Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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ADHD and School Behavior Problems

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the phrase that is used to describe kids who have significant problems with high levels of distractibility or inattention, impulsiveness, and often with excessive motor activity levels.

Often the ADHD youngster has special educational needs, though not always. Most ADHD children can be successful in the regular classroom with some help. There may be deficits in attention and impulse control without hyperactivity being present. In fact, recent studies indicate that as many as 40% of the ADHD children may not be hyperactive.

Research shows that there are several things happening in the brain of the ADHD youngster which causes the disorder. The main problem is that certain parts of the Central Nervous System are under-stimulated, while others may be over-stimulated. In some hyperactive children there is also an uneven flow of blood in the brain, with some parts of the brain getting too much blood flow, and other centers not getting as much. Certain medications or other forms of treatment can be used to address these problems.

How Educators Can Identify ADHD—

As a teacher, ask yourself these questions:

1. Can the ADHD student wait? Emotionally, these students often cannot delay gratification, and they typically cannot wait their turns.

2. Can the student pay attention in class? Some ADHD children can pay attention for a while, but typically can't sustain it, unless they are really interested in the topic. Other ADHD children cannot pay attention to just one thing at a time, such as not being able to pay attention to just you when you are trying to teach them something. There are many different aspects to "attention," and the ADHD student would have a deficit in at least one aspect of it.

3. Does he have difficulty with rhythm? Or the use of his time? Both awareness of time and the rhythm of music often escape ADHD students.

4. Does he have trouble staying in his seat when he's supposed to? How is he on the playground? Can he wait in line, or does he run ahead of the rest of the class? Does he get in fights often?

5. Does he lack awareness about “personal space” and what is appropriate regarding touching others? ADHD students are often overly touchy with others, and are often prompted to keep their hands to themselves.

6. Does he seem unable to read facial expressions and know their meanings? ADHD students have often missed the subtle social cues that they need to be successful in social relationships.

7. Does the student seem to be immature developmentally, educationally, or socially? It has been suggested by research that students and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may developmentally lag 20% to 40% behind students without ADHD. In other words, a ten year old with ADHD may behave, or learn, as you would expect a seven year old to behave or learn. A fifteen year old with ADHD may behave, or learn, as you would expect a ten year old to behave, or learn.

8. Is he calm? ADHD children are constantly looking for clues as to how they are doing. They may display a wide range of moods, which are often on the extremes: they act too sad, too angry, too excited, too whatever.

9. Is the student impulsive? Does he call out in class? Does he bother other children with his impulsivity? These children often cannot stop and think before they act, and they rarely think of the consequences of their actions first. Impulsivity tends to hurt peer relationships, especially in junior high school years.

10. Is the student working at grade level? Is he working at his potential? Does he/she stay on task well? Does he fidget a lot? Does he have poor handwriting? Most ADHD children have trouble staying on task, staying seated, and many have terrible handwriting.

Many kids with ADHD also have Sensory Integration Dysfunctions (as many as 10% to 20% of all kids might have some degree of Sensory Integration Dysfunction). SID is simply the ineffective processing of information received through the senses. As a result these kids have problems with learning, development, and behavior.

School Accommodations for ADHD Students—

Any teacher can institute the following suggestions, even without formal training:

1. Take a realistic outlook at the student you get every day. Periodically, rate the ADHD behaviors using the checklist below (1 means very little; 10 means a lot):

• Difficulty delaying gratification _____
• Disorganization _____
• Emotional over-arousal _____
• Hyperactivity ______
• Impulsivity _____
• Inattentiveness _____
• Non compliance _____
• Social problems _____

This is what you can likely expect from the ADHD student every day. Once educators (and moms and dads) accept this, it is easier not to take everything so personally. Also, anger on the teacher’s/parent’s part is reduced, because anger arises when there is greater discrepancy between what you expected versus what you got. Moms and dads can also fill out the checklist and discuss it with the teacher.

2. Don't take the ADHD behaviors as personal challenges. The answer to the question "Why can't he listen to me like all of the other students?" is that he can't turn off his ADHD at will. It isn't personal.

3. Learn about ADHD. Typically, educators in the higher grades have a harder time “believing” in the condition. The older students no longer appear physically hyperactive. Organization and planning problems are frequently misinterpreted as lack of preparation and motivation.

4. Provide help for deficits at the moment it is needed, not negative feedback when it is already too late. Unfortunately, the simple reality is that punishment does not usually teach the needed behaviors. This is because many students with ADHD have difficulty “doing what they know,” not “knowing what to do.” They already “know,” for example, that they should come to class prepared. Once we understand that punishment has not been working, we are ready to provide relief for their disabilities by guiding them at the moment guidance is needed—rather than ongoing disbelief that they did it wrong again.

5. Presenting Material to ADHD Students:

• Alert student’s attention with phrases such as “This is important.”
• Allow physically hyperactive students out of their seats to hand out and pick up papers, etc.
• Break down longer directions into simpler chunks.
• Check for comprehension.
• Encourage students to mark incorrect multiple-choice answers with an “x” first. This allows them to “get started” quickly, while forcing them to read all of the choices before making a final selection.
• Encourage students to underline the key words of directions.
• Establish good eye contact.
• Have student sit in the front of the class.
• Tap on the desk (or use other code) to bring the student back into focus.

6. Organizational Help:

• Ensure that moms and dads and the student all know the correct assignment. Most students can take this responsibility upon themselves – but those with ADHD, though, usually cannot. It is unfair and counter-productive to let intelligent students flounder because of this disability. Once informed of the needed work, the student is still responsible to work to get it done. Inform the student about typical routines (e.g., vocabulary quizzes on Fridays). Hand out written assignments for the week. Initial student’s homework assignment pads after each period. Do not expect the student to come up after class for the signature. If he was organized enough to do that, we would not need to be doing this. The typical student is organized enough to come to the teacher, but we’re not talking about the typical student here.

• Recognize that disorganization is a major disability for almost everyone with ADHD. In fact, it is difficult to diagnose ADHD in the absence of organizational problems. ADHD students can -- and frequently do -- write a wonderful paper and then forget to hand it in. This striking unevenness in skills is what makes it a learning disability.

7. Notify family immediately of any late assignments. Waiting for mid-term notices is too late to correct the problem, and too late for the student to behaviorally notice the connection between his/her performance and the consequences. The parent could mail weekly a card to each teacher. The card would simply have spaces for missed work and comments, and is dropped back into the mail. The parent could call the team leader each week for an update. A phone call takes the student out of the loop, and works best.

8. Allow for expedient make up of late (or incorrectly done) homework. If deduction for lateness actually works to correct the problem, then keep doing it. If not, recognize the problem as a currently uncorrectable disability. In this case, the work does need to be completed, but is not fair for a persistent organizational disability to cause excessive and demoralizing deductions. If for some reason it is necessary to give an “F” for incomplete work, remember that an F is 65, not 0. Trying to get a decent grade while averaging in a “0” is virtually impossible. A grade of “0” is excessive and counter-productive.

9. Simple Accommodations for Other Frequently Associated Problems:

A. Dysgraphia (hand writing problems)—

• Graph paper helps line up math problems.
• Minimize deductions for neatness and spelling. Instead, give extra points for neatness.
• Provide a copy of class notes, or arrange for peer to make carbon copy.
• Use of a computer.

B. Dyscalculia (math problems)—

• Consider doing every other problem if homework takes too long.
• Liberal use of a calculator.

10. “Section 504” Accommodations:

Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act (Public Law 93-112) is a Federal civil rights law which aims at eliminating discrimination in any program that receives federal funds (including most all US schools and colleges). By 504 definition:

• 504 “accommodations” may be “easier” to obtain as they generally mandate accommodations more than costly special services.
• A written plan for 504 accommodations is not mandated, but certainly makes sense. It should be periodically revised (yearly).
• Accommodations can be mandated via Federal Law Section 504 if needed.
• Classification under Section 504 will typically require a school meeting, but less formal psychological and educational testing than classification under IDEA.
• Moms and dads or the school may initiate a 504 evaluation.
• The disability can be physical or mental, and the disability must substantially limit one or more “life activities” such as learning, performing manual tasks, care for oneself, speaking, hearing, or walking.
• Untimed tests, including SATs, may require 504 classification.

11. IDEA Classification:

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA, Part B) of 1990 provides federal funding to schools which guarantee special needs students with appropriate rights and services:

• If unable to provide an “appropriate” public education, the school must pay for alternate education.
• Detailed information can be found through the National Information Center for Students and Youth with Disabilities at
• IDEA classifiable conditions include: (a) Specific Learning Disability (LD), (b) Emotional and Behavioral Disorder (ED), (c) Other Health Impaired (OHI) (the US Dept. of Education memo of 1991 includes ADHD as a classifying condition under OHI).
• IDEA classification evaluations and provided services are usually more comprehensive than 504 plans.
• Moms and dads must be full partners in the process of developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). If nothing else, moms and dads certainly know what has not worked so far.
• The moms and dads may request an independent evaluation if they disagree with the school’s evaluation.
• The school has the right to decide what evaluation is needed.
• There is annual updating of the IEP, with full re-evaluation every three years. The moms and dads may request review and revision of the IEP at any time.

==> Help for Parents with Strong-Willed, Out-of-Control Children and Teens

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