What it means to have ADHD: myths and truths

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In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD) is one of the most common learning difficulty among children and teenagers in Singapore, affecting nearly 5% (Singapore Med J, 2007) of our students. What does it mean to have ADHD? What are some of the common misconceptions and truths? Sit tight, and let’s find out!

[See also: What Swords & Stationery does to help students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other specific learning differences]

Having ADHD means one will never be able to sit still while doing work

False. With clear, engaging instructions and volume control, I’ve managed to get all of my students to do their work with minimal fidgeting. Often, if they begin to drift off or fidget, it’s a sign that they do not understand what’s being taught, or that the task is too complex for them.

adhd cannot focus

Having ADHD means one will never be able to focus on his/her work

False. Again, with the right set of instructions and motivations, students can be conditioned to focus. In fact, research from the MIND Institute of UC Davis suggests that fidgeting can help the student to focus better on the task. That leads us to…

…Hyperfocus being a trait of ADHD

True. Students with ADHD can develop an intense focus (also known as hyperfocus) on things they are very interested in. By conditioning them to have a positive learning attitude, they can produce remarkable results.

Children naturally grow out of ADHD once they reach adulthood

False. Although there is a sample of the population who will learn to circumvent the challenges of ADHD, not all do. Constant guidance and learning strategies are extremely important to helping children cope with ADHD.

Students with ADHD are naturally rude or naughty

False. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD) can be co-morbidities of ADHD. However, it is wrong to assume that students with ADHD are naturally rude/naughty. I used to have students who would lash out at others over the slightest provocation, but these were usually symptoms of anger escalated by the impulsiveness trait of ADHD, rather than direct symptoms of ADHD. In fact, these same students were genuinely sweet, respectful and honest towards me, partially because I demonstrated the same level of respect to them. Children and teens with ADHD are not naturally rude because of ADHD. Instead, rudeness is a sign that there is another problem that should be quickly nipped in the bud.

adhd naughty mischievous rude

Children and teens with ADHD are not naturally rude because of ADHD. Instead, rudeness is a sign that there is another problem that should be quickly nipped in the bud.

[Need help with dyslexia? Check out our comprehensive guide to getting help for dyslexia in Singapore]

What ADHD means for students, parents and educators

The American Psychological Association defines ADHD as “a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines challenging”. In my professional observation, it is also a complex condition that affects individuals differently — no two students with ADHD have the exact same learning profile.

For students, this means that they have to be more self-aware. They need to develop introspection and self-reflection.

For parents and educators, they have to understand that ADHD is not a personality issue. Rather, it is a condition that should be addressed through patience and guidance (and medication, if necessary).

The bottom line is, those with ADHD aren’t very different from those without. Just like everyone else, a child with ADHD needs love, care and guidance from family and friends. What ADHD means is that we, as a society, need to continue finding interesting ways to motivate and engage our students.

And that’s the way we should be going anyway, because students should find joy in learning.

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Teacher Shaun

Teacher Shaun

...is a self-professed geek and lover of all things old-school. When he's not playing Fallout or Deus Ex for the nth time, he can be found sitting in front of his laptop hacking away at his keyboard, typing blog posts like this one. He also runs a little company called Swords & Stationery.
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