Learning and Behavior Characteristics of Add and ADHD Students

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that often presents itself as early as preschool. These children have a hard time controlling their behavior and/or paying attention. The number of children afflicted with this condition is large, and when we reduce the numbers to the size of a classroom, we find that in any group of 25 to 30 children there will probably be one child struggling with this disorder.

In 1845 Dr. Heinrich Hoffman was the first to describe this condition. It can be found in a book he wrote for his 3-year-old-son named, “The Story of Fidgety Philip”. In retrospect this story depicted an accurate picture of a child with ADHD. A half a century passed before Sir George F. Still presented a series of lectures to the Royal College of Physicians in England where he spoke about a group of impulsive children with notable behavior problems. In these lectures he concluded that these problems were not caused by poor parenting, but more likely a genetic dysfunction. This opened the doors on this subject and since then huge numbers of papers have been published on the subject.

There is a triad of symptoms that are the hallmarks of ADHD. They are: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. All children display these behaviors at one time or another. When contemplating a diagnosis of ADHD consider if the child’s behavior is causing him/her problems with school, with social relationships, or with disruptive behavior at home. The symptoms will be pervasive, excessive and long-term. To make matters more complex, these characteristics will present themselves at different times and in different places.

It is a complex diagnosis to make and can only be made by a professional with the credentials to do so. This would include a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist, social worker or your family physician. And while each of these professionals can make the diagnosis, it is best to select and individual that has a strong background in assessing ADHD children.

The direct causes of ADHD have been speculated on, however, there is no single answer. Researchers have located a measurable deviance between those children with ADHD and those without. They have discovered that the ADHD child, on average, have brains that are 3% to 4% smaller than their non-afflicted counterparts. Another significant measurable difference was found in those children with ADHD that had been medicated. Compared to their never-medicated ADHD counterparts they had a normal amount of white matter. Those without medication showed abnormally low white matter mass. As the child grows the white matter serves the purpose of making long-distance connection between different areas of the brain. While brain scans cannot diagnosis ADHD, it is a tool that can be factored into whether or not to establish the child as having ADHD. This research suggests a genetic link. This correlates well to another statistically significant finding. We have found that 25% of the close adult relatives of children with ADHD are also afflicted with the disorder. This is contrasted with a 5% occurrence in the general population. Between these two findings a strong genetic link has been fairly well established.

About 20 to 30 percent of the ADHD population also has an accompanying learning disorder. The most prevalent, and well-known one, is dyslexia.

In as many as one third to one half of the ADHD population carry with them a dual diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). This disorder shows itself through behavior patterns such as defiance, stubbornness, non-compliance, outbursts of temper, or belligerence. They argue with adults and refuse to obey. This additional behavior pattern is more likely to be associated ADHD boys than girls.

Of big concern to society is that twenty to forty percent will grow into their teen years and display the symptoms of conduct disorder (CD). This is a serious diagnosis that leaves the individual prone to stealing, bullying, fighting and trouble with school officials and the law.

Anxiety and depression can also accompany ADHD, and effective treatments for this condition are available and often help the child cope with their ADHD.

The ADHD child demands a consistent and dependable routine. A daily schedule should be made and followed. The routine removes variables that can provoke the child into unwanted arguments and behaviors. Always reward good behavior, as the ADHD has learned to expect criticism at every turn.

Helping these children learn brings forward another list of techniques that is likely to help them navigate the rough-waters of the classroom.

Teachers divide the process of planning for an ADHD child’s education into three steps. First they do an assessment and establish both strengths and weaknesses. Using strengths to build other skills on is a valuable technique. Then select the instruction style that will best suit the child and will be most likely to engage their interest. Then it is all pulled together with an IEP (individual education program) that is compiled by teachers, parents and counselors. Each IEP will be unique because each child is unique.

When helping ADHD students navigate the classroom environment emphasis is placed on academic instruction, behavior interventions and other classroom accommodations.

In the classroom setting here are some guidelines that your teachers should be considering:

Provide advanced organization by telling the student what to expect. Examples might be, “We will start with a review of last weeks information and then we will add new information. After that there will be a short worksheet for you to fill out.”

Review is a vital process, so back up a step or two and provide examples of concepts recently learned.

Be sure to tell the student what he/she is expected to learn in this day’s lesson.

Verbalize your expectations for behavior during the time allotted.

Don’t make the child figure out what kind of materials they will need. Tell them specifically, “Today you will need your spelling book, a blank sheet of paper and a pencil.”

Simplify all instructions. Keep the preparation time short and to the point. Be sure to use vocabulary that is not ambiguous.

In addition to the material presented here are some other vital points to keep in mind:

Be predictable. Stability, routine and structure is an environment where the ADHD child will function the best.

Never call to attention the differences between and ADHD child and the other children. And never use sarcasm or criticism. Keep your frustrations under control. The child will not learn or behave better for having been the receiving end of a biting remark.

Check on this student often. Make sure they are on task and understand the material.

Ask probing questions.

Help the student correct his/her own mistakes.

Help the student focus with little reminders or subtle glances.

Ask another student to act as a peer tutor as it may help them focus with another individual so close at hand.

Keep the noise level down. Voices crawling over one another only serve to distract each student, but especially the ADHD child.

In conclusion remember that the ADHD has come to expect criticism and ridicule. He/she is often in trouble. The messages ADHD children receive are pervasively negative. Be encouraging. Catch the child doing something right. It is easy to over look the child who has brushed their teeth without being told, but the ADHD child needs hear that, at least some of time, they are doing something right.
A child with ADHD will face a difficult road, but it is a road that can, with the proper help and encouragement, be traversed with a good deal of success.