• Frank Clark

Learning Difficulties: Attention Deficit

Updated: Apr 14

We have been discussing things that a school can do to help children learn in a safe environment. The last time we started discussing learning handicaps by talking about Dyslexia. Now let us take a look at what are commonly called ADD and ADHD. ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

Dr. William C. Shiel, Jr.,MD,FACP,FACR, a contributor to the web site, defines ADD as a developmental disorder characterized by symptoms of inattention such as distractibility, disorganization, or forgetfulness. He states that ADD can also be accompanied by symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity such as fidgeting, speaking out of turn, or restlessness. The common thread between these two is the inability to maintain attention on a particular event, teacher instruction or reading. Neither of these conditions indicate that the student who has one of these conditions is lacking in intelligence. On the contrary, that student may very well be so gifted with intelligence that normal activity or learning is too slow for them. Let me give you an example of someone I know personally.

When I was taking a graduate statistics course for my master’s degree, I met a young woman who is a teacher in a Christian international school in Korea. She had no advanced math background, because her undergraduate degree is in elementary education. Her ADHD is so severe that she is unable to sit still. Her legs are constantly moving, so she always sits in the back of the classroom so she does not distract anyone.

She was lost in the statistics course we were taking and asked for help from the professor. She was referred to me. After a couple of meetings, I started to explain the math process used to develop the statistical concept for accuracy. This is a concept that has a large number of steps done in order. I started writing each step on a blackboard. When I had completed the 4th step, she got up, took the chalk from me and proceeded to write out the remaining steps in perfect order! She told me that she had never seen this before and it was all new to her.

I had an ADD junior high student when I was principal of a Christian school. He was always getting distracted and struggled in a normal class setting. However, I found out that he already owned a successful business at age 13 rebuilding and selling old farm equipment. When he tried an experiment that damaged school property, his mother told me that he had the money in his account to pay the damages amounting to nearly $2,000!

So, how do we help students like this? The first thing is to encourage that student a lot. He needs to know that he is loved and you are willing to help him for the long term. (I say him, because most ADD/ADHD students are male. I am not excluding the girls at all.) The second thing to do is to get that student tested by a competent person who knows what they are doing. That person should make sure that the student feels safe and that the testing person is there to help, not to condemn. I have found that taking the time to determine those things that the student has a great interest in really helps. This can help to motivate that student to work on subject matter that is related to the student’s interest.

If it is at all possible, rearrange a small part of the classroom to facilitate the student’s learning. The way this is done is determined by the interests of the student. Encourage the student to ask questions. Another tool that works, especially with younger students, is to make learning a game. This will keep things moving in that student’s mind and also help him learn by doing. Most ADD and ADHD students are tactile learners and can learn better while doing things related to that learning style rather than sitting in a typical class setting.

The biggest task is for parents to not get discouraged. Their child will learn and will function well in society. The school can play a big part in encouraging parents in this respect. This is one reason why the personnel at Parallel Hope Schools are determined to maintain a constant communication with parents. This helps parents to be an encouragement to their child who is struggling when they are informed of their child’s progress.

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