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Identifying Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the Classroom: Eight Things Teachers Should


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the phrase that is used to describe children who have significant problems with high levels of distractibility or inattention, impulsiveness, and often with excessive motor activity levels. There may be deficits in attention and impulse control without hyperactivity being present. In fact, recent studies indicate that as many as 40% of the ADD kids may not be hyperactive. 

Research shows that there are several things happening in the brain of the ADHD child which causes the disorder. The main problem is that certain parts of the Central Nervous System are under-stimulated, while others may be over-stimulated. In some hyperactive kids there is also an uneven flow of blood in the brain, with some parts of the brain getting too much blood flow, and other centers not getting as much. Certain medications, or other forms of treatment can be used to address these problems.

Often the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder child has special educational needs, though not always. Most Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder kids can be successful in the regular classroom with some help. Teachers can find over 500 classroom interventions to help children be successful in school at http://www.ADDinSchool.com.

As a teacher ask yourself these questions:

1. Can the child pay attention in class?

Some ADHD kids can pay attention for a while, but typically can't sustain it, unless they are really interested in the topic. Other ADHD kids cannot pay attention to just one thing at a time, such as not being able to pay attention to just you when you are trying to teach them something. There are many different aspects to "attention," and the ADHD child would have a deficit in at least one aspect of it.

2. Is the child impulsive? Does he call out in class? Does he bother other kids with his impulsivity?

These kids often cannot stop and think before they act, and they rarely think of the consequences of their actions first. Impulsivity tends to hurt peer relationships, especially in junior high school years.

3. Does he have trouble staying in his seat when he's supposed to? How is he on the playground? Can he wait in line, or does he run ahead of the rest of the class? Does he get in fights often?

4. Can he wait?

Emotionally, these children often cannot delay gratification.

5. Is he calm?

They are constantly looking for clues as to how they are doing. They may display a wide range of moods, which are often on the extremes: they act too sad, too angry, too excited, too whatever.

6. Is the child working at grade level? Is he working at his potential? Does he/she stay on task well? Does he fidget a lot? Does he have poor handwriting?

Most ADHD kids have trouble staying on task, staying seated, and many have terrible handwriting. 
 
7. Does he have difficulty with rhythm? Or the use of his time? Does he lack awareness about "personal space" and what is appropriate regarding touching others? Does he seem unable to read facial expressions and know their meanings?

Many children with ADHD also have Sensory Integration Dysfunctions (as many as 10% to 20% of all children might have some degree of Sensory Integration Dysfunction). SID is simply the ineffective processing of information received through the senses. As a result these children have problems with learning, development, and behavior.

8. Does he seem to be immature developmentally, educationally, or socially?

It has been suggested by research that children and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may lag 20% to 40% behind children without ADHD developmentally. In other words, a ten year old with ADHD may behave, or learn, as you would expect a seven year old to behave or learn. A fifteen year old with ADHD may behave, or learn, as you would expect a ten year old to behave, or learn.

There is a lot to learn about ADHD. Both teachers and parents can learn more by visiting the ADHD Information Library's family of web sites, beginning with ADDinSchool.com for hundreds of classroom interventions to help our children succeed in school.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.


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