ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Students with ADHD display an ongoing pattern of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity that is severe and consistent enough to interfere with everyday functioning. These behaviours are due to the way the student’s brain works, not to a lack of understanding of the content being covered or as a response to a situation or a particular person. Some children only display one of the symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, but most exhibit a combined type of ADHD with two or more of the above characteristics.
Students with ADHD have difficulty with executive function, or managing and regulating their own thoughts. They have a harder time controlling their impulses, thinking before acting, making a plan and sticking to it, telling their brain when to be active and when to be still, controlling emotional responses, and staying focused when they are not especially interested. As a result, they may find a number of aspects of school life more challenging than their neurotypical peers.
ADHD is the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorder, and, while a number of misunderstandings persist, there is a growing body of research to support our knowledge and understanding of ADHD. There are a number of evidence-based strategies that can be used to support students with ADHD in the classroom.
- Students with ADHD are at a higher risk for low academic achievement: they are frequently recommended for special education programmes and experience more discipline problems. While educators often focus exclusively on behavioural interventions, it is crucially important also to target missed academic skills. In order to help students with ADHD, teachers must remember to address gaps in foundational knowledge, behavioural and study skills, and organisational or executive functioning interventions. Students with ADHD are often creative and innovative thinkers, talented in the arts, imaginative, curious, and willing to take risks. Teachers who focus on student strengths can help to create learners who are more engaged and thus more likely to improve.
- Do I know which of my students have ADHD?
- Have I asked the students what would help them to learn and be successful in my class?
- Have I engaged with parents and whanau to better understand the needs of my students?
- Have I set up my classroom environment to best support the needs of my students?
- Have I considered how to help my students with ADHD to focus on and pursue their strengths?
- Do I know where to go if I need more support?
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