As more people are being labelled with ADHD today while parent-child dynamics continue to change, one of the rising questions is: how can kids and youths with ADHD be trained to cope with this learning difference? ADHD can, in many cases (including my own experiences of working with youths that have it), be turned from an actual difficulty into a tool that helps the learner to achieve. In order to do that, we need to know what ADHD is and is not, and what causes its negative traits to flare up.
What ADHD is
ADHD is a learning difference that can be identified by learners who are impulsive and/or are more likely to lose focus on tasks at-hand; ADHD is also likely to affect the learner’s executive functioning (e.g. working memory and coherence of thought). At the moment, research is still inconclusive as to an actual, confirmed cause for ADHD. There are threads being followed, like a slower development of the frontal cortex being associated with ADHD, but the verdict is still out there.
Perceptions of ADHD
Knowing what ADHD is is only part of the solution. Recognising and understanding its traits (and the often untrue or over-exaggerated beliefs associated with it) is the next step. Here are some of the things you, the parent or educator, might want to look out for, and how you can sway the tide in yours and the learner’s favour.
Belief: Young people with ADHD cannot focus.
Trait: It is true that people with ADHD have it harder when it comes to focusing, but here’s the kicker — if they’re interested in something, they will be hyper-focused on it. When handling ADHD kids, find out what they’re interested in, and use their interests to reel them in. If they’re interested in Minecraft and you’re teaching Math, use Minecraft voxels to teach multiplication; if they enjoy playing first-person shooters, use screencaps from such games to draw analogues when teaching descriptive writing. This trait brings me to the next popular belief…
Belief: Young people with ADHD need to keep moving.
Trait: Due to heightened levels of energy in people with ADHD, yes they do need to move. **HOWEVER** (and this is a big one), there are two things I need to point out — firstly, they can sit still and focus on things they’re actually interested in (see above); secondly, this is a major indicator of whether or not they’re interested in something. Use this to your advantage to better understand your child’s interests. Ideally, you’ll want them to sit still while doing something productive (rather than playing or watching videos on the mobile/tablet), so work towards that.
Belief: Letting kids with ADHD access mobile phones/tablets is a good way to calm them down.
Trait: Sure it makes them quiet and less active for a while, but beneath the facade, it is likely exacerbating the symptoms for when they’re not on the device, either due to the way people interact with such devices, or due to EMF emissions. In other words, it is the equivalent of taking one step forwards and two steps back.
Belief: ADHD is a result of poor discipline.
Trait: ADHD is widely believed to be hereditary. That being said, discipline is still important, but be moderate with it. Poor discipline practices (either from a lapse in or going overboard with) can aggravate the symptoms of ADHD. In some extreme cases, it can even lead to the development of Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Speaking of discipline, here’s a trick I use in the classroom: if your child is all over the place and refuses to listen, rather than shouting (which, while useful and has its place in certain situations, does not always work), try lowering your voice until he/she is forced to lean over to listen, and proceed to be amazed when your child actually consents to whatever you want him/her to do.
Belief: ADHD cannot be overcome / ADHD can only be suppressed with medication (Ritalin, Concerta, etc).
Trait: ADHD, indeed, cannot be cured, but it can be mitigated to a state where it does not manifest in one’s mannerisms. As with a lot of learning differences, ADHD can be circumvented through multiple ways. In my professional career, 25% of my learners, past and existing, have been formally diagnosed with ADHD. Of this group, not one takes medication prior to our educational therapy sessions. All of them have been able to listen attentively, for one single reason: they were taught how to do so. They were taught things that we normally take for granted, qualities such as mindfulness, information/keyword filters, and the ability to control one’s emotions (e.g. through controlled breathing). Building on the ego and sense of identity also helps ADHD learners to be more aware of themselves, and to take responsibility for their actions. ADHD learners are fully capable of acquiring these qualities, which in my opinion is the best path to cutting back on the negative traits of ADHD.
Belief: People with short attention spans have ADHD.
Trait: People who demonstrate long attention spans can have ADHD too. Again, this comes down to interest and how the inattention manifests in the child’s/youth’s actions. Besides, haven’t you been in a lecture before that was boring to the point of making you fidget and check your phone every 10 minutes? But, you don’t have ADHD, do you? :)
Turning your child's ADHD to his/her advantage (and yours)
ADHD, as with all learning differences, has disadvantages (which is why some people call them ‘learning difficulties’). Despite this, it is important to understand that it is not an absolute hindrance. Knowing how to circumvent its issues, while tapping on what it can offer, will go a long way towards helping students with ADHD cope better, and even excel in areas of strength and interest. Understanding ADHD from a glass-half-full perspective is key to developing solutions. If you’re keen on knowing more about ADHD and other learning differences, do follow Swords & Stationery on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on future posts; the next post will likely focus on strategies to help ADHD kids focus. Thanks for reading this lengthy post, and have a great week ahead.