Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) is one of the most common neurobehavioral (the relationship between the action of the nervous system and a behavior) disorders seen in children and adolescents. In the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition) ADHD has three diagnostic categories, Inattentive type, Hyperactive type, and Combined type. Mental health professionals utilize the DSM-V to categorize a kiddo’s symptoms and determine a diagnosis, if warranted. Student’s with ADHD, Hyperactive type are pretty easy to identify. Students who struggle with this mental health issue often struggle in the classroom when sitting for an extended period of time, or focusing on one specific task is required. Classroom behaviors that may be present include:
ADHD – Hyperactive type:
Ø Appears unfocused
Ø Behavior may be disruptive
Ø May act impulsively
Ø Trouble waiting for a turn
Students who struggle with ADHD, Inattentive type are harder to identify. Their struggles with school/homework, social interaction and organization often go unnoticed because these students are not disruptive. Students with Inattentive type ADHD are often mistaken for lazy, or lacking in motivation and are often described by others as scattered and flaky. Classroom behaviors that may be present include:
Ø Paying poor attention to details
Ø Seeming to not be listening
Ø Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort
Ø Tendency to misplace/lose personal items
ADHD, Combined type is self-explanatory. This category is a combination of Hyperactive and Inattentive symptoms. Educators may come across several behavioral manifestations of ADHD in the classroom or on their school campuses. Students who struggle with ADHD often rush through school work, or avoid it all together, leave tasks unfinished, forget where they put the materials for task completion, poorly pace themselves during timed assignments….well, they often have poor time management in general. On the positive side, students with ADHD are often creative, and social. They tend to struggle focusing on tasks they find boring, but are able to hyper-focus on things they are interested in. Students who have ADHD tend to live in the moment (referred to above as acting impulsively), not placing too much worry on the future.
Regardless of presence of a mental health disorder that may be impacting a student academically, the mission of educators, and school support staff alike is to work diligently to build trust and create a psychologically safe environment for learning. Creating classroom space that is stable predictable, and inviting is always a great first step! Next week I will examine what anxiety disorders may look like in the classroom.