ADD/ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is a disorder in which children have great difficulty controlling their behavior and/or paying attention at home and/or at school. In the US, approximately 2 million children are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. In a classroom of 25 students, it is probable that at least one or more students will have ADHD. This disorder is more common in boys than in girls.
Children with ADD/ADHD will display difficulty with attention to task, at home or at school. These students may also exhibit impulsiveness and or tend to be more active than their same aged peers. These difficulties can contribute to considerable troubles in relationships with their peers and adults, learning and behavior.
Characteristics of ADD
There are several characteristics to look for when determining if a child has ADD. Many children:
will be easily distracted
have difficulty listening and following directions
have difficulty maintaining attention, focusing, and concentrating on a task
show inconsistent performance in school work – one day they can perform a task and the next day they cannot
display difficulty with organization and study skills
have difficulty working independently
appear to “space out”
Characteristics of ADHD
A child with ADHD may display some of the above characteristics in addition to many related with a hyperactivity component. The characteristics of the hyperactivity component include a high activity level meaning that the child appears to be in constant motion; fidgets and/or squirms; finds objects nearby to tinker with; and may have difficulty remaining in his seat at school and may roam around the classroom.
These children may also be impulsive and lack self-control. These children may blurt out answers and or blurt inappropriate comments at inappropriate times; have difficulty waiting their turn, and will interrupt on invade the personal space of others. They may often react before thinking, and often engage in dangerous activities. They may also have difficulty with unstructured activities and transition/changing activities; they are easily over-stimulated and display aggressive behavior; are socially immature; have low self-esteem and high frustration.
Remember that every child is different. Children each have a different combination of talents, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and skills. These characteristics will vary in degree and will not apply to each child. All of the above characteristics are normal during particular periods during childhood development. It is when children display these characteristics in high number at developmentally inappropriate stages that there may be a problem. If you think that your child may be displaying some of these characteristics, and he or she is not within the appropriate developmental stage, talk with your doctor. Your child may need assistance and intervention to assist them.
What Causes ADD/ADHD?
The causes of ADD/ADHD at not known at this time. Researchers have determined some possible causes of the disorder. One cause that we do know is genetics. ADD/ADHD tends to run in the family. The next possible cause may be biological/physiological, meaning a neurological inefficiency in the brain with controls impulses, sensory input, and focusing attention. The third probable cause is complications or trauma during pregnancy or birth. Another cause is lead poisoning. Diet remains very controversial throughout the medical community. Some say that there is a link between ADD/ADHD symptoms, diet and food allergies. The last probable cause is prenatal alcohol and drug exposure.
How to Assist Children With ADD/ADHD Become Successful in School
Many strategies and interventions can be utilized by parents and teachers to assist students in succeeding socially and academically in the home and school community.
Teachers need to be flexible and willing to commit to work with the student on a personal level. They need to listen to the student, be supportive, and make the necessary accommodations in order for the student to be successful.
Every school should offer training on ADD/ADHD, how the disorder affects student learning and functioning, and appropriate interventions and strategies to assist the student.
Communication between the parents and teacher is very important. Parents know their children the best and can often provide helpful information regarding their child to assist the teacher in providing the necessary strategies and interventions. This communication also provides consistency, which is very important for a child with ADD/ADHD.
Teachers must provide structure and clarity for the student. This structure must include clear communication, clear expectations, clear rules, consequences, and follow-up. Academically, assignments need to be in manageable increments with teacher modeling, guided instruction, clear directions, and feedback. These students also need structure during transition times, organizing materials, group dynamics, and handling choices.
Teachers need to provide an engaging, interactive, and creative teaching environment. Multi-sensory teaching, cooperative learning, reciprocal teaching, knowing students’ learning styles, and the theory of multiple intelligences work best for all students in the classroom. Co-teaching or a collaborative classroom, which means that there are two educators in the classroom sharing the teaching, is very effective for students with ADD/ADHD.
If your child is struggling in school and appears to display some of the characteristics above, consult with your child’s teacher and doctor. Get on board with the school. They can provide helpful information to take with you to the doctor. They may see something in school they you do not see at home. Always ask questions. You are your child’s advocate. Do not be afraid to ask the teacher what strategies and interventions they have tried to assist your child to ensure academic and social success. Keep the lines of communication open and be clear that you want to help them help your child.