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Monday
16th November 2015
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TheBug Archie audio files are now playable again.

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), defined

These are the children we notice first.

They are on the go as if driven by a motor; they have far more energy than most, are described as 'wound up' and find it impossible to keep still. They have to move, have to talk and have to touch. Their impulsivity is immediately recognised as they touch things they were asked not to touch. They cannot seem to help it. These individuals are described as ‘over the top’ - loud, excitable and explosive - struggling to find the brakes when playing jokes, play fighting or enjoying themselves. Their excitability can verge on dangerous and jumps to new heights when they are overtired, overexcited or in the midst of a new situation.

At school, students with ADHD work quickly and erratically, often making the same 'silly' mistakes they made yesterday and the day before. They are forever sidetracked, genuinely finding it hard to pay attention and stay with one thought or activity for long. Commonly, they call out in class, even when asked to wait their turn. Teachers find them wandering the classroom fiddling with the belongings of others and engaging half a dozen students on different topics in the space of a minute or two.

When checked, they are almost always sorry, but a few minutes later they are doing it again. The combination of inattentiveness, impatience, impulsiveness and excitability has dire consequences for learning. Even though the student may be in the classroom full time, in reality they are only available to listen and gather information on a very part-time basis.

Learning problems, immaturity, poor memory, compulsiveness and mood difficulties also feature in the ADHD profile. Typically, wide fluctuations in attention and cooperation are noticed, depending on the nature of a task or the context in which the task is given. Many display chronic problems in sustaining attention for most study-related tasks; yet are able to concentrate very well on interests which highly motivate them.

Peers tend to avoid these children because of their oversensitive, overactive, impulsive and unpredictable behaviours. They are viewed as poor sports or team players as they cannot wait their turn. They have to win; and when they lose, their temper explodes just as quickly at school as it does at home. Once they lose their temper, overreaction and tantrums are unavoidable, even when the child becomes an adolescent.

ADHD and ADD are considered neurobiological conditions involving dysfunction in a variety of brain networks linked to the operation of executive functioning. The executive system is responsible for regulating thinking: planning and starting, maintaining and completing behaviours. ADHD and ADD are now viewed as disorders of performance, not specifically a lack of knowledge or skills. As a neurobiological condition, there is frequently a person somewhere in the family who has similar characteristics, as AttentionDeficit Hyperactivity Disorder without hyperactivity is now viewed as an inherited condition. Often, despite their difficulties, the adult will have made their way successfully in the world.

Recognition of this can be wonderfully affirming to students, helping to buoy their spirits and steer them in safer, more thoughtful directions.

So what can be done to support these children?

No doubt you have read a host of books and journals, listened to ‘world experts’ at conferences, surfed websites andexchanged information with colleagues and parents on this topic. The truth is how to support these students, at home, and in schools has been exhaustively documented. However, two central questions remain for consideration.

Firstly, how many of these strategies have you actually integrated into your practice - at home or at school? In the end, the best way to influence achild or teen's emotion, attitude or habit is to change what we do. Success is more than the acquisition of knowledge. It is placing the information and learning into action. All the best strategies involve setting routines, noticing and rewarding the behaviour we want, artfully avoiding public confrontations and modelling the behaviours we desire. Secondly, what value do you assign to these kids? Do you see them as nuisance value, or do you value their potential? There is no doubt about it, working with individuals who lack the capacity to apply what they have learnt in the past at the very moment they need it is testing.

The wisdom of hindsight whispers it is most productive to see these young people as whole, healthy human beings with boundless potential, albeit less directed at the moment.

Valuable links to websites on ADD and ADHD

http://www.chadd.org

http://www.ladswa.com.au

http://www.russellbarkley.org

http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/managing_adhd

http://www.apa.org/topics/adhd/index.aspx