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Information for Educators on ADHD
For a complete understanding of what ADHD is, subtypes, causes and treatment options please access ADHD general information.
Why is it Important for Teachers to Know About ADHD?
From looking at the latest prevalence rates, we know that there will be at least 1 to 3 students in every classroom who have ADHD. We also know that these students can be a challenge for even the most experienced teachers if they do not understand ADHD and how it manifests in their students. This is not the student's fault. ADHD is a neurological disorder. They do not wake up each morning and decide that they are going to be a thorn in their teacher's side for the rest of the day. Their inattention, hyperactivity and distractibility, which can be very disruptive to a class, is not under their control.
What do Teachers Need to Know About ADHD?
We also know that treating a child with medication is only part of the solution. Some families also choose not to medicate their children. Medication can effectively deal with some of the child's inattentiveness and hyperactivity, but not all symptoms and many of the cognitive disabilities that go along with ADHD are not helped with medication.
This is why maintaining a view of ADHD as a deficit rather than a behaviour is essential. Classroom accommodations and strategies can go a long way in helping students with ADHD succeed at school. Not only do they lead to a more enjoyable and successful year for the child, the whole class as well as the teacher will find things go more smoothly if strategies are proactive rather than reactive.
Children who are very impulsive, usually don't stop long enough to think about consequences before the thought in their head becomes an action. Continually increasing the severity of the consequences is unduly harsh for these children. However, when consequences are used, they should be consistent and immediate, but rewards and praise are always the better alternative. There are many token reward systems out there that can be easily accessed, but remember that if a child is impulsive, they must first be taught how to slow themselves down (medication may help with this in time) long enough to actually think about what they are going to do.
We need to remember that executive skills, like hindsight, forethought and planning, are not strengths for these children. The idea that these children are being manipulative needs to be looked at carefully. Since many of these children are not capable of a great degree of planning and forethought, it would seem logical that the behaviour that children with ADHD so often exhibit, cannot be overly manipulative. Since these children shoot themselves in the foot so often, the child suffers the fallout and not the benefits. If the child was actually being manipulative, they would quickly learn that they are very bad at it and since most children are not masochistic, would stop the behaviour quickly. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Much of the ADHD child's behaviour is impulsive, reactive and poorly, if at all, thought out.
Students with ADHD can be a challenge for teachers. Since they can present in a wide variety of ways, it is impossible to use one or even several profiles for these children. The ADHD student is easily recognized as the hyperactive boy who is easily distracted and unable to complete his work, but is often missed as the quiet girl at the back of the class, who is anxious and obsessive about her schoolwork. Both of these children may have ADHD, but represent different subtypes. ADHD is actually a problem with the regulation of attention, not only a problem with inattention. The student with ADHD can often present as over-focusing, especially when he or she is involved with something they find interesting. They are unable to refocus their attention from these activities even though they know that they should. The student's inattention may also fluctuate frequently throughout the day or from day to day. They may be able to focus on their math one day and be unable to be productive at all the next day. These students are often the only ones that are punished for their successes. We know they were able to pay attention and get their work done yesterday, so they must just be lazy and not trying today.
Students with ADHD often present with other learning disabilities and other comorbid conditions such as anxiety, depression or other neurological disorders. For a comprehensive assessment, a complete physical should be done, a detailed psychoeducational assessment should take place and a thorough assessment for ADHD by a physician should always occur. The reports or tests should contain detailed recommendations in order for a complete and accurate educational profile to occur. Some of the most common difficulties students with ADHD can present with in the classroom other than attentional, hyperactive and impulsive symptoms are: central auditory processing disorder (CAP disorder), Graphomotor Disorder, problems with executive functioning, written output and processing speed. Since all of these conditions are separate learning disorders, any indication of these disorders would definitely warrant further investigation through CAP disorder testing and thorough psychoeducational testing. Students with ADHD may also be impacted by a particular executive function; working memory. Working memory can affect: writing, reading comprehension, problem solving, and the ability to: solve more complex math problems, follow directions, monitor their own progress and evaluate their own strengths and needs. For more information access general ADHD information and the proceed to www.teachadhd.ca.For more detailed information on students with ADHD in the school system and a detailed list of classroom accommodations please access our documents on accommodations:
You may also find our sample IEP for elementary and secondary school helpful.
Also see our list of 'Red Flags' indicating that a child may be experiencing problems in the classroom.