Teaching teenagers diagnosed with ADHD

Career & Education

Teaching teenagers diagnosed with ADHD

Dr Karla Hylton

Sunday, March 01, 2020

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Editor's note: The following is a slightly edited re-run originally published on March 31, 2019

There is an increasing number of students being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in recent time. In fact, it is one of the most common childhood disorders, affecting approximately one in 10 students. This means that in a classroom of approximately 40 students, four may have the disorder.

The number is higher when one considers the those exhibiting similar behaviours but who have not been medically diagnosed.

ADHD tends to occur in greater frequency in males than in females, and scientists believe that affected students have a three-year delay in brain development. While the cause of ADHD is yet unknown, it has been suggested that it is genetic. Other factors that come into play are:

1. Environment

2. Brain chemistry

3. Traumatic brain injuries

4. Nutrition (food additives).

General symptoms of ADHD include lack of attention, impulsive behaviour, and in some cases hyperactivity. It is important to note that it is a myth that students diagnosed with ADHD must be hyperactive. Hyperactivity is only seen in few cases.

Teenagers with ADHD face the additional stress of increased expectations, both academically and socially. These pressures could intensify symptoms.

ADHD is associated with poor grades, poor reading and comprehension, poor maths skills, and behavioural problems in school. Deficits in working memory and recall is notable. These students often have sleep disturbances.

Research shows that intervention medically and academically is beneficial to these students. Medication has been shown to be effective in 75-90 per cent of students with ADHD. It is imperative that parents and medical professionals stress the value of medication to improvement of this condition. I have had students diagnosed with ADHD and who are being medically treated, 'decide' to discontinue their meds. If this occurs, intervention must happen as typically, a marked change in both behaviour and learning is observed.

Academic intervention

The single fact that a student has been diagnosed with ADHD does not mean that he or she is unable to perform well in school. Admittedly, this ADHD is a lifelong condition, but it becomes more manageable during adulthood and students, when managed correctly, can become successful and productive adults.

Considering the frequency of this disorder, it is necessary for educators to be trained in understanding the complexities of this condition as well as managing it in the classroom. Students may be disruptive in the classroom and will most likely require extra help with learning.

Parents must consider their child's teacher as a partner in guiding their child towards academic success, therefore parent-teacher communication is critical.

Some tips for parents and teachers to promote success in students with ADHD are:

• Seat students close to the teacher's desk and avoid distractions (eg away from windows and doors)

• Eliminate excessive noise

• Repeat and simplify instructions.

• Help students to break tasks into smaller units.

• Find a way to communicate homework to parents, as oftentimes these students are forgetful.

• If possible and affordable, provide students with an extra set of books to be kept at home.

• Provide extra time for tests.

• Evaluate students for giftedness.

• Praise students for good behaviour.

• Give frequent, short quizzes rather than one long test.

• Phrase directions in a positive way and redirect students. For example, rather than say “stop tapping your pencil” one could say “put your pencil down”.

• Ensure participation in a good physical activity such as an individual exercise programme, competitive sports, martial arts, yoga or dance.

• Encourage, encourage and encourage students. Remind them that a diagnosis of ADHD does not mean that they are inferior to others. Perhaps one could remind students of famous persons who have struggled with similar difficulties, such as Winston Churchill and Beethoven.

• Ensure proper nutrition. A balanced breakfast is vital to their success.

• It may be necessary to provide students with one- to-one tutoring to enhance learning and strengthen existing talents.

Dr Karla Hylton is a UWI lecturer and the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High School . She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com .

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