Factors Influencing Teaching Strategies Used with Children Who Display Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Characteristics

Article excerpt

Introduction

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has become the most widely diagnosed psychiatric condition among children in the United States. Estimates of the percentage of children affected with ADHD vary from study to study, ranging two to nine percent, but is generally accepted to affect five percent of the population of children under age eighteen (Taylor, 1997), Many children who exhibit the behaviors that are characteristic of ADHD experience significant problems in the classroom. Their grade-level failure rate is two to three times as high as children who do not exhibit ADHD characteristics, and approximately half of these children repeat a grade by the time they reach adolescence (Appalachia Educational Laboratory, 1995). These facts demonstrate a need for greater understanding of these behaviors, as well as a need for greater understanding of the variables that affect how teachers work with students who demonstrate the behaviors that are currently labeled "ADHD".

Literature Review

ADHD has gone through a series of names since it was first documented in 1845, including (but not limited to) "restlessness syndrome", "minimal brain dysfunction" and "hyperkinetic reaction disorder" (Eisenberg and Esser, 1997; Moghadam and Fagan, 1994). However, in those earlier years, children who displayed the behaviors that are now commonly known as "ADHD" were often viewed as trouble-making, lazy or disobedient children. In the 1970s, researchers began to more closely study these behaviors. As this research progressed during the following two decades, ADHD came to be viewed as a medical disorder, as opposed to a behavioral or environmentally-influenced problem (Christian, 1997; Conrad, 1980 and 1975). At the present time, academic databases contain thousands of articles that focus on ADHD. A commonly-used social science database, PsycINFO, contains 3,259 academic articles referencing ADHD. Within the educational field, the ERIC database contains 615 articles on the subject. Popular books, available by purchase or loan at public libraries, are a more readily accessible avenue of information among the general population. "Amazon.com", one of the largest on-line distributors of books in the United States, lists 147 books on the subject of ADHD. Much of the academic research on ADHD is aimed at ascertaining the etiology of ADHD, along with studying the life-long effects of the disorder. In contrast, the popular books on the subject often attempt to provide useful and practical information to the parents on how to understand their child and how to cope with the difficulties that arise with ADHD.

With either approach -- academic literature or popular literature -- information is scant as to how teachers actually work with students who display the behaviors associated with ADHD. The present research provides this specific information. Moreover, the mere existence of the vast array of articles and books on the subject does not guarantee that the literature will reach the teachers, nor is it a guarantee that suggestions will be put into practice when it does reach them. This research indicates that certain teachers are more likely than others to utilize "positive" teaching strategies (described below) on a regular basis, as well as indicating that receipt of material about ADHD, along with methods to accommodate students who display the behaviors associated with ADHD, from school administrators is a statistically significant factor in increasing the frequency of use of positive teaching strategies. (For the sake of brevity, this variable will hereinafter be referred to as "receipt of information about ADHD").

It has been argued that a teacher's tolerance level of ADHD behaviors will affect how a child who is perceived to have ADHD will be treated in the classroom (Calhoun et al., 1997). That tolerance level may also influence the manner in which a teacher chooses to work with students who display the behaviors related to ADHD. …