What is Different About Our Kids?

Kids with ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder),             or LD (Learning Disabilities), have similar traits. Some major ones that make them different:

Difficulty focusing and filtering out noise and unimportant stimuli.  Focusing and concentration takes real effort for these kids. Consequently, eye contact, repeating of material, and much more personal interaction is needed for them to stay on task. Because this process can be exhausting for them, their teachers, and their parents, we have a half day of school on Fridays. Homework is assigned on a case-by-case basis. Ironically, these kids tend to hyper-focus on computers and TV, and are often video game junkies. Therefore, software learning, video, or television work well in the classroom (although frequent breaks are needed).

 

Difficulty remaining organized. In general, individuals with attention deficit issues are inherently disorganized in school, work, and life. Consequently, AD students constantly lose assignments, misplace books, etc. Organizational skills must be taught repeatedly. For this reason, book-bags/backpacks are not recommended in our classrooms, as they are distracting and impossible to maintain. Giving them exclusively what they need, when they need it, works best. Also, AD students are extremely poor note takers and do best with pre-printed study guides.

 

Difficulty staying still. Because of their hyperactivity and difficulty focusing, AD students require less stimuli (visual and otherwise). Most children respond well to  bright colors and visually exciting environments, but AD kids typically do better in minimally decorated, lower light, quiet classrooms. They work best by themselves and sometimes require barriers between themselves and their classmates. Peaceful background music may also be beneficial.

Frequent breaks and increased physical activity are imperative. These kids in general have trouble just sitting in seats. So, we recognize that they may need to stand and/or move around while they are thinking or listening.

They cannot have too much down time. As you explain something to one child and then go to the next child, the first child cannot do the problem and then wait for further instructions. Even that short delay can easily derail a student. If they have a long term project always on their desks, that they may work on once they have completed a task and are waiting for further instructions, the classroom experience becomes more manageable. Constant contact with parents, much more frequent than a typical classroom, is invaluable. Parents and teachers must work together to determine what works and doesn't work for each child - learning and behavior wise - because no one is more familiar with and invested in that child's progress than the parent(s). A strong partnership between home and school is required for success.

 

Information Processing Difficulties. The term "learning disability" refers to an inability to perform in keeping with one's IQ level. It does connote a low IQ. LD students have the capability and intelligence to learn and eventually get it, but they also have filters that make initial processing more difficult. Where most of us can hear instructions and process them in a millisecond, these kids usually have to repeat things to themselves many times to get it.Processing is slower. So, if they are told to get their Math books out, turn to page ten, and do problems one through five, their minds get busy processing "Get your Math books out" and the rest of the instructions are lost. Multi-step instructions need to be given slower and separated with pauses. Test instructions especially. It needs to be okay for them to ask question during a test. Some need minimal instructions to take a test. Others can only be given the instructions orally, one question at a time. Repetition is expected. It can be frustrating to teach the same thing over and over again or repeat the same instructions constantly, so patience is needed. Some days they get it and some days they do not. We take advantage of the good days by requiring more, and get through the bad days by requiring less. 

 

Self Esteem Issues. AD students are smart enough to realize that they are different. They may have self esteem issues, and they definitely need a lot of positive reinforcement so that they do not give up or get angry.  They need successes. Consequently, they do better with similar kids. As in the example above with the Math book - if a student thought that her peers would laugh at her for asking the teacher to repeat instructions again, she might just throw down the Math book and yell that she hated Math. Kids would much rather be perceived as bad rather than stupid.  Our objective should be to teach the material, with less focus on grades. If we have to keep one child on one page for two weeks and test him or her three times before he or she gets it, we have to find a way to make that normal and okay.