Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

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You have probably heard and may even have used the term hyperactivity. The notion is a modern one: there were no hyperactive children 50 to 60 years ago. Today, if anything, the term is applied too often and too widely. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) estimates that all teachers have in their classrooms at least one child with ADHD (Simmons, RG. 1993).

Actually, hyperactivity is not one particular condition: it is “a set of behaviors” such as excessive restlessness and short attention span that are quantitatively and qualitatively different from those children of the same sex, mental age, and socioeconomic status (Gutskey, T.R. 1991).

Today most psychologists agree that the main problem for children labeled hyperactive is directing and maintaining attention, not simply controlling their physical activity. The American Psychiatric Association has established a diagnostic category called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to identify children with this problem.

What are the signs of ADHD

Professionals who diagnose ADHD use the diagnostic criteria set forth by the American Psychiatric Association (1994) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: the fourth edition of this manual, known as the DSM-IV, was released in May 1994 (Soar, R.S. & Soar, R.M. 1994).

The primary features associated with the disability are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. A child with ADHD is usually described as having a short attention span and as being distractible. In actuality, distractibility and inattentiveness are not synonymous.

Distractibility refers to the short attention span and the ease with which some children can be pulled off task. Attention, on the other hand, is a process that has different parts. We focus (pick something on which to pay attention), we select (pick something that needs attention at that moment), and we sustain (pay attention for as long as is needed). We also resist (avoid things that remove our attention from where it needs to be), and we shift (move our attention to something else when needed). When we refer to someone as distractible, we are saying that a part of that person’s attention process is disrupted.

Children with ADHD can have difficulty with one or all parts of the attention process. Some children may...

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...to become effective.

• Deliver negative consequences in a firm, business-like way without emotion, lectures, or long-winded explanations (Cohan, E.G. 1986).

I believe that teachers and parents need to be aware of the symptoms of ADHD. It is essential to understand how those symptoms impact the child's ability to function at home, in school, and in social situations. When the adults in the child's life understand the nature of the disorder, they are better able to structure situations to enable the child to behave appropriately and achieve success. It is important to remember that the child who has difficulty with attention, impulse control, and in regulating physical activity needs help and encouragement to manage these problems. I feel that a classroom environment that is rich in structure, support and encouragement can nurture success in all students. Completing this research paper has been an effective tool in reinforcing these concepts.

Brain scan images produced by positron emission tomography (PET) show the differences between an individual with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (right) and someone without the disease (left) (Zametkin et. al. 1990).
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