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ADHD and Education

Posted by Stephen on February 8, 2007

Attention Deficit/Hyper Active Disorder (ADHD) in the classroom is a difficult subject to get a handle on. Some teachers will tell you that 90% of their students are “hyper” and in need of medication. Others may tell you that ADHD is imaginary and an excuse for students to under-achieve and even fail. Reality is somewhere in between.

Then again, regardless of the feelings surrounding the issue, some see the disorder as a challenge that can be a great asset. Dr. Russell Barkely of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center stated that “kids with ADHD are wild, funny, and effervescent. They have a love of life. The rest of us sometimes envy them.”

ADHD has three main hallmarks: extreme distractibility, an almost reckless impulsiveness, in some but not all cases, a knee-jerking, toe tapping hyperactivity that makes sitting still all but impossible. There are dozens of symptoms that accompany these characteristics and it is important to note that children with ADHD should exhibit a large majority of them. There is an ongoing fear that we are over medicating our children by over prescribing this disorder. After all, many people are easily distracted for reasons other then a brain disorder. However, this disorder is not imaginary and those that have tried to write it off have done a disservice to millions of children and adults that are forced to address the matter daily.

ADHD is a complex neurological disorder that takes the brakes off brains and derails concentration. For children challenged by the disorder, non-diagnosis leaves them at odds with their body, brain, and the people that can’t get a handle on either. For teachers, the non-diagnosed student can be a nightmare to teaching and classroom management.

For children with ADHD, the sound of a ticking clock, sights caught out of the corner of their eye or through a window, can drown out a teacher’s voice, but an intriguing project or activity can absorb them for hours. These children act without thinking; they blurt out answers in class; they enrage other students with an inability to wait their turn or play by the rules.

These are the kids that no one wants to invite to the birthday party or neighborhood cookout.

Children with ADHD don’t function particularly well in standard school settings. Increasingly, parents are demanding that accommodations be made. For example, many parents request that their student be allowed to take college entrance exams without a time limit. About half the children diagnosed with ADHD receive help from special-education teachers in their schools, in some cases because they have other learning disabilities. Where schools have failed to provide services, some parents have resorted to law suits.

Active parents have increased their involvement over the years as more and more reports focused on the alarming reports that stated that, without proper care, children with ADHD have an extremely high risk of not only failing school, but also become drug users, alcoholics and lawbreakers. In 1993 the U.S. Supreme Court heard parents successfully argue that since the public school denied their child special education, the district had to pay for their daughter to attend private school.

Advantages of ADHD

There are advantages to having ADHD and teachers can help themselves by recognizing them. These children can be very creative. Teachers that develop active class projects that invite a creative element might see ADHD students surpass others. These students illustrate an ease in sharing their thoughts and feelings, and have a tendency to offer acceptance and understanding to others, and they maintain a high degree of empathy and understanding. Teachers can take advantage of such communication skills in any situation in the classroom.

ADHD children do not tend to be “should” people, but instead do what they “feel”. They can look through facades and see people and issues clearly. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment and are not caught off guard very often. They do not have boundary isolation. For example, they do not limit themselves to one area, but rather see the similarities between things. As a result, they are good at interdisciplinary skills. They are very intense when they are interested in something.

ADHD students need to be challenged and pushed daily. Idle time is a disaster for the teacher and for the student. These are students that are often judged as being underachievers, when the fact is they are bored and unmotivated. For the most part, these students have the potential to achieve as much, if not more, then the average student. However, if not handled properly, these students can slip through the cracks and can be easily dismissed as disciplinary problems.

In today’s test happy educational environment, many of the activities that ADHD students can excel in are being stripped. Art, music, and theater are avenues where these students excel. These are important subjects, not because these students are headed for Broadway, but because these subjects push them to use their minds in ways that help them focus in other classes.

The fact that educators fail to recognize this simple fact, is just another example of how education is being taken out of the hands of the individual and placed in the hands of a political movement unprepared to address the realities of the individual needs of a diverse and complex environment.

Teachers and parents need to be aware of all that is involved with the teaching and learning of an ADHD child. There are many approaches to addressing these children, including drug therapies. No matter what approach is taken, these students need support and strategies that push them to excel so that they are not given the chance to use the disorder as a crutch or an excuse to fail.

These students are better then that, and given half the chance, they are prepared to prove that their gifts outweigh their challenges.

Stephen Winslow holds an MAEDS and is the executive editor of Conservative Viewpoints.

Copyright 2007 by Stephen Winslow. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “ADHD and Education”

  1. Linda R. Jones said

    Stephen –

    Thank you for addressing ADHD. I am opposed to tranquilizing kids. Additionally, some of the stats are frightening. For example, for every 10 boys medicated only one girl is medicated. I’m certainly not saying medicate nine more girls. We also do not know the long term effects of these medications. Biology is also a factor. Boys are different than girls. Additionally, as you know, I teach (well, the kids say I do) at an all boys school. Many of my boys are sent to us because they didn’t “fit in” to the public school systems.

    Who wants a kid that fits in?! I want the energy, the creativity, the genius! Oh yes, I am tired when they’re through with me. But, I never have a dull day at “work.” Don’t tell my boss, but I can’t believe they pay me to watch these wizards in action.

    Somewhere in my chaos I have a list of great people that had ADD or ADHD or some other type of “learning disorder.” (What exactly is a learning disorder? Don’t we all learn differently?) The list includes Mozart, Einstein, and General George Patton. I will find the list. Needless to say, when my new kids come in and say they’ve got ADHD, I tell them to look around and join the club. We’re going to have fun!

    I hope I am not in the minority when I say ADHD/ADD just means the child needs non-traditional (as in, boring) learning strategies.

  2. GeekChic said

    As a teacher I understand the need to adopt unique learning strategies for all students. Not just diagnosed those with ADHD.

    However, ADHD does not alway manifest its self in creative ways. Likewise, Asperger Syndrome, which induces a great deal of focus, does always lead to genius. Many families suffer due to behavioural problem that stem from this. These individuals need help.

    I do agree with you 100%, however, that prescription drugs are never the answer.

    This article at Squidoo http://www.squidoo.com/familybehaviorproblems explains a few different options for troubled families

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