Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Responses to Art Attention-Training by English and Bilingual Spanish-Speaking Students with and without ADHD

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Responses to Art Attention-Training by English and Bilingual Spanish-Speaking Students with and without ADHD

Article excerpt

Students with attention deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) prefer novelty and attend to salient features of stimuli, while disregarding other neutral, detailed, and often informative features of complex stimuli (e.g., Zentall, 1986; Zentall & Dwyer, 1988; Zentall, 1989). In contrast to this attentional style, it has been hypothesized that Spanish-speaking (S-S) bilingual students actually develop better than average visual abilities to compensate for their language differences (Baca & Cervantes, 1989; Cummins, 1979; 1984; De Avila & Duncan, 1977; Ramirez & Castaneda, 1974). That is, S-S students may rely on their visual skills to gain information during acquisition of a second language (Cummins, 1984; Krashen, 1985; Baruth & Manning, 1992). Baruth and Manning (1992) extended this line of reasoning by recommending that instructors present material in the visual-spatial mode and use visual images and symbols rather than definitions or verbal descriptions for S-S students. However, it is not known if these hypothesized differences are valid.

We selected art representations rather than printed symbols, because children appear to have equivalent prior exposure to this type of information across cultures (Lankford, 1992; Mittler, 1994). Furthermore, the responses of children to artworks appear to follow a developmental progression. That is, younger students have a tendency to match paintings according to subject matter, thematic similarities, or colors (Suchman & Trabasso, 1966). During adolescent years, students overlook the identity of particular objects being represented and sort paintings based on less obvious aspects, such as style (i.e., realistic, semi-abstract, and abstract) (Gardner, 1970, 1972; Machotka, 1966; Parsons, 1987; Silverman, Winner, Rosenstiel & Gardner, 1975; Tighe, 1968; Walk, 1967). Although younger children may ignore style while sorting paintings, we predicted that they might recognize stylistic differences.

In addition to assessing for possible differences in the preferences for paintings by S-S and English-speaking (E-S) children with and without ADHD, the major purpose of this study was to assess the responses of these students to a visual training program. This program was designed to focus their attention on the essential elements within paintings. Helping students attend to complex visual information may be particularly important, because of the relationship between length of time examining a visual stimulus and subsequent understanding of that stimulus (Gardner, 1990; Newton, 1989).

Unfortunately, children with ADHD typically spend less time examining a stimulus, so strategies that help with rapid analysis of complex material would be useful. Their failure to attend may be even more evident in art. That is, even though students with ADHD might have considerable interest or skill in art, they appear to present considerable management problems to art educators (Zentall, Moon, Hall, & Grskovic, 2001). These management problems may also be related to prior experiences and expectations. Specialty-area educators (including art educators) reported that they had (a) tried and succeeded less often in altering their instructional methods for students with ADHD and (b) were more reluctant to attempt new techniques in the future (Stormont-Spurgin & Zentall, 1995). Thus, simple and effective techniques to focus attention may be particularly important for art educators.

Predictions related to attention training were based on pre training performance. That is, if S-S students do rely on visual information, they would be expected to outperform E-S students on pre training measures of visual performance in response to viewing the paintings. Although we might anticipate that S-S students would perform optimally in response to visual information, students with S-S and ADHD might have greater initial difficulty if that information were complex because of their selective attention to salient stimulus characteristics, such as color. …

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