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!