Educational Problems Encountered by Children with ADHD, and Some Solutions

A group of students in their graduation caps and gowns

Low attention and concentration levels

children with ADHD have a great deal of difficulty filtering out unnecessary inputs. They are easily distracted and have a short attention span. Some children have problems with visual inputs and may be distracted by the movements of people or other forms. Some have difficulty with sound inputs such as people talking or background noise. Students with ADHD have greater difficulty listening to important messages when they are presented with unimportant detail. These students also have more difficulty thinking while in the presence of interesting conversation. Failure to selectively attend to small changes could explain some of the deficits observed with mixed-action, -operation, and -order-of-operation word problems (Zentall 1993). The Dunedin study explored behavioural distinctions in children with reading disabilities and/or ADHD (Pisecco, Baker, Silva et al 1996).

Impulsivity

Impulsivity is shown in the child’s difficulty in withholding active responses (blurting out statements; grabbing materials). Impulsivity produces academic errors, primarily because an individual fails to wait long enough to consider alternative information, consequences, or responses. According to Silver (1990) some children have “short fuses”; they do not stop to think before acting.

Children with ADHD are also less likely to ask for help. That is, they do not request additional confirmatory information when it involves delaying action (Whalen, Henker, Collins et al 1979).

Low self-esteem

Academic and social difficulties make it very likely that children with ADHD experience a high rate of negative feedback on their abilities and a high rate of negative interactions with significant others in their environment. It is not surprising, then, that many children with ADHD also have a poor self-concept and low self-esteem (Weiss, Hechtman and Perlman 1978).

Difficulty with socialization

In addition to academic problems, children with ADHD tend to have many difficulties in social relationships. research has shown that hyperactive children tend to elicit negative, harsh, and conflicting interactions from both parents and teachers (Whalen, Henker and Dotemoto 1980). Children with ADHD seem to elicit similar negative reactions from peers, since they are often unpopular or rejected by their peers (Johnston, Pelham and Murphy 1985) even as young as preschool-age (Milich, Landau, Kilbey et al 1982).

Improving socialization is appropriate for children who are deficient in social behavior skills and experience peer relational difficulties. Training is undertaken which is designed to increase knowledge of appropriate and inappropriate social behaviors and to help children to put into practice behaviors that are appropriate. The various target skills taught may include maintaining eye contact, initiating and maintaining conversation, and sharing/cooperating. Role-play exercises with group feedback are typically used. Due to the frequency of behavioral disruptions that occur, some form of group contingency management system is usual.

Overcoming Learning Difficulties

Information processing

Silver (1990) describes an information processing model of learning. It is made up of four steps, the first of which is the process of recording information in the brain (input). In regard to learning, the child might have a visual or an auditory perception disability. Next, the information is organised and understood (integration), information must be placed in the correct sequence, understood in the context in which it is used (abstraction), and then integrated with all other information being processed (organisation). Some children might have difficulty in one or more of these steps, but these problems may be primarily with either visual or auditory input.

Once information is recorded and integrated, it must be stored so that it can be retrieved later. In general, there are two types of memory: short-term and long-term, children can present with difficulties in either or both of these forms. Once information is integrated, it can be communicated through words (language output) or through motor output. Children can have disabilities in one or both of these output channels.

Assessment and close observation will help teachers understand children’s areas of learning disabilities as well as their abilities. Teachers will need to learn how to help children build on their strengths rather than let them become frustrated by focusing on areas of weakness.

Those interventions with the most empirical justification are those that provide instruction in the precise academic skills that are deficient, such as phonetic word decoding or oral and written language skills. Carefully designed investigations using these approaches have yielded solid evidence for impressive treatment efficacy in children with specific reading disabilities (Lovett, Ransby, Hardwick et al 1989). It is important to consider that if the achievement gains are to be maintained, interventionists must also take into account ancillary aspects of academic learning problems in children, including motivational variables and the child’s attributing of failures and gains to either controllable or uncontrollable causes (Licht and Kistner 1986). Indeed, far more research is needed on the ability of remedial interventions to effect long-term gains for children with ADHD and learning deficits.

Curriculum and instructional management practices

When school personnel are deciding on a particular strategy to be used for the management of ADHD, they will need to keep in mind the individual child’s development level and their particular strength. The teacher should teach to the child’s strengths and abilities.

Consistency of management between home and school

For maximum benefit to the child, the unique features of the classroom need to be considered when implementing programs across the school and home environments. A variety of approaches have successfully been used by schools such as communication books, regular meeting times and periodic reviews. Consistently using similar procedures and strategies within the school and home settings in addressing the same target behaviors maximizes the chances for successful outcomes.

Key points – educational management

Educational management of ADHD needs to focus on maximizing attention and concentration, countering impulsive behavior, improving self-esteem and socialization, assisting in overcoming learning difficulties and promoting consistency of management between home and school. Management methods include skills training, role plays and teacher assessment and observation.

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