Learning with ADHD
As a teacher, the classroom environment you create is crucial to the successful education of your students. Many years ago I was lucky enough to teach in a fantastic classroom. Everything I tried seemed to click with the kids. They learnt a lot and we all had a lot of fun until the day Sevi joined our class. Oh boy things changed when Sevi arrived. You see, Sevi suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and it completely destroyed our classroom environment. All the group harmony, the collaboration, and the respect for each other, vanished into thin air. I was at a loss to know what to do, at the time I did not know anything about ADHD, let alone teach a child suffering from such a condition. Learning with ADHD is no picnic but what I discovered is that you can teach a child suffering from ADHD.
Sevi couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than two minutes. He wandered around aimlessly distracting the other kids, he’d fidget, he’d yell out to other kids, and at times he’d do impulsive things that not only endangered himself but quite often another kid. I tried my best to engage Sevi but his behaviour was so poor I’m afraid I resorted to physical punishment of Sevi – and at times of the other kids. It had taken months to create such a vibrant classroom, but it took less than a week for Sevi to destroy it. For me as a teacher this was absolutely devastating. I’d never seen a kid like it or even heard of ADHD. It wasn’t long before Sevi taught me all the these classic signs of ADHD.
Classic signs of ADHD
- The kid will fidget and squirm constantly.
- He will wander aimlessly disrupting other kids.
- He will be easily distracted.
- He won’t wait his turn in games or group activities.
- He will yell out answers to questions not directed at him.
- He will find it almost impossible to follow directions.
- He can’t concentrate long enough to finish his work or games.
- He will chatter constantly.
- He will intrude on others.
- He often doesn’t listen to what you are saying.
- He often loses things and will leave his belongings all over the place.
- He often engages in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences.
When I first encountered Sevi, ADHD very unusual – in fact I had never seen it during my teacher training or the 4 years of classroom experience up to that stage. However, now ADHD is very common, affecting up to 12% of school-age children. It’s much more common in boys than in girls.
What causes ADHD?
Children who have ADHD do not make enough chemicals in key areas in the brain that are responsible for organizing thought. Without enough of these chemicals, the organizing centers of the brain don’t work well. This causes the symptoms in children who have ADHD. Research shows that ADHD is more common in children who have close relatives with the disorder. Recent research also links smoking and other substance abuse during pregnancy to ADHD. However, nutrition plays an important role in some behavioural disorders and it includes ADHD.
What should you do if you think your kid has ADHD?
You must take action and drive the treatment process for your kid. Try to create a team effort including parents, teachers and doctors working together.
Firstly, talk with your child’s doctor. A diagnosis of ADHD can be made only by getting information about your child’s behaviour from several people who know your child. Your doctor will ask you questions and may want to get information from your child’s teachers or anyone else who is familiar with your child’s behavior. Your doctor may have forms or checklists that you and your child’s teacher can fill out. This will help you and your doctor compare your child’s behaviour with other children’s behaviour.
Your doctor may do vision and hearing tests if these tests haven’t been done recently.
Your doctor may recommend trying medicine to see if it helps control your child’s hyperactive behavior. A trial using medication can be an important part of evaluating your child if ADHD is suspected.
Some of the medicines for ADHD are methylphenidate (some brand names: Ritalin, Concerta), dextroamphetamine (brand name: Dexedrine), pemoline (brand name: Cylert), atomoxetine (Strattera), and a combination drug called Adderall. These medicines improve attention and concentration, and decrease impulsive and overactive behaviors. Other medicines can also be used to treat ADHD.
However, there is a growing mountain of evidence that this type of medication has serious side effects in some kids. Some have even died from heart disease accelerated by ADHD medication.
I recommend you read the Behavioural illness section of Dr Arden Anderson’s book ‘Real Medicine Real Health’ for a holistic approach to curing ADHD in your child.
What you can do at home to help your kid?
Kids who have ADHD may be difficult to parent. They may have trouble understanding directions. Children who are in a constant state of activity can be challenging for adults. You may need to change your home life a bit to help your child. Here are some things you can do to help:
- Make a timetable. Set specific times for waking up, eating, playing, doing homework, doing jobs, watching TV or playing video games, and going to bed. Pin the timetable to your kid’s bedroom door and discuss any changes to the routine in advance.
- Make simple house rules. It’s important to explain what will happen when the rules are obeyed and when they are broken. Write down the rules and the results of not following them.
- Make sure your directions are understood. Get your child’s attention and look directly into his or her eyes. Then tell your child in a clear, calm voice specifically what you want. Keep directions simple and short and sk your child to repeat the directions back to you.
- Reward good behaviour. Congratulate and praise your kid’s good behaviour and employ positive parenting strategies. To learn more about Positive Parenting click here.
- Make sure your child is supervised all the time. Because they are impulsive, children who have ADHD may need more adult supervision than other children their age. This will apply also when your kid has other kids over to visit.
- Set a homework routine. Pick a regular place for doing homework, away from distractions such as other people, TV and video games. Break homework time into small parts and have breaks.
- Focus on effort, not grades. Reward your child when he or she tries to finish school work, not just for getting good test results.
- Talk with your child’s teachers. Find out how your child is doing at school–in class, at playtime, at lunchtime. Ask for daily or weekly progress notes from the teacher.
So my key message for parents of kids with ADHD is not to despair. With some positive parenting using the above strategies, with some help from your school and with some medical knowledge, your ADHD kid can live a very happy and productive life. Just remember that famous people like Robin Williams, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Mozart suffered from ADHD as kids and they all went on to live very successful lives.