is possible.