ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and is considered as a mental disorder. Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention, are hyperactive, and have difficulty controlling their behavior. It is estimated that it affects globally around 5% of all children aged 3 to 17 and that boys are 4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. Symptoms of ADHD often persist till adulthood and, if untreated, can have a profound effect on one’s life.
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD for short is often described as a mental disorder. Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention, are hyperactive, and often have difficulty controlling their behavior. It is estimated that it affects around 5% of all children aged 3 to 17 globally and that for every girl, around three boys are diagnosed with it.
To understand how it affects children in school, let’s look at the story of Leo, a 12-year-old boy who goes to school with the best intentions, but struggles hard to succeed.
His biggest problem is his attention deficit. Leo gets distracted so easily. It happens, even when he tries his hardest to focus. He often realizes that he has suddenly zoned out and has spent the last 15 minutes thinking about something entirely different. Just the tiniest thing can get him off track. To him, it feels like his brain is broken.
He is also forgetful. Books and homework are often left at home and if he doesn’t miss an assignment, he often loses it somewhere or forgets to turn it in. His grades are terrible and some teachers are beginning to think that he is a lost cause.
Then there is his hyperactivity. When they have to do group work he is restless and has trouble staying focused. Staying calm and listening while others speak can completely drain him, making any normal conversation a serious challenge.
To him, it feels like there is no capacity left in his brain to deal with all the input that needs to be processed. He then feels angry about not being able to follow along. To help cope with his hyperactivity, he likes to keep his hands busy all the time.
Last, there is his impulsive behavior. He often can not refrain from saying things that come to his mind. Sometimes he tries hard to control himself, but then just blurs out and interrupts others. His classmates find this annoying.
He later regrets his hotheaded behavior, but he knows that unfortunately, he will do it again and again. It seems to him that he can’t learn from his mistakes. Teachers get frustrated trying to get him to behave. Others become impatient, give up or distance themselves.
Helping Leo cope in class
After he is diagnosed and receives support through concrete steps, things begin to get better: At school, he is seated next to a supportive student in front of the class. He gets a notebook that lists all his assignments, to help him remember. And to make homework easier to track, he receives it for all subjects only once a week. To relax, he is allowed to use fidget objects during lessons and take short breaks when needed. After school, he practices speaking and listening routines with a specialist. Additionally, his dad bike’s with him to school every morning and in the afternoon he is allowed to play the ball as long as he wishes.
Roots of ADHD
For severe cases of ADHD, prescription drugs are often prescribed to children. Before that happens, children like Leo need to undergo a professional age-appropriate diagnosis by a child psychologist who will try to look below the surface. ADHD could just be the tip of the iceberg. The root cause might be drama at home, bullying at school, poor sleep or the wrong diet.
The true story of Gillian Lynne
Sir Ken Robinson told the story of Gillian Lynne. An 8-year-old girl that was said to have a learning disorder. She could not concentrate and never sat still. When she was brought to the specialist, he didn’t give her pills but instead played music on the radio. The girl started dancing. He then told her mother: “Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” Gillian Lynne later became a famous dancer, and then responsible for some of the most successful musicals in Broadway history.
- Overview of ADHD symptoms and Behaviour – by Child Mind Institute
- What does it feel like to have ADHD – a reference at ADHD Collective
- Children, Doctors, Big Pharma, and the Making of an American Epidemic – Book Review
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – Overview om Wikipedia
- Read the full script here – by Sprouts
Read about the flip side and get a better picture with criticism and historical context here:
- Overselling A.D.H.D.: A New Book Exposes Big Pharma’s Role – opinion piece by New York Times
- Do Typical ADHD Traits Offer Advantages to Entrepreneurs? – a brand new perspective
- The Benefits of ADHD – a fresh take on things by Health Line
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder controversies – digging deeper with Wikipedia
- The Not-So-Hidden Cause Behind the A.D.H.D. Epidemic – New York Times report
We all have those days when we would “rather be somewhere else” when our attention fizzles away faster than a seafoam; and yet, there are many effective ways which can help you regain your students’ attention and then help them direct it towards what matters! Our brains are tuned to novelty, so spicing up the normal routine with a puzzle, memory game or a physical brain teaser can work wonders.
And in reverse, research continuously shows how focused-attention practice strengthens our attention span and how a quiet mind becomes much more open to the stimulation it receives. Breathing and meditative exercises are particularly effective!
Try combining the two approaches by breaking the routine lesson with a crazy activity and then teaching your students how to focus their attention back to the present moment. And let us know how it goes! For some great resources, click here.