Developmental Readiness and Attention Deficit Disorder

The ability to concentrate, to control one’s impulses, have positive behavior, maturity, good mental health and to act appropriately are critical ingredients to academics and educational accomplishments, emotional growth, personal health and overall wellness. Developmental maturity in the areas of auditory and visual processing, short and long term auditory and visual memory, sequencing, visual motor integration and fine and gross motor skills are also necessary for success. Immaturity is as much a handicap both academically and socially for the child, as is the underlying Attention Deficit.

Basic Theme I

The ADHD (attention deficit) child has less tolerance for the inefficiencies generated by immaturity than other children. Thus, wherever possible, we need to “stack the deck” in favor of efficient conceptual growth, maturity, positive behavior, behavior management and success in academics.

One way of “stacking the deck” is to provide the child with enhanced chronological and mental age maturity. Remember, in respect to academics, our bias is toward older, right-handed, female children who are born in the winter and spring.  A left-handed, summer/fall birthdate, who happens to be male, is in jeopardy by many factors beyond his control. Give these children the gift of time, patience, self-esteem, emotional growth, behavior management and help with distraction and maturity development.

Characteristics of Children with Attention Deficit Disorder and Their Impact on Academics

Inattention – Almost every student has periods of inattention. With ADHD (attention deficit) children, it is the rule, rather than the exception. It can be manifested as short attention span, inattentiveness, an inability to sustain concentration or distraction.

Students may miss important parts of directions or have difficulty staying on task. They may forget the purpose of their communication to you as they become distracted by their own internal thoughts while speaking to you. Spaciness is another quality of distraction and inattentiveness which relates to the inability to focus on the flower print of your dress in contrast to the “flowery” words that you are speaking. This lack of attention span and difficulty staying on task is often  wrongly “diagnosed” as simple lack of maturity, distraction, behavioral problems, irritability and other behavior management issues – when instead it’s the ADHD (attention deficit) which is plaguing the child.

Distraction – is the student’s susceptibility to being pulled off task or sidetracked by stimuli which are not relevant to the task at hand. Distractions may be internal, such as feelings of hunger, or gas, or external – a car, the seam of a sock, a piece of lint on a sweater. The Physiological inability to concentrate, lack of attention span and distraction, also manifests itself in a difficulty to complete long tasks that are perceived as boring. This difficulty to complete long tasks often has a positive element. The ADHD (attention deficit) child will start any task you give him or her – but simply will not finish these tasks.

Impulsive – The inability to think before acting and to tolerate a delay of reinforcement is considered to be the most difficult behavioral characteristic of ADHD (attention deficit), especially in adolescents and adults. The characteristic of ADHD (attention deficit) that differentiates them from conduct disorder or children with disobedient temperament, is that their behavioral transgressions are typically not malicious – rather, they’re simply unthinking. Impulsive behavior contributes to disorganization, forgetfulness and the lack of ability to anticipate implications of actions. Excitability, limited tolerance to frustration, poor future planning, excessive shifting from one activity to another, difficulty in group situations, are characteristics of this impulsive child.

Immaturity – The ADHD (attention deficit) child typically presents emotional, physical, neurological and social immaturity. They are frustrated in their lack of maturity, distraction, lack of attention span, inattention and typically low academics.

Activity Level Problems– Children with ADHD (attention deficit) vary in their activity levels, ranging from hypoactive to hyperactivity. Be cautious, do not under-identify children who are lazy, disinterested and have a poor attitude. They are typically under-evaluated and under recognized. The more restrictive environment, the less rewarding the environment and the higher the concentration required, the more likely it is that restlessness and off-task behavior will occur.

Non Compliance – ADHD (attention deficit) students frequently do not mind in class and do not behave in socially acceptable ways when relating to fellow classmates. Non-compliance is the most evident behavioral problem of ADHD (attention deficit) children and sometimes is the result of deficits in self-control, problem-solving strategies and maturity. Non-compliant children who do not mind, who are argumentative, who disregard socially accepted behavioral expectations, who have behavioral  problems, and who present errors of omission more than commission, are significant issues for the teachers.

Attention-Getting Behavior – ADHD (attention deficit) children frequently have a high need to be noticed. Rather than using confusing terminology, it is most appropriate to label these children as children whose “need to be noticed” appears insatiable in contrast to using the term “attention seeking.” It is too easy to think that the attention deficit child is merely seeking to fill his or her deficit by “seeking attention.” Attention-getting behaviors are frequently carried out for the purpose of seeking stimulation, seeking feedback for behavior, seeking guidance for behavior or seeking acclaim. They are manifested in the constant asking of questions, in the use of foul language, negative behavior or behavioral problems, irritating behavior patterns, hyperactivity, distraction, irritability, bullying, obsessive compulsive and in all ways that cause focus to be centered on the individual.

Basic Theme II

In dealing with the ADHD (attention deficit) child, set your behavioral expectations approximately three to four years behind your chronological age-range expectations, and you will not be disappointed. As the educator, understand that most ADHD (attention deficit) children do not intentionally displaying negative behavior, behavioral problems, irritating behavior patterns, hyperactivity, distraction, irritability, etc.

Basic Theme III

The ADHD (attention deficit) child will frequently enjoy the company of younger children who are their neurological/maturational peers in contrast to their chronological age-mates.
Friendships with younger children are easily formed for ADHD (attention deficit) children who suffer from frustration, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, distraction, irritability and irritating behavior patterns. The ADHD (attention deficit) child feels safe befriending  younger children who enjoy similar events, activities and classwork as they do.

School Problems – The ADHD (attention deficit) child has trouble in the acquisition of content, within the typical school setting because he or she usually cannot concentrate and cannot complete their thoughts.

Basic Theme IV

The impact of ADHD (attention deficit) at any given moment in a child’s educational experience is a function of the task which the child is being required to complete, the inherent incentive value of that task, and the external incentive applied to the performance of that task. The biological cycle of the child, the level of novelty which the task presents, and the amount of one-to-one external direction applied at the moment of task completion will also impact upon the presentation of ADHD.

Learning which does not require concentration and disciplined effort, such as vocabulary, social comprehension and general information is less affected than academic tasks, which require repetition, memory and problem-solving. These children have difficulty in bringing information through the buffer of memory from immediate to short and finally to long term. Learning which you can acquire by “being there,” which does not require disciplined effort, such as vocabulary, general information and rapid social comprehensions are acquired more easily and effectively than learning which require problem-solving repetitions and memory work.

Emotional Difficulties – The emotional problems experienced by many ADHD children, may be the result of either or both physiological and psychological causes. They may have frequent, unpredictable mood swings, irritability, under-reaction to pain and insensitivity to danger. Frequently they are easily overstimulated and difficult to stop once stimulated.  Their low frustration tolerance and excessive emotional reactions to frustrating situations frequently make them unlikeable. Typical ADHD children receive from individuals a greater degree of negative comments than positive. They display temper outbursts and overall moodiness, they can also display a lack of energy and universally present a low self-esteem.

Poor Peer Relations – The problems with peers often begins in preschool, especially for the hyperactive child. Aggression and teasing are most frequently seen in this age-group, while bossiness, difficulty taking turns and impulsive acting out cause greater problems in elementary and secondary school. The ADHD child who is not overactive frequently shows a lack of confidence.

Interventions for success: General planning

Develop an Action Plan – You Can’t get There if you Don’t Know Where you Want to Go

  1. Conference with yourself and analyze the student’s strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Conference with the child to determine his perceptions.
  3. Gather information,including an in-depth psychological assessment of strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of  refining the differential diagnosis to define the antecedents – which things or events existed before or logically preceded the behavior in question.

Basic Theme V

Effort put on analyzing the situations that are antecedent to the behavior, will provide the greatest impact in respect to effectiveness of later intervention. Dealing with consequences of behavior provides inefficient strategies, which are more time consuming, overall less effective and much more stressful for the child, parent or teacher.

  1. Analyze information which has been developed.
  2. Set concrete goals through conferences with the student and the student’s parents.
  3. Establish weekly strategies.
  4. Meet with the parents and the student at defined intervals.
  5. Refer and use appropriate professionals.

– 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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