Wayseer Manifesto

My Buddy Garret made this video.
Personally, I think he is a rock star and one of the smartest people I know.
Discover the vital breakthrough for free-spirits, visionaries, misfits, rebels and pioneers…
Learn how your rare irrepressible mind
~ the source of your greatest strengths and weaknesses
~ gives you the miraculous ability to transform the world.
Check it out and leave me some comments below.

ADD/ADHD in the Classroom: Intervention #1 – Move it! (Part 1)

Imagine for a moment that you are hyperactive. You seem to be driven by some kind of hidden engine to keep moving. For you to live is to move and to move is to live! What would be the one of the worst forms of torture that someone could devise for you? Simple really: Make you sit still for hours on end!  You can almost imagine the agony. Every fibre in your body is twitching as you resist the overwhelming temptation to move even one inch for you know that there will be consequences if you do! Now turn your mind to thousands of classrooms up and down North America. What I have not described is not merely a hypothetical situation but the daily reality for thousands of kids with ADD/ADHD. In fact, the inability to sit still is such an important part of the condition that it defines a specific form of it. The ‘H’ in ADHD obviously stands for hyperactivity. Rest assured, for those of your students where the ‘H’ is applicable, sitting still is one of the most difficult things imaginable.


So how should we respond to the hyperactivity associated with ADHD? In essence there are two main types of intervention. The first type deals with the accommodation of hyperactivity (especially in terms of designing strategies that will allow for the incorporation of movement into the teaching environment) and reduction (strategies designed to lessen the incidence and impact of the condition). This article will focus on the first type of intervention namely the ones that are designed to accommodate the condition in the context of the classroom.


Before we look at specific interventions it might be necessary to address the question of whether accommodation would be a good or even a desirable thing. This is necessary because many people would almost instinctively respond to the suggestion of accommodation by stating that the kids involved should simply hear a loud ‘sit still’! My standard response is to point out that we accommodate students with special needs all the time. For example, if a child has hearing or visual problems special effort are almost invariably made to facilitate their learning within the context of their individual needs. This is obviously a very good thing! Why should this very same principle not be extended to children with ADD/ADHD? Especially in light of the fact that the condition can have such a massive negative impact on the learning outcomes of students if it is left unaddressed.


I make no excuse, in light of the above, for advocating accommodation as part of a strategy to deal with ADD/ADHD in the classroom. In fact I am willing to go so far as to state that accommodation strategies will not only enhance the learning of children with ADD/ADHD but will also lift the standard of classroom learning in general. Why so? Well, firstly it will minimise the disruption caused by hyperactive children who are hyper-frustrated at being forced to keep still and quiet for hours on end. I am, secondly, also convinced that many of the principles that will be shared are based on sound pedagogical principles and will bear fruit, regardless of whether there are children in your class that deal with ADD/ADHD. They are, therefore, sound general principles that can be applied under all circumstances.


How should you go about designing interventions that are geared towards accommodation? The simplest answer to this question is that you should have a long hard think about how you can include movement and the freedom to move in as many aspects of the teaching experience as possible. This might sound like a fool-proof recipe for total chaos but it isn’t. Responsible and well thought out interventions to ‘get the class moving’ in the most literal sense will facilitate learning rather than hinder it. If you don’t believe please stick around for the discussion of specific interventions! I’m sure that you will agree with me that they will not only make your teaching of ADD/ADHD kids more effective, it will also be a lot of fun.


Before we look at specific movement related interventions it is important to stress that an important ‘mind shift’ must take place before you can even think of implementing them. The essence of this mind-shift is that you cannot continue to regard teaching as an essentially static activity. Despite years of it being challenged, the paradigm of the teacher holding forth from the front while the students are expected to simply lap it up still holds sway in many classrooms. Liberating yourself from this kind of self-imposed imprisonment (which is guaranteed to drive ADD/ADHD kids up the wall) is of crucial importance if you want to deal with hyperactivity in the classroom. Please check back next week when I will discuss specific interventions that will help you to do just this!

Not your Grandpa’s Schoolhouse: ADD/ADHD and the Weight of Educational Expectations (2)

You may recall in previous posts I began a discussion about how the modern educational experience can lead to the labeling of young children as difficult, fidgety or restless. I also noted that it is but a very short step from this label to a full-blown ADHD diagnosis. The reason why there is such a great deal of emphasis on conformity within the modern classroom can be at least partially attribute it to the fact that education in the modern era is almost completely target driven. This means that anything that stands in the way of particular class cohorts reaching targets in areas like literacy and numeracy will be fiercely resisted. A child that struggles to fit into this highly regimented environment will therefore almost certainly be regarded as an obstacle towards progress of others, often leading to drastic action in the form of medicating him/her into submission.
Towards the end of the article I asked the question that is on the lips off so many parents: How can we protect our children from harm caused by unrealistic educational expectations. I ended in the article by giving the two most important answers they read you should do your utmost to keep clear lines of communication with your child’s teacher and also that you should make very sure that your child is indeed ready for school before sending him/her.
This week I would like to continue this discussion by proposing some more ways in which you can act in the best interest of your child and his/her education:
Be proactive in school selection: If your child does not thrive in a certain school environment this obviously does not necessarily mean that he will fail to thrive in any school environment. It may well be that there is another school in your location that will be much better suited to his/her needs. You should therefore not allow your loyalty to a particular school, or even the fact that siblings go to that school be such an overriding concern that you deprive your child off the best possible education. It is difficult to generalize about the kind of school in which children with ADHD tend to thrive. Other up there are some common denominators. Chief among these are is an emphasis on interactive learning styles. Another factor that often contributes to positive outcomes (especially for some boys) is the active encouragement of competition within the school environment. (This is such an important subject that I intend to devote a full article to it in the near future)
Make the most of homework time: I realize that most of us are tired by the end of the day and the last thing that they look forward to is to spend time helping their children at schoolwork. If, however, you have a child with ADHD who is struggling in the modern school environment this should be one of your top priorities. The pace at which new material is introduced in the curriculums of most school districts is so relentless that a child could not get help with integrating this material is almost bound to fall behind. This danger is even more acute if the teaching style is employed the school does not correlate with learning style child. Parents of ADHD children should therefore not only focus on revision of what was learned in class should also make the attempt to translate this material into ADHD friendly format. I realize that this may seem like a very difficult task, especially if you do not have an educational background yourself. You are, however, one who knows your child the best. You will therefore already have a good idea as to what will work support him/her. You will also find that in many cases your child’s teacher will be more than happy to help by recommending extra material or material that is focused specifically on children with specific learning styles.
Consider homeschooling: This may seem like a very radical proposal, especially if you have never considered homeschooling before. The fact is however that some children will always struggle in a formal school environment. Placing such a child in a homeschooling environment where he/she/she can receive focused attention and be taught in ways that are appropriate to ADHD styles will in most cases make a huge difference. Making the decision to home school obviously represents a variety of sacrifices on several different levels that it could also be just what your child needs. The great thing about homeschooling is that you certainly do not have to do it on your own. There are a variety of homeschooling networks that will help you to plug into resources. These networks can also bring you in contact with other homeschooling families from whom you can learn. I realize that homeschooling is not for everybody and there could very well be the reasons why this would not be a solution in your case. I do want to encourage you however to resist the temptation to just dismiss this as a possibility without seriously investigating the pros and cons your individual circumstances.
I wish you the very best as you attempt to make the best possible decisions for your children!

ADHD Friendly Education: Designing Your ‘Game Plan’ for Beating ADD/ADHD in the Classroom (Part 2)

In the previous article we discussed some elements of an ADD/ADHD classroom game plan. These are the things that you should ideally have in place before you attempt any specific individual interventions. This will ensure that you interventions are not haphazard in nature but that they will follow a coherent and unified pattern. The elements of the game plan that I listed were:

1. Understand what you are dealing with

2. Eliminate alternative explanations

3. Get parents on board

4. Do not try to go it alone

Having these values as part of your game plan will put you in a fantastic position to overcome the challenges posed by the presence of ADD/ADHD in the classroom. With this week’s article I want to help you to move beyond this solid foundation by ‘beefing up’ you game plan even further. To do so, I would like to suggest that you also add the following elements to the mix:

Keep the child involved: It is, sadly, the case that many interventions are planned and executed without the child whom they are supposed to help being involved in any way. I am obviously not suggesting that the children in your care all have the ability to design an educational strategy for themselves. What I am suggesting, however, is that they can provide you with a great deal of insight into ‘what works’ for them! Asking simple questions like ‘What helps you to learn?’ and ‘When do you really struggle to concentrate?’ can provide you with a great deal of insight that will help you to target your interventions effectively. Keeping the child involved also means that you should regularly explain what you are doing, and why. Extending children this basic courtesy can turn them from sullen opponents into willing allies.

Use positive reinforcement: Many kids with ADD/ADHD are so used to being the ‘black sheep’ that they are convinced that there must be something inherently wrong with them. This attitude is obviously formed by years of negative feedback about their behavior. Do your bit to break through this negativity by providing positive feedback and reinforcement wherever possible. This does not mean that you have to make use of half truths in order the make the child feel better. Every child will occasionally do something that is worthy of warm appreciation and praise. Make sure that you are especially attentive to these ‘magic moments’ in the lives of children with ADD/ADHD and that you respond accordingly!

Maintain open and clear lines of communication: This is certainly a good general principle but its worth is compounded tenfold when it comes to dealing with ADD/ADHD. Never assume that anything that you said was heard simply because you said it! The lack of focus and concentration that so often comes with the condition means that it is quite likely that you were not, in fact, heard. Work very hard at communicating clearly and plainly and always try to make sure that the ADD/ADHD student heard and understood what you said. Asking for ‘feedback’ on what you said might annoy students at first so take care to do so in the friendliest way possible. Open lines of communication are also important in terms of all the other parties who are involved in shaping a child’s education (e.g. parents, other teachers, medical professionals etc.).

Provide a structured environment where clear expectations are the norm: Many students with ADD/ADHD are classic ‘scatterbrains’. The last thing that they need is an environment that would make their often unfocused world a bit more chaotic. It is therefore the case that many children with ADD/ADHD (especially younger ones) respond very well when their environments are well structured and expectations are clearly spelled out. Providing this structured environment can take many forms: Shifting key activities to specific places in the class, providing lists that spell out the steps needed to complete an assignment, regularly repeating the standards of behavior and cooperation expected in your classroom etc. (Many of the interventions to be discussed in later articles will deal with this area).

The elements of the game plan that I’ve laid out over the past two weeks are designed to put you in a position where you can take classroom ADD/ADHD on and emerge victorious. The important thing is to make sure that the groundwork has been done properly before ‘stepping up to the plate’. As a professional educator with the best interest of the kids in your care at heart you will agree that laying a foundation like this would not be too difficult or tedious, especially when you consider the impact that it can make on the learning outcomes of an entire class (since even those who do not have ADD/ADHD will benefit from a calm and well ordered classroom). Next week we will begin to look at specific interventions that can be built upon this solid foundation.

Explosive New Study: Motivation as Effective as Drugs in Treating ADD/ADHD

It seems that hardly a week goes by without a new study confirming the effectiveness of non-medical methods in managing ADD/ADHD being published. This trend should be welcomed as it progressively chips away at the false consensus that the drug companies spent millions of dollars to create. This discredited position states that there really only one way to deal with ADD/ADHD. You guessed it: Drugs! We can all understand why the drug companies feel the need to push this line so aggressively – they obviously have shareholders to keep happy. This does not mean, however, that we have to swallow their slick marketing messages hook, line and sinker. Studies challenging their basic assumptions should therefore be enthusiastically welcomed!
The study that I want to focus on this week is actually still ongoing but I have been monitoring it for a while and I am so excited about early results that I just have to share them with you. The study is called Motivation, Inhibition and Development in ADD/ADHD (MIDAS) and it is being conducted at the University of Nottingham in England. What makes it so exciting is that it lets two approaches to dealing with ADD/ADHD namely medicine and environmental changes (motivation) go head to head. A further unique aspect of this research is that results are not measured using subjective criteria (e.g. “Little Johnny concentrates so much better after taking his medicine!”). It is based on the constant monitoring of brain activity through MRI caps. We can therefore get an accurate picture of the effects of both approaches on actual brain function.
Here’s how it works: Researchers regularly select children who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and track them doing a specific tasks on a computer. They wear an MRI cap (a device that accurately measures brain waves and activity in different parts of the brain) throughout the exercise. Some of the participants were given stimulants like Ritalin while the other group was motivated through praise and incentives.
The MIDAS project is very careful in the way that it discusses results, making it clear that they are not yet making any recommendations on changes to clinical practice. What is clear even at this early stage however is that behavioral methods have the same impact on the human brain than stimulants (without all the nasty side effect of course!). How do we know this? Well, simply because the study shows that the same areas of the brain ‘lights up’ when motivational techniques are used than would be the case when research subjects are medicated. This means that the distinction that (so aggressively promoted by the drugs lobby) between supposedly superior ‘medical’ and supposedly less effective ‘psychological’ methods of treating ADD/ADHD has very little basis in fact. One of the lead researchers, Margaret Groom, uses very diplomatic language to state the simple fact that behavioral methods can do the same thing that medicines can but implication of what she is saying is clear: “When the children were given rewards or penalties, their attention and self-control was much improved. We suspect that both medication and motivational incentives work by making a task more appealing, capturing the child’s attention and engaging his or her brain response control systems“.
Why do I regard this research as so vitally important? Simply because I am convinced that natural methods can be much more effective than medicines in dealing with the long term consequences of ADD/ADHD. This is not all; making use of natural methods will also avoid some of the shocking side effects commonly associated with the use of stimulants to ‘treat’ ADD/ADHD. This is obviously a very significant positive consideration. Any approach that avoids things like heart palpitations, depression, aggression, suicidal thoughts and increased openness to addictive behavior should be welcomed with both arms. I will therefore continue to follow the MIDAS study with interest, especially as I believe that it vindicates the approach that I have taken over a number of years, often in the face of intense opposition from those who have vested interests in the selling of ADD/ADHD drugs.
So what is the bottom line? Simply this: Drugs do not offer you a ‘higher path’ to wellness in the face of ADD/ADHD. The exact opposite is true actually since their promises do not come to (both in terms of dollars and cents and the devastating impact that these drugs can have). This is exactly why I developed the ‘3 Steps’ approach. The ‘3 Steps’ clearly shows the way to drug-free management of ADHD. By following the advice and techniques outlined it the best selling ‘3 Steps’ book and also by keeping up-to-date through the well researched and relevant articles posted here on the members site you will have a powerful arsenal for conquering ADD/ADHD at your disposal.
I am so thankful that you are on this journey with me and would like to invite you to travel with me as I explore ways to win the battle against ADD/ADHD in ways that sustain and nurture rather than destroy.
More information about the MIDAS study can be found here:
http://communications.nottingham.ac.uk/News/Article/Behavioural-incentives-mimic-effects-of-medication-on-brain-systems-in-ADHD.html

Beating ADHD in the Classroom

 

In previous posts we look at some of the things that can typically happen when ADD/ADHD ‘shows up’ in the classroom’. This raises the obvious question, how should educators react to all of this? Should we simply throw up our hands in despair and hope for the best? Should we immediately see to it that the ‘trouble makers’ are drugged into submission?
If you’ve paid close attention to the previous articles in this series you would know that neither of these extreme responses is necessary.
As a qualified professional in the area of education you would know that the best way to deal with the curveballs of life is to be well prepared with skillful, creative and well executed classroom interventions. This series is designed to help you to think how some of these interventions might look like in the case of children with ADD/ADHD. This will help you to be well prepared and ready to turn a potential crisis into an opportunity for learning and growth.

 

Before we discuss specific interventions it would be good to give some thought to your ADD/ADHD game plan. This is the general strategy into which you will slot your specific interventions. The importance of having such an overarching game plan cannot be overstated. Following a coherent strategy will keep you from merely being reactive (as you will see individual incidents in a wider perspective).
It will also ensure that the different interventions that you make use of will ‘pull together’ to improve the general classroom atmosphere and the ability of the individual child to learn. Here are some of the key elements of an ADD/ADHD in the classroom game plan:

 

1. Understand what you are dealing with: As an educator you will already be utterly convinced of the power of education to change lives. It should therefore come as no surprise to you that the first and strongest pillar of an ADD/ADHD game plan is to educate yourself thoroughly about the condition: What it is, how it impacts children, how it can be addressed etc. Being armed with this knowledge will prove to be of immense value when you actually ‘get down to business’.

 

2. Eliminate alternative explanations: One of the most important truths about managing a classroom is that you should never ever jump to conclusions. This rule is perhaps doubly relevant when it comes to suspected ADD/ADHD. Simply assuming that ADD/ADHD is the cause behind every single disturbance in the classroom (and acting accordingly) can be very dangerous and have long lasting negative consequences (especially since other serious causes e.g. mental illness, deteriorating eyesight, relationship problems etc. can be missed in the process).

 

3. Get parents on board: One of the key aspects of any game plan is to get a team to work, think and play together. Your ADD/ADHD classroom interventions will be so much more successful if you can apply this principle in your interactions with the child(ren) involved. Letting parents know what you are doing (and why!) will greatly facilitate the feeling that you are willing to work with them towards the ultimate common goal – Achieving the best interest of the child. Communication should not only be ‘one way’ however. Make sure that you really listen to parents. Ask them lots of questions. Get to the point where you can see their kids through their eyes. This will open up insights that can translate into magic in the classroom. Interacting with parents on this level might be time consuming and even emotionally draining but the payoff will almost certainly make it worth your while.

 

4. Do not try to go it alone: Many teachers subconsciously think of themselves as ‘Lone Rangers’. Heroically solving every problem through their own wit and ingenuity. This might seem like a worthy ideal but it is no way to run a classroom, especially if you are dealing with the effects of ADD/ADHD. The only result will be tired, bewildered and ‘frayed at the edges’ teachers! Make sure that you surround yourself with people who can support you on a variety of levels ranging from emotional (we all need a shoulder to cry on sometimes!), professional (perhaps an experienced older teacher who has been ‘around the block’ with ADD/ADHD kids a few times) and ‘informational’ (someone who understands the condition and are able to offer expert advice). Having a ‘panel’ like this in place will not only boost your confidence, it will also banish the idea that you have to face the challenges alone.

 

The items listed above are not ‘rocket science’, nor would implementing any of them be particularly difficult. I suppose that it all comes down to a conscious decision to handle the fallout from ADD/ADHD as professionally and compassionately as possible and then resolving to act on this decision through making some concrete decisions. May you find all the strength you need as you do this! (Please check back for the next article where we will continue to discuss the idea of an ADD/ADHD game plan).

Physical Activity – Key to Battling ADHD

In previous posts we focused on the importance of physical activity in battling the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. We saw that exercise can make a significant contribution to improvements in general and mental health. Studies have also shown that physically fit people find it easier to pay attention and focus on difficult tasks. This is a skill that is obviously of immense importance to those dealing with ADD/ADHD.
Most people would respond to all of this by saying that they are totally convinced of the theoretical importance of physical activity – the problem is to translate this theoretical understanding into action! The purpose of this article will be to help you (and your children) to do just that!

ADD/ADHD Friendly Education: When ADD/ADHD shows up in the classroom (Part 2)

It is very easy for people who are not in education to be very judgmental when it comes to the issue of classroom management. Some believe that the only thing that is required for a well behaved and high-functioning class is the application of rigid discipline. (Opinions along these lines are often prefaced with: ‘In my days…’) If only it was that easy! Even teachers with the most well refined disciplinary methods will struggle when confronted with the most formidable challenge of all – Human brains dancing to their own tunes (whether it is due to ADD/ADHD or some other cause). Simply ‘cracking the whip’ will not do anything to improve brain function so that learning can actually take place. This is why it is so important to understand the different ways in which ADD/ADHD can show up in the classroom. Knowing what to expect can also help you to be much better prepared with interventions that will be ‘just right’ under the circumstances. This week we will, therefore’, continue our look at what can happen when ‘ADD/ADHD shows up in the classroom’. Before we do so allow me to briefly restate the two points that I made at the beginning of last week’s article:

  • This list should not be used as an exhaustive resource for diagnosing ADD/ADHD. There can be many other possible causes for the behaviors that are described.
  • All of the behaviors listed are on a continuum in the sense that some kids will have some to the fullest degree possible, others mildly and others not at all. The individual mix will obviously differ from person to person.

6. Difficulty shifting between activities: A little understood aspect of ADD/ADHD in some children is the phenomenon of ‘hyper-focus’. This is where children with the condition are able to focus on a single task or activity to the exclusion of everything else. You may think that this is not altogether a bad thing and you would be right. Hyper-focus can be very beneficial under some circumstances…until you attempt to shift a child from this state to an activity that he/she is perhaps less interested in. Fireworks often follow!
7. Constantly showing up late: There is probably not a classroom in the land where punctuality is not sometimes a problem! Teachers should, however, resist the temptation to put all of this down to a general lack of discipline or interest in education. Extreme tardiness can often be linked to the daydreaming and lack of focus associated with ADD/ADHD. It is very often the case that ADD/ADHD are ‘miles away’ when class starts and transporting themselves back to the ‘real world’ takes time!
8. Constant conflict with classmates: Some children with ADD/ADHD not only find it difficult to wait for their turn to speak, they also struggle to wait for lots of other things. Their impulsivity often causes them to push in front of other children in line or to refuse to wait for their turn in games. This kind of behavior is obviously guaranteed to cause major conflict with classmates and this is exactly what happens in many cases. In fact, children with ADD/ADHD are often labeled as ‘troublemakers’ due to the effects of their impulsivity.
9. Nervousness and Anxiety: The effect of ADD/ADHD on some young brains is to keep the child with the condition ‘on the edge’ all the time. Such a child will present as being very anxious and will startle very easily. Being so nervous can obviously have a very detrimental effect on self-esteem. A lack of self-esteem will cause the child to become even more nervous and withdrawn, leading (in a classic example of a vicious circle) to even more anxiety.
10. Low grade depression: There can be many reasons behind depression among school age children and we should therefore not rush to conclusions when we suspect that a child may be depressed. We should, however, not completely ignore the possibility of depression being linked with ADD/ADHD either. Research has shown that the two conditions can indeed be linked in many cases. You should keep this fact in mind when you have a child in your class who feels hopeless, helpless and worthless all the time.
It should be clear from the list of ‘Top Ten Horrors’ that dealing with ADD/ADHD in the classroom is no laughing matter. That is why it is so important that we take the condition seriously by addressing it  at the root causes through making use of a tried and tested approach like the ‘3 Steps’ and by designing appropriate classroom interventions. It will be to these interventions that we will begin to turn our attention with next week’s article. See you then!

New Study: ADD/ADHD Symptoms May Subside Naturally Over Time

If the major drug companies are to be believed ADD/ADHD is something of a life sentence. They would have us believe that once a positive diagnosis is delivered (a process which can often be tainted by sloppy reasoning and conflicts of interest) you will have to ‘make things better’ by continuing to use their products year in and year out. The extent to which medical professionals have bought into this narrative is nothing short of alarming. Tales abound of doctors simply continuing to renew prescriptions without so much as a follow-up examination. It is easy to see why the drug companies are so enthusiastic in pushing this interpretation of ADD/ADHD – It has a massive positive impact on company profits!
My view has always been that even if the potential for developing ADD/ADHD symptoms remain more or less constant the management of underlying and environmental factors can still greatly reduce the incidence of these symptoms. It is therefore wrong to simply label someone as having ADD/ADHD and to then proceed with an unvaried and long-term treatment process.

ADD/ADHD Friendly Eduction: The 3 ADD/ADHD ‘Deficits’

If the average teacher was asked what word he/she would most readily associate with ADD/ADHD in the classroom the answer is quite likely to be: Trouble! We need to be honest about this response: Many teachers experience ADD/ADHD in the classroom as an unmitigated disaster. They struggle to control the behavior of those who deal with ADD/ADHD and this very often leads to a severe disruption of the learning experience of every single person in the class. No wonder that teachers would do everything in their power to attempt to minimize the impact of ADD/ADHD symptoms – And Fast!
There is obviously nothing wrong with the desire to create a calm, well ordered and ‘learning friendly’ classroom. In fact, this is exactly what this series is all about! My approach is therefore as far removed as it is possible to get from recommending a kind of ‘learn to live with it’ resignation. I am, instead, convinced that creative, forceful and carefully planned interventions can help you to take back control of your classroom. For you to plan these interventions it would obviously be necessary to understand what you are up against. It is with this in mind that I would like to spend some time in analyzing some of the classic ways in which ADD/ADHD ‘shows up’ in the classroom. A good place to begin is to discuss the three overarching impacts of ADD/ADHD on the body and brain. If you understand these you will also begin to grasp the origin of certain behaviors that you might hitherto have regarded as being as simply resulting from obstinacy and rebelliousness.
The three main ‘deficits’ associated with ADD/ADHD are found in the areas of:
Inattention
Impulsivity
Hyperactivity
Let’s discuss each of them in turn:
Inattention: This ‘deficit’ refers to the inability to a) select contextually appropriate stimuli to attend to and b) to remain focused on contextually important stimuli. If you look closely at this definition you will note that it does not state that the child with ADD/ADHD is simply unable to pay attention. The ability to pay attention ‘comes and goes’ according to level of interest, self selection (i.e. the child is much better able to concentrate if he/she chose an activity) and the level of external distractions. This is why I included the term ‘contextually appropriate/important’ above. Simply put, ADD/ADHD students often struggle to pay attention in ways that will allow them to thrive in the typical classroom environment. This will happen unless strategies can be found that will foster the kind of interest that will be conducive to effective learning.
Impulsivity: As the term indicates, impulsivity manifests itself in the inability to control or regulate impulses. In practice this means that children with ADD/ADHD struggle to exhibit age appropriate restraint in terms of behavior and/or speech. It means that the individual has difficulty properly controlling or regulating impulses. This can result in behavior that range from annoying (constantly speaking out of turn) to downright dangerous (running across a busy street during a school trip). Helping children to respond appropriately to impulses will certainly be a large part of your efforts to create an ADD/ADHD friendly classroom.
Hyperactivity: The hyperactivity associated with ADD/ADHD can most easily be seen in extremes of physical movement. Children with hyperactivity will move constantly and in a poorly directed and driven way. This manifests itself in fidgeting, squirming and the inability to sit still. This is perhaps the aspect of ADD/ADHD that gets children with the condition in the traditional classroom into the most trouble. In most classrooms the exhortation to ‘sit still’ is so important that it is almost as if it is written in golden letters above the blackboard! The design of an ADD/ADHD friendly classroom should therefore include a) strategies to help ADD/ADHD children to channel the constant urge to move about in productive way and/or b) strategies to foster learning in an environment where the absolute lack of ‘undesirable’ movement is not such an absolute value. Achieving either or both of these objectives would obviously be rather difficult but we will discuss some ways in which this can indeed be done as we go along.
The three ‘deficits’ discussed above provide us with an overarching general framework for understanding the basic impacts of ADD/ADHD. As a teacher you are, however, not dealing with generalities but with very specific problems that bedevil the classroom experience for everyone and that you want to sort out pronto! Next week I will discuss how the general deficits are linked with specific behaviors. This will, in the end, help us to chart an effective course towards dealing with these behaviors in a way that does not merely attempt to stick a band-aid on but that will take the complex interconnection of the three central deficits into account. See you next week!