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About ADD and ADHD in the classroom

It is important for teachers to have some understanding about ADD and ADHD to be able to recognize whether or not students have this condition and how to modify their teaching methods to be successful with these children. Teachers, especially at the elementary level, are often the first professionals to identify these conditions in their students.

ADD was originally recognized and is short for Attention Deficit Disorder. It is now considered to be a subtype of the more general condition known as ADHD, short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but without the hyperactivity component. ADHD is not considered to be a learning disability on its own, although about one quarter to one third of children with ADHD also have a learning disability.

The three main characteristics that mark the ADHD child are inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. These three characteristics tend to be present, in an ADHD child, in one of three subtypes. The predominantly hyperactive/impulsive subtype does not show particular inattentiveness. The predominantly inattentive subtype does not show the hyperactive/impulsive behaviour and corresponds to what was formerly known about ADD. Finally, the combined subtype shows all three characteristics of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

It used to be thought that ADHD was the product of upbringing and family environment. While it is certainly true that the family environment can accentuate the condition, as well as play a major role in helping it, it is now believed that ADHD is the result of a genetic biochemical condition in the brain. This condition affects neurotransmitters in the frontal lobe, where information is brought together, and the parietal area, where sensory information is processed. The parietal lobe is the primary area of the brain affecting the inattentiveness of the ADHD condition.

Here are some signs to look out for in your students. While many of them are common to all students (and even some of us who are older!), a student who displays many of these symptoms may be an ADHD student.

  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Mistake prone, but mostly the mistakes are careless
  • Has trouble holding their attention on activities or play that requires it
  • Has trouble organizing and planning activities or assignments
  • Can’t keep still
  • Constantly loses things needed to perform activities or assignments (pens and pencils, instructions, tools)
  • Has difficulty working or playing quietly
  • Interrupts or blurts out answers before the question is finished
  • Doesn’t finish assignments or jobs, although they were started
  • Forgets completed homework at home
  • Has an aversion to tasks that required sustained mental effort
  • Forgetful in normal activities

If you can identify some of your students in the above, take heart. As you learn about ADD and ADHD you will find there are methods that have been proven to work with these children.

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