As a teacher, I can state that there is a difference in children with ADHD and in children without ADHD. It is a real disorder, and it has a big impact on a child’s school life, both academically and socially.
A child (or adult) with ADHD will fall under one of three categories:
- ADHD with hyperactivity and impulsivity
- ADHD with primarily inattentive and distractible behavior (also referred to as ADD)
- ADHD with a combination of the two types—hyperactive, impulsive, inattentive, and distractible
These characteristics must have a negative impact on the person’s life in order to be diagnosed with ADHD.
As defined by the Diagnostic Manual Guide-IV of ADHD, defining characteristics of AHDH-primarily inattentive are:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work or other activities
- Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activity
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Frequently does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand directions
- Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
- Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books or tools)
- Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
- If often forgetful in daily activities
The defining characteristics of AHDH-primarily hyperactive and impulsive are:
- Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
- Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate
- Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
- Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by motor”
- Often talks excessively
- Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
- Often has difficulty waiting for his or her turn
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations or games)
In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, the symptoms must be present before the age of seven, must be present in more than one setting (e.g. at school and at home), must occur for a period of over six months, must be present to the degree of causing maladaptive behavior for the child’s developmental level, and must not be the result of another mental disorder.
I have had students with ADHD with hyperactivity and impulsivity, and their energy level can seem endless. I have also had students with ADHD-primarily inattentive, and they will sit and stare off into space indefinitely unless prompted to get on task.
Students with ADHD have difficulty with following through and being self-motivated. This can lead to endless arguments with parents trying to get their child to do his homework, chores, clean his room, etc.
My best piece of practical educational advice for parents who are struggling with their child’s ADHD is to get a tutor. It does not have to be a professional tutor. It can be a very responsible high school or college student. I recommend a tutor not because your child needs help understanding the work (unless there is a learning disability which accounts for about 10% of children with ADHD), but because your child will greatly benefit from someone to help him or her one-on-one to stay focused, be prompted, and get the work done. It keeps the parent from always being the “bad guy” who has to harp on his child.
Be sure to provide a quiet work environment away from the television, computer games, and anything you know to be distracting. Children with ADHD need less visual stimulation, though it really helps if you can make the lesson interesting as that is a real motivator.
If you can prove that your child’s ADHD is affecting his education in a negative way, then you can apply for what is called a 504 Plan. You must need documentation from a doctor to qualify for a 504 plan. This is a plan that will give your child accommodations and modifications to help her succeed. An example of an accommodation would be reduced homework (e.g. in math, the student does only the odd problems instead of all of them). Many children with ADHD have a 504 plan for accommodations for state testing as well, such as extended time, small test setting, etc. Again, you must be able to prove that your child’s ADHD is negatively impacting his education in order to qualify for a 504 Plan or to qualify for special education.
As to parenting and teaching, remember not to make any requests of your child/student, unless you have the wherewithal to follow through. This is a major key in teaching compliance. Do not argue or debate with your child/student. Two requests should be the limit and then a consequence of taking away a privilege is given. In today’s society, video games, the computer, and television are powerful privileges to be given as a reward for positive behavior or taken away as a consequence of negative behavior. It is best to take away a privilege for no more than a day.
The more structured your discipline system, the better. It is a good idea to decide upon consequences and rewards ahead of time, and then follow through. This way your child knows what is expected of him and what the consequence is for not complying. This also eliminates debating and negotiating, as children with ADHD are prone to do. Everything is decided ahead of time. Be specific and be sure to communicate what the proper behavior would be (not just state what the child did wrong).
I have seen positive results in the classroom with medication, but this is a decision solely between you and your family doctor and child psychologist. Research has shown group therapy to be more effective than individual therapy. Group therapy allows for your child to interact with his peers and learn social skills in a controlled environment.
I hope you find this information useful. And really, if you can afford it, get a tutor!
Note: I am an educator. This information is meant for educational purposes only.