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Teaching Children with Attention Deficit Disorder

Part 1



Council for Exceptional Children, Reston, Va. and ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children, Reston, Va.


Defining Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Undifferentiated Attention Deficit Disorder

Establishing The Proper Learning Environment

Giving Instructions To Students With ADD

Giving Assignments

Modifying Behavior And Enhancing Self-Esteem

Other Educational Recommendations



Learning and Other Disabilities

Education and Kids

Related Articles

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (from NICHCY)

Students with Attention Deficit Disorder (from HEATH Resource Center)

Diet Therapy For Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (from Feingold Assoc.)

Attention Deficit - Hyperactivity Disorder A Guide for Parents (from LDA)

Defining Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD)

Attention deficit disorder is a syndrome characterized by serious and persistent difficulties in the following three specific areas:

  1. Attention span.
  2. Impulse control.
  3. Hyperactivity (sometimes).

ADD is a chronic disorder that can begin in infancy and extend through adulthood, having negative effects on a child's life at home, school, and within the community. It is conservatively estimated that 3 to 5% of our school-age population is affected by ADD.

The condition previously fell under the headings, "learning disabled," "brain damaged," "hyperkinetic," or "hyperactive." The term attention deficit disorder was introduced to describe the characteristics of these children more clearly.

There are two types of attention deficit disorder, both of which are described below.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

According to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev.) (American Psychiatric Association, 1987), to be diagnosed as having ADHD a child must display, for 6 months or more, at least eight of the following characteristics prior to the age of 7:

  1. Fidgets, squirms or seems restless.

  2. Has difficulty remaining seated.

  3. Is easily distracted.

  4. Has difficulty awaiting turn.

  5. Blurts out answers.

  6. Has difficulty following instructions.

  7. Has difficulty sustaining attention.

  8. Shifts from one uncompleted task to another.

  9. Has difficulty playing quietly.

  10. Talks excessively.

  11. Interrupts or intrudes on others.

  12. Does not seem to listen.

  13. Often loses things necessary for tasks.

  14. Frequently engages in dangerous actions.

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Undifferentiated Attention Deficit Disorder

In this form of ADD the primary and most significant characteristic is inattentiveness; hyperactivity is not present. Nevertheless, these children still manifest problems with organization and distractibility, and they may be seen as quiet or passive in nature. It is speculated that undifferentiated ADD is currently under diagnosed, since these children tend to be overlooked more easily in the classroom. Thus, children with undifferentiated ADD may be at a higher risk for academic failure than those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Establishing The Proper Learning Environment

Seat students with ADD near the teacher's desk, but include them as part of the regular class seating.

Place these students up front with their backs to the rest of the class to keep other students out of view.

Surround students with ADD with good role models, preferably students whom they view as significant others. Encourage peer tutoring and cooperative/collaborative learning.

Avoid distracting stimuli. Try not to place students with ADD near air conditioners, high traffic areas, heaters, or doors or windows.

Children with ADD do not handle change well, so avoid transitions, physical relocation (monitor them closely on field trips), changes in schedule, and disruptions.

Be creative! Produce a stimuli-reduced study area. Let all students have access to this area so the student with ADD will not feel different.

Encourage parents to set up appropriate study space at home, with set times and routines established for study, parental review of completed homework, and periodic notebook and/or book bag organization.

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Giving Instructions To Students With ADD

Maintain eye contact during verbal instruction.

Make directions clear and concise. Be consistent with daily instructions.

Simplify complex directions. Avoid multiple commands.

Make sure students comprehend the instructions before beginning the task.

Repeat instructions in a calm, positive manner, if needed.

Help the students feel comfortable with seeking assistance (most children with ADD will not ask for help).

Gradually reduce the amount of assistance, but keep in mind that these children will need more help for a longer period of time than the average child.

Require a daily assignment notebook if necessary:

  1. Make sure each student correctly writes down all assignments each day. If a student is not capable of this, the teacher should help him or her.

  2. Sign the notebook daily to signify completion of homework assignments. (Parents should also sign.)

  3. Use the notebook for daily communication with parents.
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Giving Assignments

Give out only one task at a time.

Monitor frequently. Maintain a supportive attitude.

Modify assignments as needed. Consult with special education personnel to determine specific strengths and weaknesses of each student. Develop an individualized education program.

Make sure you are testing knowledge and not attention span.

Give extra time for certain tasks. Students with ADD may work slowly. Do not penalize them for needed extra time.

Keep in mind that children with ADD are easily frustrated. Stress, pressure, and fatigue can break down their self-control and lead to poor behavior.

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Continue to Part 2

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