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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Tools for Understanding

    Ryan (not his real name) was frustrated. Before he was diagnosed with ADHD—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—he struggled to get through each day in the classroom and then each night trying to focus on getting all his homework finished. Like most children diagnosed with ADHD, Ryan has difficulty with attention and learning, which can lead to additional problems in behavior, social skills and self-esteem. His mother, also frustrated, worked diligently with Ryan’s teachers and schools to have him tested and diagnosed, and to get him the right tools to succeed.
    “It’s a full-time job sometimes. Kids are mislabeled as bad kids and disruptive when it’s not their faults,” says Ryan’s mom. “ADHD kids need tutors and extra attention. They are dealing with low self-esteem and depression—all while just trying to be a normal kid.”
    Depending on which expert you ask, anywhere from 3 percent to 8 percent of school-age children are affected by attention-related difficulties, the result of a neurobiological disorder related to problems with the dopamine neurotransmitter systems in the brain.
    Symptoms of ADHD are many and far ranging, making the disorder difficult to diagnose. Ryan’s mother notes that he had a poor attention span, weak impulse control and hyperactivity or restlessness. Other symptoms include fidgeting,
blurting out and interrupting, forget-fulness, difficulty organizing, and avoiding activities that require long periods of concentration (like homework).
There are several subgroups of ADHD; not all include hyperactivity.
    “Many parents don’t want their children to be labeled ADHD. As a parent, you don’t want your kid to be different in any way, and you want them to be successful,” says Mary Lanctot, a special resource teacher in Alameda. However, she notes, diagnosis is the first step to getting ADHD children on track for success in school and life skills.
    Poor nutrition, ineffective parenting, drugs or allergies do not cause ADHD. There are other medical conditions that can cause ADHD-like symptoms (such as severe head trauma, thyroid problems, fetal alcohol syndrome and lead intoxication). A professional evaluation should be obtained to rule out other medical conditions and to diagnose the issue properly. In some cases, doctors will prescribe medications to
alleviate the extreme symptoms of the disorder and help get students on track. Other aids include behavior modification and working with parents and schools.
    “It can make a world of difference when a parent works together with the teacher to help the student,” Lanctot says, adding that taking care of the disorder will help prevent absences from school, as well as serious social and behavioral problems as children grow older.
    Lanctot believes that much can happen in the classroom to help ADHD kids stay organized and complete important tasks. These tips work for both teachers and parents:
    • Make eye contact with the child.
    • Have the child sit close to the teacher and close to the parent/tutor when working on schoolwork.
    • Understand what kind of learning styles the child uses—is he visual, auditory or tactile/kinesthetic?
    • Be very specific when giving instruction or directions.
    Getting the help he needed has made an incredible difference in Ryan’s performance at school and in his day-to-day life, but that’s not the end of the story.
    “This is something that he will always be working on,” says his mom. “We’ll be working on it together.” n

Closer to Home

CHADD of Alameda County, www.chadd.org, (510) 581-9941

East Bay Learning Disabilities Association, www.eastbaylda.org, (510) 433-7934

AD/HD Awareness Week (September)

General Resources

How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD: Practical Techniques, Strategies, and Interventions,by Sandra F. Rief, M.A.; 2005.

Parenting Children With ADHD: 10 Lessons That Medicine Cannot Teach (APA Lifetools), by Vincent J. Monastra, Ph.D.; 2004.

Health Agencies and Web Sites
Attention Deficit Disorder Association, www.add.org, (856) 439-9099

Children and Adults With Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, www.chadd.org, (301) 306-7070

All Kinds of Minds, www.allkindsofminds.org, (888) 956-4637

OneADDplace: The Source for ADD and ADHD Information, www.oneaddplace.com

The National Resource Center on AD/HD, www.help4adhd.org


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