By Annie Osteen
If you’re a teacher, you know these students, the one who stares out the window, substituting the bird she’s watching for her math lesson; the one who wouldn’t be able to keep his rear end in the chair if it was glued to it; the one who answers the question, “Who can tell me what an independent clause is?” with “Mrs. Smith, why do you like wearing the color blue?”
If you’re a parent whose child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you are all-too familiar with your child losing track of his or her things, the difficulty of staying on top of homework and the general scattered nature of how chores are done (or not done).
There are three major types of Attention Deficit Disorders, which have been identified as neurobiological disorders affecting five to twelve percent of all children today.
• ADHD – predominantly hyperactive-impulsive.
• ADHD inattentive – predominantly inattentive without hyperactivity (schools call this ADD).
• ADHD combined type – a combination of both hyperactivity and inattention.
Children who have ADHD tend to be very energetic, chatty and social. Opposed to children with ADD who display more disinterest, lethargy and are more often introverted.
In most cases, the first line of treatment for ADHD is medication which helps children concentrate and limit impulsiveness. Psychostimulants such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall are commonly used to stimulate the production of neurotransmitters that balance attention and impulse control. When medication works properly, attention and concentration increase, chores and school work are completed, recognition of adult requests increases, hyperactivity and impulsivity decline and negative behaviors diminish.
On the other hand, many parents feel that placing their child on a prescription drug to control impulsivity isn’t ideal. Therefore, they may turn to other alternatives such as behavior and cognitive therapy. This type of therapy focuses on establishing good behaviors while minimizing impulsive or inattentive ones. Parents have also opted to modify their child’s diet, keeping foods that contain artificial food coloring and flavors, as well as sugar, out of their home.
It hasn’t been long that ADHD made its way onto the stage as being somewhat controversial because of concerns that too many kids have been diagnosed with the disorder. Some expert clinicians believe the condition isn’t appropriately identified, therefore many children are not being diagnosed. Other specialists believe that parents are pushing too hard to get their children labeled, therefore leading to unnecessary prescriptions for stimulants which can have the tendency to bring about secondary issues such as weight loss, insomnia, etc.
However, in the school setting, teachers and administrators alike are presented with the same challenges parents are forced to manage at home. Although they may be advanced intellectually, many children with ADD or ADHD trail behind their peers developmentally by as much as thirty- percent in certain areas, according to research by Dr. Russell Barkley. This translates into a setback of four to six years for teenagers, making them seem immature or irresponsible. These kids are less likely to remember their chores, finish their work without support, are more likely to act impulsively and the quality of their work will waver each day. Therefore, parents and teachers may need to provide more consistent positive feedback, inspect school work more closely and collaborate periodically with each other to help the child manage their disability. There are several options that public and private schools offer, such as an IEP or 504 Plan to help a child with ADHD or ADD maintain confidence in school.
Despite numerous studies administered every year by clinicians, an ADHD cure continues to evade the scientific community. Until then, there are medications, diets, even holistic approaches to keep the symptoms minimal until a cure does surface. As a parent or a teacher, the objective is to become thoroughly educated on the various techniques that will keep you empathetically connected with the many faces of this disorder.