ADHD: Identification and support

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By Moya O’Brienclinical psychologist

The child who is constantly fidgeting and talking out of turn or the daydreamer who seems lost in their own world may be displaying signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Successfully teaching such children calls for a customised approach

Frustrated child

The child who is constantly fidgeting, out of their seat, talking out of turn and who never manages to complete an assignment may not be deliberately troublesome, they may be displaying some of the signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The daydreamer who seems lost in their own world as they stare out the window may not be consciously ignoring you, but may instead have problems focusing attention, something that typify children with the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD. Difficulty paying attention to details; easily distracted by other events that are occurring at the same time; finding it difficult to finish schoolwork; putting off anything that requires a sustained mental effort; prone to making careless mistakes; disorganised; appearing not to listen when spoken to and often failing to follow through on tasks – all the above are symptoms that may be experienced by a child with ADHD. But, is this an explanation or an excuse?

Those of you who have met, taught or lived with a child with ADHD are in no doubt about this diagnostic category. These children can leave a trail of exhaustion and chaos behind them.

Diagnosing ADHD

Typically a diagnosis of ADHD is made on the basis of an interview with the child and the parent and that of the child in different settings. If you suspect that a child in your classroom has ADHD then you need to document what your concerns are and speak to the SENCO in the school about getting an assessment. It will be necessary to meet with the parents to get their permission for formal assessment but this is also a good opportunity to discuss any concerns they may have. At the meeting, stick to your observations and the facts and be careful not to offer a diagnosis or opinion until a formal assessment has confirmed this.

The danger with diagnosis is that it can blind people to the child and lower the bar in terms of expectations. A diagnosis of ADHD should not mean that we stop trying but that we have to customise our approach to educating a particular child.

What interventions are typically recommended?

There are typically four components to the management of ADHD. These involve a proper evaluation to determine the diagnosis, providing parents and teachers with information about the disorder, consulting with parents and teachers on behaviour modification techniques, as well as educational accommodations, such as special educational services, and medication. Not all children require medication but it may help some to meet daily expectations for school-work or appropriate social relationships.

Research in the area of treatment has focused on treating behavioural symptoms such as inattention, over activity and impulsivity rather than associated academic problems. Effective behaviour support involves addressing the environment, teaching new behaviours and using positive reinforcing strategies. In addition, we need to use evidence-based interventions specifically in the area of mathematics and reading to improve the educational outcomes for these children. When the child fails in the school system it is usually because some part of that system failed the child.

Modified Assessment

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Reviews

  1. hanniesausage
    on 3 June 2011

    Struggling with ADHD

    I have a child in my class with a diagnosis and some of those thoughts may help, thank you

    4out of 5