ADD/ADHD Friendly Education: Some Basic Points of Departure

With last week’s article I focused on the fact that medication can be nothing more than a ‘band aid’ response to ADD/ADHD. This leads to the obvious question: If not medication, then what? This can obviously be quite a pressing issue if you are a parent or teacher dealing with the effects of ADD/ADHD on a daily basis. Answering this question is the whole point behind the current ‘ADD/ADHD in the Classroom’ series. I firmly believe that it is possible for a child with ADD/ADHD to thrive, both at school and at home, if some basic principles are adhered to. These principles will be discussed as we go along but allow me to first make some remarks about the philosophy that undergirds the approach that I am advocating. This can be summed up with the following points:
ADD/ADHD should be addressed in a holistic way: A lot of the responses to ADD/ADHD (both in the classroom and outside) are purely reactive: Troubling symptoms present themselves and efforts are made to address these symptoms. In the process sight is almost inevitably lost of the ‘Big Picture’. A purely reactive approach will therefore generally lurch from crisis to crisis. This can be counteracted by taking a step back and making every effort to understand the condition in a holistic (rather than in a merely symptomatic) way. Attempting to get to the bottom of things in this way may take a long time but it will be more than worth it, especially as it can sometimes lead to the identification of other (non-ADD/ADHD) causes behind symptoms and behaviors.
ADD/ADHD can be successfully addressed by using non-medicinal means: My remarks about the problems with drugging children into submission probably make it obvious that this would be my view! The big question is, however, whether this is simply wishful thinking or a scientifically tenable position. Even a quick glance over recent research results into ADD/ADHD should convince you that it is most certainly the latter. Hardly a week goes by without something being published pointing to the effective use of a variety of non-medicinal methods (e.g. changes of diet, changes in educational methods etc.) making a significant impact on ADD/ADHD symptoms. My program ‘3 Steps ADD’ is built on harnessing the best of these techniques to provide the best possible outcomes for those dealing with ADD/ADHD. Some of them will be discussed as we go along.
‘ADD/ADHD Friendly Education’ requires an open and trusting partnership between parents and teachers: It is far too often the case that parents and teachers see each other as adversaries when it comes to deciding on how to deal with behavioral issues in the classroom. This is obviously massively counterproductive and can only serve to strain relations and ultimately harm the education of the child in question. The approach that I advocate would therefore be of very little value if it is not implemented within the context of cooperation between the home and the classroom. Strategies and tips on how this very worthwhile ideal can be achieved will be discussed as we go along.
ADD/ADHD Friendly Education need not be seen as detrimental to ‘general’ education: Many teachers feel slightly uncomfortable with the idea of ADD/ADHD friendly education because they believe that it might have a detrimental effect on the non-ADD/ADHD children in the class or on discipline in general. Let me state clearly that I believe that nothing can be further from the truth. I am certainly not advocating that ADD/ADHD children should be accommodated to the extent that they are the exclusive focus of your efforts. The aim should rather be to use applicable pedagogical principles to enhance the educational experience of the entire class, obviously including those who are dealing with ADD/ADHD. It is worth remembering that a rising tide lifts all boats! This is exactly what we should all be aiming for in the education of our children.
‘ADD/ADHD Friendly Education’ should look beyond the classroom: As a teacher the classroom is obviously your domain and the place where you make your primary mark on the lives of the children in your care. You should however also be aware of the potential of certain extra-curricular activities that could make a significant difference to the lives of children dealing with ADD/ADHD. Parents will perhaps not always be aware of all the different options and their possible benefits. ‘Keeping an eye out’ for kids beyond the walls of your classroom means that you can be instrumental in steering them in directions that could be of great benefit to them.
Please stay tuned over the next few weeks as I continue to ‘unpack’ these basic points of departure by applying them to different aspects of the teaching and classroom experience!