LEARNING ABOUT LEARNERS
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Instructor’s Name: Dr. Wendy S. Harbour
Learning about Learners
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) syndrome is a diagnostic category that is used to describe individuals who display developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity and/or proactivity. (Du Paul, Power, Anaslopoulus & Reid.1998) as cited from (Solomonidou, Chr., Areou, F. G., & Zafiropoulou, M., (2004). According to (Barkley, 1998), 3% to 7% of school-age children are estimated to be affected by this disorder. This neurological disorder can be diagnosed as early as the age of 3. It used to be wrongly associated to the period of childhood in which the symptoms are more prevalent however; this condition is not limited to children. Mostly, these children continue to have ADHD as they grow up, exhibiting different age group symptoms. For example a preschool child might show excessive motor over activity that is reflected in a non-stop state of moving such as jumping, climbing or running except when this child is asleep. A school aged child might feel restless and unable to focus or sit in one place for a long time, tapping on things or constantly moving things while an adult might have less severe symptoms. An adult might exhibit a withdrawal behavior lack of concentration, poor self-esteem and anxiety. Although this condition is not exclusively limited to males, they are diagnosed with ADHD about 4-5 times more often than females. ADHD causes are not specifically definitive, however it’s strongly suggested that the majority of ADHD cases are genetically inherited. Other minor causes might include some sort of damage or injury in the brain or environmental factors such as exposure to toxic substances or chemical imbalance in the body.
Children with behaviors associated with ADHD characteristics, usually experience hindrances that may not only include difficulties with their academic performance but that might also include social skills problems related to having difficulties in forming proper relationships with their peers which in turn causes them to be isolated and rejected. Unless suitable instructional methodologies and interventions are developed and implemented to increase children’s chances of success, ADHD children will not be able to overcome the organizational shortfalls they face.
The focus in this paper will be on school aged children since ADHD is a problem that mostly affects children and could have negative impact on their lives especially if they were only referred to as trouble makers and no real professional effort is carried out to meet the academic and behavioral needs of such children.
The main symptoms of ADHD in children are: Inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
1) Symptoms of inattention are usually reflected through
- Inability to focus “short focus span” on details or instructions.
- Forgetting or losing things necessary to perform tasks.
- Inability to organize or complete tasks or homework without assistance.
- Difficulty to listen attentively for a long conversation “switch off”.
- Getting distracted easily.
2) Symptoms of impulsiveness are reflected through
- Impatience and inability to wait for turn in tasks or games
- Getting emotional quickly. (wide range in mood swings)
- Interrupting others while speaking or doing things
- Hasty reactions and blurting answers before the questions are completed
3) Symptoms of hyperactivity might be reflected through
- Inability to stay still or remain seated in one place for a long time.
- Inability to finish any task that requires being calm and collected.
- Running, jumping or climbing where it is not appropriate or not supposed to do so.
- Being noisy and disruptive.
- Talking all the time
The (DSM-IV) categorizes these symptoms into three subtypes of the disorder: (a) predominantly inattentive, (b) predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and (c) combination of the two types. Children with ADHD show different combinations of these behaviors. A child doesn’t need to suffer from each and every one of them to be diagnosed with this disorder. According to (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) in order to diagnose a child as having this kind of disorder, these symptoms must be present in the child’s behavior before the age seven and must persist for at least six months in two or more settings (at school and at home).
For most of the time, the level of intelligence for the ADHD child is underestimated when it is measured according to the standard school setting. ADHD child underachievement compared to his peers is due to the limited ability to focus on tasks for a long time without being distracted. Consequently, this has severe impact on his overall performance. Many ADHD children proved to have many areas of strengths that effective teachers can take full advantage of and build on to support their success. ADHD child is described as a strong-willed child. He is very energetic and flexible. These qualities can lend themselves perfectly to many learning experiences that need taking risks or creativity. He is usually more enthusiastic and spontaneous than his peers. He possesses intense curiosity that pushes him to manipulate with and explore things. If these qualities were nurtured and employed in the right way, ADHD child can develop his abilities. The main problem with these children is that they find difficulties in self-regulating which can be reflected on the areas of attention, behavior, and motor movements. Hence, it is not only difficult for teachers to constantly manage their behavior but it is also challenging to keep them focused on tasks. What is required from educators and parents is to understand that the ADHD child processes emotional and intellectual information in a different way. They also need to identify the problems that affect learning and behavior so they can evaluate the child’s needs and develop a jointly pedagogical approach to minimize the academic and behavioral challenges and maximize strengths.
As the ADHD child suffers from several difficulties related to intellectual and behavioral aspects, so the way they learn best must have a close relation with reducing if not eliminating the obstacles that are connected to these areas. More individualized instructional practices, interacting one-on-one and frequent reinforcement and recognition would also be effective to promote the ADHD child self-steam. That will encourage him to be a productive member in the class instead of being a disruptive agent. Because ADHD child is not able to concentrate for a long time, class assignments should be broken to small chunks, and graduated in the level of difficulty. In order to help ADHD child focus, the teacher needs to make sure that this child is away from all distractions in the class environment by seating him in the first row and preferably next to a role model student. As ADHD child couldn’t handle change well, the teacher should avoid quick transitions.
- A child with ADHD can learn better if more audio/visual materials such as overhead projectors, smart interactive boards are used. These tools are engaging since more senses are involved in information processing. These tools will help attract his attention and decrease depending on printed texts or long explanations which cause him to lose interest and in turn, the ability to sustain concentration. Subsequently, switch off.
- Board games, manipulatives, coloring and drawing stimulate ADHD child interest. Besides, movement activities such as role-play and cooperative group work are very useful strategies especially when the teacher helps with clear instructions and timing to create enthusiasm and increase focus on the activity.
- Setting oral and written expectations and acknowledging ADHD child’s educational and behavioral accomplishments. Rewarding and praising proved to be useful strategies.
The technology of multimedia can be effectively used to assist the ADHD child to improve the level of interaction with the learning material. Short videos and narrations in addition to computer games “software” for reading comprehension, spelling, maths problems etc…, have proved to successfully hold students’ focus on the activities. Many aspects of technology appear to assist pupils with ADHD symptoms overcome their academic problems. “In particular, it was found that computers allow pupils to learn at their own pace, have infinite patience and provide privacy, promote discovery learning and help them develop problem-solving skills, can excite and motivate pupils, provide instant reinforcement, corrective feedback and immediate praise”. (Ford, Poe, & Cox, 1993; Dailey & Rosernberg, 1994; Bender, & Bender, 1996; Xu. Reid, & Steckelberg, 2002). Furthermore, the way information is being presented on the computer (graphic objects, colors, sound, animation etc.) can be highly stimulating when it comes to individuals with attention problems and/or hyperactivity impulsivity. All these features have been found to contribute to the improvement of ADIID pupils’ academic performance. (Barkley, 1998).
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder might have negative impact on all aspects of a child’s life. So, creating family and school environment that meets the needs of a child with ADHD will help him to be as successful as possible and achieve his full potential.
ADHD-One Mother’s Perspective
By: Kathleen Turner
“I think Devon has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” the kindergarten teacher whispered in my ear. I paused with no reaction. It sounded like my son had just been diagnosed with some terrible, incurable disease. The blank look on my face must have somehow urged her to continue on. “We’ll need a psycho-educational assessment and the results will have to go to the IPRC Committee, but that’s not until February. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, you may have to have it done privately. The cost could be between $800 and $1000. They will likely designate him exceptional-communication.”
Exceptional… finally a word I understood. Nothing was wrong with Devon. I knew my son was exceptional… the way he could ride a two-wheeler before anyone else, how he could sing with perfect pitch, how he would dress up in the most sophisticated and creative costumes, and dance, he could dance for hours. The teacher and I were not on the same page.
The teacher continued, “We will then be able to set him up with an individual education plan as soon as possible. I know you want your son to get the best education based on his special needs.” Special needs… my son has special needs! I knew what THAT meant! They think he’s retarded, stupid, a dummy, weird. My mind was rocketed back to my own childhood and the names that THOSE kids can get called. I knew Devon was difficult, I even read the book, “How to Raise a Difficult Child.” I loved my son. Nothing was wrong with him. I began my quest to prove it, mostly for myself and especially for him. Tunnel vision can have a positive side.
I read and I read about how to treat it with medicine, how to parent it, teach to it, feed it and what not to feed it, and how most people in jail have it (that scared me). I talked to teachers, doctors, psychologists, other Moms, even strangers. I listened to radio shows and watched TV shows, anything where there was a discussion on it. I soaked it all up like a sponge, began to think, and came to some conclusions.
How nature could have made such a mistake – but is it a mistake? At least 10% of North American children are considered as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and millions of kids are put on Ritalin because of it. Doctors do the prescribing, but it’s the school teachers that make the decision that if the child is to attend school, they should take the prescribed drug. How did these sets of personality traits, abilities and skills become labeled as a “disorder?”
Thom Hartmann states in his book Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, “Generally, people view behaviors they don’t understand or which are not the “norm” as inferior. The fact that people in the 17th to 19th centuries debated whether or not Native and African slaves were human, highlights the extremes to which people tend to take notions of culturalism. Accepting the notion that ADHD is an inherent trait; consider the types of people who would risk life and limb for a journey across the Atlantic in the 17th century. People who are different are often lumped into a “not quite human” or “abnormal” category. Labels are very powerful things. They create for us paradigms through which we see ourselves, the world, and our place in it. Applying a label that says, “you have a deficit and a disorder” is more destructive than at all useful.”
Attributes should be presented as strengths not as weaknesses or disorders. Easily distracted, short attention span, disorganized, impulsive can be viewed instead as constantly monitoring the environment, able to switch tasks on a split second’s notice, very independent, thinking for themselves, flexible, incredible bursts of energy, thinking visually, will face danger that others will not, a willingness to take risks and quick decision making.
ADHD people are associated with high achievement, creativity, and a most successful adaptive style. A few famous people who would today be diagnosed with ADHD are Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Richard Francis Burton and Ernest Hemingway to name a few.
School is the hardest place for these children to be. Education has a long way to go before all of our children’s different learning styles and intelligences are embraced to ensure that every child is successful. My son knows that he is an intelligent, loving and competent individual in spite of the barriers that have been placed before him. Advocating for my son and others like him has become a part of my life. We’re lucky to have each other and we’ve also been lucky enough to realize that learning creates understanding and perspective is everything.
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