ADD/ADHD Alternatives in the Classroom

ADD/ADHD Alternatives in the Classroom

ADD/ADHD Alternatives in the Classroom

ADD/ADHD Alternatives in the Classroom


What does it mean to a kid to be labeled attention deficit disordered (ADD)? Or to have "hyperactive" added to the label (ADHD)? What can teachers do to boost the success of students with attention and behavioral difficulties? Are we relying too much on medication for these kids and not enough on new perspectives on learning, child development, the child's socioeconomic and cultural background, biological and psychological research, and the learner's emotional and social needs?

Armstrong urges educators and parents to look for the positive characteristics in learners who may carry the ADD/ADHD label. Are they bursting with energy? Are they intensely creative? Do they enjoy hands on learning? Are they natural leaders? Are they unusually introspective and reflective? We need to look beyond a "deficit" approach and embrace a more holistic view of learners that includes teaching to their multiple intelligences, learning styles, and other brain friendly approaches. For example, here are some classroom activities for kids who "can't sit still":

• Learning spelling words by having kids jump up out of their seats on the vowels and sit down on the consonants.

• Mastering the multiplication tables by forming a conga line, moving around the classroom counting from 1 to 30 out loud, and on every multiple of 3 shaking their hips and legs.

• Showing patterns of molecular bonding in chemistry class through a "swing your atom" square dance.


In 1962, Thomas S. Kuhn, a professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that stands as one of the most significant contributions to intellectual history in the 20th century (Kuhn, 1970). In his book, Kuhn introduced the word paradigm as a way of talking about scientific belief systems that structure the questions, instruments, and solutions that scientists develop to explain phenomena in specific domains such as physics, chemistry, and astronomy. As a historian of science, Kuhn described how scientific belief systems change as anomalies appear in scientific research that don't seem to fit into the accepted paradigm.

For example, during the Middle Ages, scientists believed that the earth was the center of the universe, basing their conviction on the painstaking mathematical work of an Egyptian astronomer named Ptolemy, who lived in the 2nd century of the Common Era (C.E.). By the early 16th century, however, a growing number of scientists were expressing dissatisfaction with the Ptolemaic system. His paradigm was unable to account for all the motions of the heavenly bodies, and inconsistencies, or anomalies, in his system began to mount. Finally, a Polish scientist, Nicolaus Copernicus, developed a system based on viewing the earth, not as a fixed point around which every other heavenly body circulated, but as itself a body in motion around the sun. The work of Copernicus helped galvanize a scientific revolution—a paradigm shift—that fundamentally changed our view of the universe. The process of shifting paradigms was not a smooth one. Luminaries like the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei were punished by church authorities for holding to this view. Nevertheless, the Copernican paradigm won out over the Ptolemaic one, and today it is . . .

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