ADHD, while one of the most common diagnoses in children today, is a very misunderstood disorder. There is no single cause for the disorder which often leads to people making misinformed claims to why their child has ADHD. What causes are true? Which causes are false? In this post, I will be talking about some facts and myths that exist about ADHD.
Fact: Did you know that males are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females (this doesn’t mean 3 times more males have ADHD, it’s actually pretty equally divided). This is because males typically present with the hyperactive/impulsive type of ADHD which is much easier to notice because it is more physical. Females typically present with the inattentive type of ADHD which is harder to notice because it’s mainly in your brain.
Myth: ADHD isn’t a real medical condition – ADHD is a recognized disorder in the DSM-5 and has been since the 2nd publication (DSM-II) in 1968.
Fact: Researchers have said the use of alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy has been proven to be a possible cause of ADHD (http://www.myadhd.com/causesofadhd.html)
Myth: Television and Electronics cause ADHD in children. There is no scientific research to prove that this is true. Many people have linked the rise in ADHD diagnoses to television and electronics because the rates of technology use and ADHD diagnoses have been raising in similar ways.
Fact: Parenting does not cause ADHD, although parents can assist with symptom impairment by reading books that give them strategies to help their children.
The Hyperactive/Impulsive type of ADHD is typically what people think of when they hear ADHD. It’s more commonly thought about because this type of ADHD is more visual, aka you can actually see there body doing things caused by ADHD. An important thing to remember though is that just because you have a hyper student in your class or a child with tons of energy, does not mean that child has ADHD. While that is a large portion of ADHD, there are many more underlying signs and symptoms that go along with it. But what are they?
Symptoms or Signs of Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD:
Fidgeting or squirming (not being able to sit still)
Trouble sitting still and doing quiet tasks, such as reading
Running from place to place; acting like he’s driven by a motor
Constantly leaving his seat, jumping or climbing on furniture and other inappropriate places
Not having patience
Blurting out comments at inappropriate times
Interrupting conversations or speaking out of turn
Trouble waiting for a turn or standing in line
In today’s world, so many of our children and students are being diagnosed with ADHD. There are many reasons why that number might be increasing, but how do we help those student be successful with a body and mind that are working against them?
Strategies to help students in the classroom:
Allow movement and flexible seating
Give students tools to minimize distractions – maybe a quiet corner in the classroom
Provide lots of positive feedback – helps motivate students to want to focus
Give small rewards for completing tasks throughout the day.
Allow students to feel good for accomplishing simple and small tasks – Check box to do lists are great motivation for a lot of ADHD students and they could have a small reward for finishing all of their tasks for the day
Don’t get frustrated if they are not on task right away – sometimes it takes a while for children with ADHD to settle their minds down enough to focus.
Ask questions instead of telling them they’re not focusing or getting their work done – sometimes it might not look like they are working when they really are
Provide visual reminders – writing instructions on the board, pictures of tasks etc.
Talk to the parents of the children – often the parents will have successful strategies that work at home. Try to bring those strategies into the classroom to bring consistency for the child.
Active class participation – ask them to hand out materials, or be the teacher’s helper. Having the student moving around will help them learn best!
Offer choice – give your students different options for completing their work. This could be as simple as allowing them to choose where they will be able to complete their work best. It could also be the option of completing the assignment in a different way.
If they need help getting started, give it to them! – Sometimes students with ADHD can become very overwhelmed by the task they are supposed to be doing and don’t know where to begin. It doesn’t mean they can’t do the task, but when they don’t know where to start they will start being distracted by other things happening. Also, remember that you need to be very specific in your instructions.
Give your students time chunks – Time management is one of the hardest things to do when you have ADHD. When you give your student a task and 30 mins to complete, they will think that it’s only going to take them 10 mins to do so they will spend the first 20 mins messing around and they don’t have enough time to finish it. Breaking down the assignment for them in manageable chunks will help them complete their work. You could say you have 5 mins to do the first 2 questions, 10 mins to do part b, and 15 mins for the last question. Then the student will know how much time they have to do their work.
Tools to help students in the classroom:
Wobble Stools – these are one of the best inventions on the market. They allow students to move around while they are seated and get rid of that energy they have in their bodies which allows them to focus on what they are doing.
Privacy Boards – These are a great tool for students with ADHD. They are put on the student’s desk which blocks all of the chaos going on around the classroom. This paired with some noise canceling headphones will do wonders for your students!
Headphones – This is another great tool for students with ADHD. They block the very distracting noise going on in the classroom. They are also a good tool for students with noise sensitivities so they can have multiple purposes.
Standing Desks – This is another great tool for students with ADHD. It allows them to move their feet while still having a space to work. they can walk around the desk while thinking and then come back to their work to write down their thoughts.
In this post, I am going to be talking about Inattentive Type ADHD and how teachers can help their students who suffer from this. Inattentive ADHD used to go by ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder but it is now classed as a type of ADHD. What I’ve done below is listed some of the main symptoms you’d see in a person with ADHD and then talked about them from the perspective of a person with ADHD.
Symptoms of Inattentive Type ADHD:
Daydreams and becomes easily distracted – this is a very hard part of ADHD as children don’t choose to become distracted or daydream and can often feel dumb as a result.
Gets bored quickly and has difficulty staying focused – can cause the careless mistakes or missed details. People who have ADHD often become done with things and lose interest which causes them to put minimal effort into things they are doing.
Has trouble getting organized (for example, losing homework assignments or keeping the bedroom messy and cluttered) – This can also present the opposite way. People with ADHD can be extremely organized to the point where organizing their lives can distract them from doing the things their organizing. They also often use cleaning or organizing as a way to distract themselves from doing the things that require their complete attention.
Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to – This can be a result of a working memory disorder which often appears alongside ADHD. The working memory holds information in your brain that is currently being used. It’s like a temporary memory for your short-term memory. When people are talking to you, it requires your working memory to hold onto what the person is saying, and then come up with a response. People who have the working memory disorder have a hard time holding onto the information you’ve said which can come across as not listening.
Avoids tasks which require a lot of focus – PROCRASTINATION! This is a big problem for people with ADHD. It takes up so much energy to sit down and focus on something. Imagine running a marathon every day, this is the amount of energy it takes a person with ADHD to focus during the entire day. IT IS EXHAUSTING! – which is why we often avoid large tasks that require our attention.
Misses important details or makes careless mistakes on homework and tests – We get tired from focussing on things all day and then start to miss things because our attention isn’t working well.
Often loses track of things – this is typically the result of the working memory not transferring the information of where the object last was to the short-term memory.
Is forgetful in day to day activities – HELLO WORKING MEMORY! You know that voice in your head that reminds you to do things? Ya people with ADHD don’t have that…
Has trouble following instructions and often shifts from task to task without finishing anything – This goes back to the TV and remote analogy from the last post. People with ADHD don’t have control over which channel their brain is on which makes it very hard for us to stick to one topic.
How Can You Help Your Children or Student’s Who Have ADHD?
Check Lists and To Do Lists! – This helps people with ADHD get the clutter out of our heads. Writing down all of the things we’re trying to remember will free up our attention for the things we’re trying to focus on. It also feels really good to check things off on a list because it makes you feel proud for accomplishing something.
Bite-size projects. Break down projects and requests into small tasks. Instead of saying, “Do your homework,” you might say, “Finish your math sheet. Then read one chapter of your English book. Finally, write one paragraph describing what you read.” Breaking down your projects or tasks into small chunks makes it easier for people ADHD to be successful. Smaller tasks mean focusing for smaller chunks of time.
Give clear instructions. Make them simple, easy to understand, and write them down! Having a visual to look at will make your student feel less stressed to have to remember all of the instructions.
Cut down on distractions. Turn off the TV, computer, radio, and video games as much as possible at home. Ask the teacher to seat your child away from the windows and doors in class. In your classroom, limit the things that are on the walls, some decorations are great but cluttered walls make it hard for ADHD students to focus on their tasks.
Organize. Make sure your belongings are always in the same place and easy to find. Having a spot for everything so that things go in the same place and are easy to refind.
Get into a routine. Routines are everything for a child with ADHD. A sense of order helps inattentive children stay focused. Follow the same schedule every day — “put your backpack in your cubby, hang up your coat, take out your planner, etc.” Having a routine list with visuals will help younger students remember.
ADHD is quickly becoming one of the most diagnosed disorders seen in schools. Children who are showing signs of having energy and not being able to focus for more than 5 minutes (pretty much any child ever) are being diagnosed with ADHD and are having pills shoved down their throats to calm them down and make them focus the way the adults think they should.
But do these children actually have ADHD and how would we know?
Here is a quick video to help us get started
A few points from the video
People who have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder don’t actually lack attention, they lack the ability to regulate their attention.
Good analogy – It’s like watching tv. You have the remote and are able to change channels (attention) when you want. Watching TV when you have ADHD is the same, but you don’t have the remote. It’s like your younger (slightly annoying) sibling has stolen the remote and mashing the buttons in the corner causing the channels (attention) to change without you having control over it.
The 3 Categories of ADHD
There are 3 types or forms of ADHD that you will see. There is inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, or a combination of the two. You cannot be solely inattentive or solely hyperactive/impulsive. Every person who has ADHD has a combination of both types, however, people who have the inattentive type are predominately inattentive and the same goes for hyperactive/impulsive. The difference between these types and the combination is that the combination type has a fairly even split between the two. Here are some characteristics of these types.
miss details and are distracted easily
get bored quickly
have trouble focusing on a single task
have difficulty organizing thoughts and learning new information
lose pencils, papers, or other items needed to complete a task
don’t seem to listen
move slowly and appear as if they’re daydreaming
process information more slowly and less accurately than others
have trouble following directions
squirm, fidget or feel restless
have difficulty sitting still
touch and play with objects, even when inappropriate to the task at hand
have trouble engaging in quiet activities
are constantly “on the go”
act out of turn and don’t think about consequences of actions
blurt out answers and inappropriate comments
The main take away from this post that I would like you to have is that ADHD is not a choice for your students. It’s something they can’t control and often the hardest part of their day, and while this is the case, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be successful. They can be, but it takes a bit more effort on everyone’s part.
Hi, my name is Meghan Campbell. I am a fifth-year education student at Vancouver Island University. This blog is an assignment for one of my classes and will be about working with children who have ADHD in the classroom.