Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hyperactive or all-boy? Lazy or ADD?

I once had a parent ask me if I thought her son was hyperactive. I said, “No, he’s just all boy.” Granted, he was active. He had some issues with impulse control. However, he wasn’t the most active or the most impulsive in the class. Plus his reading and math were both above grade level. That is my litmus test, because I suspect that behind the question was, “Does he need to be on medication?” I subscribe to the theory that unless a student’s inattentiveness is causing academic or social problems, there is no need to medicate. I may revise that theory in time, but for now that is where I stand.

Two types of ADHD

There are two types of ADHD. There is the hyperactive type, the inattentive type, and a combination of the two. Does that make it three types? Hmm, a point to ponder. We have all had both types in class. First there is the hyperactive type. This is the student that can’t stay seated, has little impulse control, and frequently ends up in the office. (Not to be confused with normal active, boisterous, childhood antics.) These students are usually identified and put on medication in Kindergarten or preschool.

The less obvious is the inattentive type. This is the student who is not typically disruptive, but can’t seem to get his/her work finished. They sometimes seem to be ‘in their own little world’. More severe cases seem unable to learn, simply because their mind can’t focus long enough to absorb information. Both types usually have above average IQ’s, which makes the inability to learn even more confusing. Additionally, ADD/ADHD can accompany other learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

Classroom Accommodations

As previously stated, I don’t believe in medication unless the child is being negatively impacted academically or socially. Therefore, accommodations should be made to help ADD/ADHD students be successful. Frequent redirection is usually necessary. I’m always walking while I teach so it is simple to discretely tap his/her paper to remind the student to stay on task. Having an active, engaging classroom is important. Incorporate movement into your lessons when possible. Let the students work at places other than their desks sometimes. Give mental breaks by incorporating humor into your lessons. These are all just good teaching practices anyway, and it gives the ADD/ADHD student more of a chance to be successful.

One thing I enjoy about the ADD/ADHD child is their ability to be creative. Have students do a Readers Theater based on a history unit you’re teaching. Then sit back and watch those creative juices flow!


I look back at my conversation with the mother, and hope I gave her the right advice. Perhaps I should have advised her to discuss it with the pediatrician. I sincerely enjoyed her son and his energetic personality. I look forward to watching him grow through the rest of elementary school and beyond. And I pray, please, please, please, don’t let anyone squelch that joyful personality.

I look forward to seeing your thoughts on ADD/ADHD in the classroom.

Mrs. Dahl


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  1. Every child should have a Mrs. Dahl. :)

  2. This is a really interesting article! When I was younger, my teachers wanted to put me on medication as well b/c they claimed that I was ADHD. My parents absolutely put their foot down and refused.

    I did okay in the end. I am currently about to graduate with a Ph.D., and I have had a great time in life. I think that it would have changed my entire life and my outlook to have been medicated. Very nice blog.

    Check out mine too, if you get the chance.

    Also, I'm following you on Twitter. My account name is juicyfruitstone. I don't know if I'll change that and open another account eventually (the name is kind of weird), but that's the one I have for now.


  3. I checked out your blog, it's hilarious... I'm following. :) Bummer on the twitter accounts. ;)

    Congratulations on the Ph.D. You're way ahead of me lol. Good for you!

    I'm intrigued by your comment that you think mediation would have changed your life and outlook. How different do you think you would be, in what way? Do you think it would have stymied your creativity and drive?

    I'm looking forward to reading your answer.


  4. Boys will be boys. I'm teaching in the university and it's no easier than a room-full of 7-yr-olds! I particularly have discipline issues in classes with mostly boys. But you're right, that energy just needs to be harnessed into something productive in the classroom rather than "squelched". It also helps to remember that I was just as rowdy in grad school. :)

  5. Sorry, I just barely checked back in on the story.

    To me, I think that it would have stifled my creativity yes, and it would have perhaps changed my brain chemistry in other ways that were difficult to detect as well. The brain is a very sensitive thing. My Ph.D. is in Physics with an emphasis in medicine. One of the things that I learned in a recent meeting between a group of Radiologist and Medical Physicist that I attended is that, according to some studies from Scandinavia, the probability of having a left handed child increases as the number of ultrasounds that the mother has during pregnancy increases. To me, that's an incredible finding! Imagine that ultrasound, a scan that pregnant women have routinely during pregnancy, can actually affect which hand the child favors later in life.

    Unfortunately, all medicine is that way. The human body is such a complex system that nothing done to the body can be done in isolation. I'm not sure what the effects of ADHD drugs would have been on my body; I'm glad that I never had to find out.

    One of the main challenges that I had in school was that I was always bored in class, which contributed to my restlessness. While other students needed to hear something like twenty times to understand, I needed to hear it once. As a result, I was always bored, even to the point where I would ignore the teacher and read books -- like the history text book -- while she or he was lecturing. I would stare off into space or just stay at home a lot as well.

    Keep up the good work on the blog! Sorry about the entry about Mexican girls on there. I do posts like that once in a while to generate a ton of hits so that my blog pops up higher in the Google page rankings. Mexican women are beautiful though, which is why I married one, lol.

  6. What a great attitude! So many teachers will ask for medication first, second and third without making any accomodations.

  7. I would argue the other way. I am 25 now and ended up failing most of my subjects at school as I could not focus to take exams and my info-recall was shot to bits. My classwork grades were high enough that I was tutoring other students, but I could not for the life of me focus on tests, homework or anything that required long periods of unsupervised concentration (i.e. no one around to yell at me when I got distracted). For a decade I had family and teachers complaining that I was lazy, unmotivated and seriously underachieving, but I didn't know how to change! I ended up running away from home and getting into a ton of trouble as I hated myself so much and felt like I had let everyone down.

    I have since found exactly the same difficulties with driving, social skills and in work (I've had 11 jobs so far). I really really wish I had been put on medication, as ADHD has ruined my life up to this point. I have only just been diagnosed and I am praying I will be able to go back and take a degree (I'll have to teach myself the A Level work first) and finally start a career!

  8. I am a teacher, and I raised an ADD child. The gifts he has due to ADD are astounding. Superior auditory memory, superior spacial analysis, and more. His sculpting is beautiful. His sketches are breathtaking. I knew he had ADD. Saw it in action around age four. Thought I could fix it. No parent wants to medicate a growing child. He was so miserable and confused in middle school, that medication was a necessity. He thrived. As an adult, he has learned so many coping skills, that medication is not necessary. He has an MBA in marketing/finance. He is one handsome, cultured, unique man. Your article is top-notch. dkmitchell

  9. I was one of those kids with the inattentive type of ADHD, which is a pretty common form found in girls. I was not diagnosed until I was in my 30s and so I had years of wondering why I struggled in school despite my above average IQ.

    I hope more kids have teachers who are willing and able to work and identify their students abilities and challenges.

    I'm glad that I was finally diagnosed, and actually I am glad now that I have aDHD. I love my life and know that my success is largely due to having ADHD! I have a successful ADHD coaching business and work with university students and young professionals to teach them how to manage their ADHD symptoms and thrive like I am!