Educating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Children

By McFarland, Dianna L.; Kolstad, Rosemarie et al. | Education, Summer 1995 | Go to article overview

Educating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Children


McFarland, Dianna L., Kolstad, Rosemarie, Briggs, L. D., Education


A large number of elementary school students have a condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This phenomenon creates problems for the ADHD student. other students in the classroom, and the teacher. The purpose of this article is to identify the characteristics of children with ADHD and to examine the medical and behavioral means of remediating and controlling the condition. Furthermore, this article will focus on ways that elementary teachers can cope with these students.

ADHD is a relatively new term used to describe a condition that has been around for hundreds of years, yet the disorder has been the focus of research and study only during the last fifty or sixty years. In the 1930s and 1940s, children who experienced what is now called ADHD were considered to be brain injured or brain damaged. In the 1950s the condition was frequently referred to as "minimal" brain damage or brain dysfunction.

During the decade of the 1960s, educators commonly used the term "hyperactive." Throughout these years ADHD studies focused on excessive motor activity or hyperactivity; however, in the 1970s educators realized that hyperactivity was not always involved. Consequently in 1980 the American Psychological Association adopted the term "attention deficit disorder" (ADD), which encompassed individuals with and without hyperactivity. Several years later the association changed the term to "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," noting that ADHD included attention problems, impassivity, and hyperactivity in differing proportions (Burnley, 1993).

ADHD is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, an inability to concentrate, difficulties in social relationships, and a lack of self-control. Hyperactivity is defined as excessively or abnormally active. This disease has been defined as deficits in sustained attention, impulse control, and the regulation of activity level to situational demands (Barkley, 1991).

That ADHD is a condition affecting many children is well know, but just bow many is not. Researchers in the United States seem to be in fairly close agreement that the condition affects from 3 to 5 percent of the population, with some estimates as high as 10 percent. Although the condition has not been closely studied in many countries, apparently ADHD call be found in the student populations of most countries and among all ethnic groups (Barkley, 1991).

Unfortunately, many beginning teachers are ill-equipped to deal with the ADHD students they encounter. In truth, some teachers may not even know what ADHD means or how to identify the condition (Buchoff, 1990). To identify ADHD children, teachers must be familiar with the symptoms. The most common traits of children experiencing ADHD include hyperactivity, excessive movement, unexpected action, short attention span, lack of social skills, insubordinate and disruptive behavior, easy frustration, learning difficulties, variability in behavior, and coordination difficulties (Beugin, 1990). More concrete examples of classroom behavior of ADHD students include an inability to remain in one's seat, to reply at appropriate times, to cease inappropriate talking, and to keep from interrupting others. Furthermore, these students are easily distracted and have difficulty concentrating. Yet they will frequently alternate such inattentiveness with a focus on a particular task that becomes so intense they cannot switch their attention when directed to do so by the teacher. Frequently, these students have learning disabilities that range from mild to severe (Buchoff, 1990, McCall, 1989).

Each fall, tens of thousands of beginning elementary teachers start their careers as classroom teachers. More than likely in the early weeks of teaching most of these teachers will encounter students suffering from ADHD. In layman's terms, children suffering from this malady tend to be extremely active and to have problems focusing their attention, thereby being unable to concentrate on a task sufficiently.

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