Classroom Management of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Philosophical Background: When approaching the education of children, especially a child with attention deficit, it is  necessary to continually emphasize the development of “Positive Self-Esteem.”

A child is more than the sum of his or her parts and a tremendous amount of emotional growth occurs when the child (student) knows he or she is valued.

The Sacrifice of Self-Esteem for Curriculum Development is a Tragic Mistake

Competence in the tasks associated with academic growth is a basic building block of a child’s self-esteem, however, self-image and emotional growth must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of academic growth.

Attention Deficit Disorder must be viewed within a systems context and must not be allowed to simply become a classroom management issue. Research in educational impact has shown that a child will develop self-esteem and emotional growth to the level in which he or she is believed in. As you recognize and encourage unique talents and traits in these children and your students, so too will they develop.

Highly Energetic and Creative Children are Frequently our Most Successful Entrepreneurs, Business Executives, and Creative Minds – if They Survive Their Educational Experience

Understanding Attention Deficit Disorders

What are Attention Deficit Disorders? Attention Deficit Disorders are chronic, biologically based disorders which have significant psychological impact. To be formally diagnosed with Attention Deficit, a child, adolescent, teen or adult must show eight of the following symptoms, which must occur prior to the age of 7. (Barkley recommends a more conservative measure – 10 before age of 10, 8 from age 10-15, 5 age 16 and older.)

Criteria Associated With Attention Deficit Disorder:

The student often fidgets with hands, feet or squirms in his or her seat (in older children, this may be limited to feelings of restlessness). He or she may have difficulty remaining seated when required to do so. The student may engage in physically dangerous activities without consideration of possible consequences (not for the purpose of thrill seeking).

The student is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli. He or she has difficulty following through on instructions from others (not due to opposition or failure to comprehend, e.g. fails to finish chores). The student has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities and often does not see, or hear what is being said to him or her.

The student has difficulty waiting his or her turn in games or group situation. The student will often blurt out answers to questions before they have been completed. He or she often shifts from one uncompleted activity to another, will interrupt or intrude on others and often loses things necessary for talks or activities at school or at home.

Undifferentiated Attention Deficit Disorder

There is a large group of individuals who are classified as “Undifferentiated Attention Deficit Disorder” who display marked inattention, but who are not impulsive or hyperactive. This group of individuals may account for a large and basically undiagnosed population of individuals.

Thoughts Concerning The Educational System’s Failure to Diagnose and Treat

 Children with Attention Deficit

  • Teachers are helping people – teachers are frequently reluctant to identify deficits while they attempt to cope with them.
  • Value of privacy – American society has a high personal regard for individual privacy and a basic level of courtesy when discussing perceived weaknesses. This creates a desire to avoid issues of difficulty.
  • Wish fulfillment – The belief that, with maturation, behaviors which are at the extreme of typical will evolve into more effective levels of functioning.
  • Emphasis on solutions to problems – as they develop in contrast to prevention of problems prior to their significance.
  • Fear of upsetting parents, administrators and the child themselves.
  • Limited resourced and institutional bias against the identification of children.
  • Historical bias – Bias against the development of services for hyperactive children, which is the result of a specific disinformation campaign by groups hostile to the American Psychiatric Association.

Causes of Attention Deficit Disorders/The Differential Diagnosis of Attention Deficit – May be Grouped Into These Five Categories:

  1. Constitutional or innate biological factors – these relate particularly to temperament and heredity.
  2. Organic factors – these are the factors that include all physiological insults and damage to the central nervous system and/or brain.
  3. Diet, nutrition, allergies and food intolerances.
  4. Environmental toxins including lead, formaldehyde and pesticides.
  5. Attention Disorders secondary to other medical problems.

Attention Deficit Disorders are currently considered neurophysiological problems resulting from variations in brain chemistry. These differences may be genetic or the result of problems in the development of a child before birth. Some Attention Disorders result from infection or trauma after birth. These problems are usually more difficult to treat than inherited ADD/ADHD, as they usually involve some degree of brain injury. Environmental toxins, especially lead and some chemicals used as pesticides are also known to cause some ADD/ADHD problems, as are drugs and alcohol ingested during pregnancy. As a result, a child may suffer in his or her emotional growth and personal health. Irritability , behavioral problems, sleep disturbances and even sleep disorders can result from ADD/ADHD.

The preponderance of research strongly suggest that the majority of basic Attention Disorders result from a deficiency or imbalance in the neurotransmitters associated with brain chemistry. These neurotransmitters affect the reticular activating system (RAS), the reticular formation which terminates in the reticular activating system, and the frontal and central cerebral cortex associated with alertness and attention.

Diagnostic procedures and new techniques have recently allowed the development of a clearer insight into the impact of differential brain chemistry. Computerized brain scans “BEAMS,” blood flow studies from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) studies have contributed significantly to understanding.

The basic concept developed from these studies is that the reticular activating system of the reticular formation functions as an inefficient gatekeeper and allows the brain to be flooded with stimuli from the limbic system that typically are filtered prior to cortical stimulation. When too many stimuli enter the consciousness, poor attention, concentration, impulse control, poor organization and low frustration tolerance may result. This is where irritability, behavioral problems, sleep disturbances and sleep disorders can occur.

Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorders

Attention Deficit Disorder is not a Learning Disability

Approximately 20% of the ADHD population is anticipated to have a learning disability. Most ADHD children do not have a co-existing learning disability. However, 80% do have a great difficulty with handwriting and do work that is messy and sloppy. ADHD children frequently perform poorly because they can either write quickly or neatly, however they cannot do both. For the 20% of ADHD children who have a comorbid learning disability, it frequently appears in one of the following areas:

  • Auditory perception and processing problems.
  • Visual perception and visual processing problems.
  • Auditory and visual memory problems, both short and long-term.
  • Sequencing problems.
  • Fine motor problems.
  • Visual motor integration delays.
  • Eye, hand coordination.
  • Dyslexia and reading disorders.
  • Written language problems.
  • Spelling disorders.
  • Math disorders.

The ADHD child presents intellectual skills which are distributed in a normal fashion across the population. While intelligence is not affected directly by Attention Deficit, development of knowledge may be uneven as a result of the child’s inability to attend to complex problem-solving issues. Growth of concepts that depend upon sustained effort and attention may also be impacted by ADHD.

ADHD in The Preschool Child, Language Disorders and Reading Disorders

ADHD can impact the development of language and reading. The preschool child’s diminished selective and sustained attention to the language he hears, limits the development of early language skills. Language has a direct and demonstrable link to the development of reading ability and emotional growth. Morphology, syntax, and attention thus become predictors of subsequent reading skill ability. Basically, individual preschool children who have diminished language input, also show decreased ability to lock language into short-term memory, which results in auditory language based learning deficits.

Learning Style Preference and Attention Disorders

Recent research has indicated that brain dominance dramatically affects a person’s emotional growth, as well as all other areas of living. Just as people show preference for right or left handedness, most people are comfortable operating out of the right or left side of their brain. Brain dominance affects one’s personality, language, problem-solving strategies, learning, organizational skills, approach to information and emotions – or emotional growth.

Characteristics of the Left-Brained Person

A left-brained person is verbal and enjoys thinking, has a high level of linguistic ability, high level of logical and analytical thought, is sequentially organized, explicit in expression and concrete in thought, math computational skills, rational, logical, reasonable, neat, precise, organized, “A’s” in the classroom. Basically, this is an individual who fits well with the expectations of most classrooms.

Characteristics of the Right-Brained Person

A right-brained person is artistic, creative, musically inclined, smart, spatial and mechanical, body kinesthetic and sports able, emotional, laid back, “A’s” on the playground.

It should be noted, however, that attention problems are found in both left and right brain dominant individuals.  Left-brain ADHD children have an easier time in school than right-brained children, whose experience of disorganization and lack of focus is magnified by both ADHD and their right-brainedness.

 – by Frank Doberman, PhD

Dr. Frank Doberman is Co-Founder of Karner Psychological Associates (KPA) and is a leader in the fields of clinical psychology, is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified in School Psychology, Educational Administration and is a regular contributor to News 10 WTEN.

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