ADHD in Children (K-3, Age 5-6): Disorder Description
Signs and Symptoms: How ADHD Manifests Itself
Determining the presence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in a child and addressing the disorder is often a rather intricate process because of the vagueness that surrounds the issue (Smith, 2017). Although the symptoms appear in K-3 children with ADHD just as prominently as they do older patients (e.g., first-graders), there is a very fine line between the regular behavior of a child and the behavioral characteristics of those with ADHD (Mullet & Rinn, 2015). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.) (DSM-V) identifies ADHD, or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), as a “neurodevelopmental disorder defined by impairing levels of inattention, disorganization, and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 32).
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Traditionally, the following symptoms are viewed as the sign of ADHD: failure to pay close attention to details, inability to listen closely when being addressed directly, difficulties organizing activities and managing time, being easily distracted, social issues (particularly, the development of the relevant communication skills), stranger fear, etc. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). However, as stressed above, the list provided above may not represent the actual manifestation of the disorder in specific children since the range of symptoms, their severity, frequency, etc., may vary significantly depending on the social, genetic, and biological factors (Pappa et al., 2014).
Furthermore, the common myth about hyperactivity as the crucial ADHD marker often misleads parents and even healthcare professionals (HPs). Studies show that ADHD children are not necessarily hyperactive, and vice versa, healthy children may have hyperactivity issues (Mullet & Rinn, 2015). Nevertheless, ADHD can be identified and addressed accordingly with the help of behavioral interventions including praise and emphasis on self-regulation, thus, leading to a gradual improvement of the learner’s abilities, faster acquisition of the relevant skills, including social ones, and overall more successful development (Cavanagh et al., 2017).
Apart from the lack of attention and hyperactivity, impulsivity is often listed among the signs of ADHD development, as DSM-V indicates (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Impulsivity is assessed together with hyperactivity, whereas inattention is evaluated in a separate test according to the DSM-V instructions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Therefore, it is suggested that the general set of symptoms of ADHD should be split into two key parts, i.e., the inattention- and the hyperactivity/impulsivity-related ones. As a result, the possibility of misinterpreting the specifics of a child’s behavior for an ADHD symptom and, thus, misdiagnosing them, is reduced significantly (Rosales et al., 2015).
Problems Triggered by ADHD: Impediments to Learning
Children with ADHD show the propensity toward developing the following issues: failure to work in a team; failure to complete the assignments that have been started; being easily distracted; talking to other students, etc. (Rothe et al., 2016). Students with ADHD may get distracted with virtually any visual, sound, or kinesthetic experience, therefore, triggering a disruption in the classroom and making it difficult for the rest of the children to concentrate (Ross & Randolph, 2014).
Not only visual and sound-related distractions but also the elements that learners can use to fidget pose a significant threat to the young students’ ability to concentrate (DuPaul & Jimerson, 2014). The factors such as unpleasant kinesthetic experiences are likely to create the distraction of a sizeable effect as well (Seines, McLaughlin, Derby, & Weber, 2015). As a result, the students are unable to develop the required skills or get a good grasp on the material taught to them in class, in general. Consequently, a significant drop in the learners’ performance along with a possible drop in their cognitive development, may become a possibility.
To be more specific, time management problems are likely to make ADHD learners fail to perform the tasks efficiently. Failing to organize their time successfully, the students will be forced to revisit the instructions and guidelines several times, as well as face the necessity to correct the mistakes that they are likely to make when implementing the task in between the distractions.
The identified issue will lead to not only the failure to meet the existing academic standards but also to a rapid rise in frustration in ADHD learners (Heiman, 2017). Feeling distressed about their inability to perform, the students will gradually become highly unmotivated to excel in their academic performance; furthermore, consistent failures may ultimately trigger a significant drop in the levels of their self-esteem. Consequently, ADHD may jeopardize not only the academic processes but also the learning process at a much deeper level, i.e., making the learners fear to make an unsuccessful endeavor (DuPaul & Jimerson, 2014).
Furthermore, one must bear in mind that ADHD triggers a range of comorbid conditions that inhibit the process of learning and prevent children from acquiring the relevant skills and knowledge (Rothe et al., 2016). For instance, the following issues can be viewed as the possible factors contributing to a gradual drop in the performance of students with ADHD: learning issues, anxiety, language development problems, disruptive behavior, mood disorders, developmental coordination disorder, insomnia, etc. (Mayes et al., 2015). The identified issues will have their mark on the development of a child with ADHD, causing the learner to fail to build relationships with their fellow students and maintain relationships with their family members (Rothe et al., 2016).
Managing the Problem: How ADHD Can Be Addressed
Classroom Strategies: Changing the Approach to Teaching
Seeing that the unreasonably high activity levels are the most common reason for the target population to get distracted, it will be reasonable to include short breaks of physical exercises during the classes (Heiman, 2017). Thus, ADHD learners will get an opportunity to handle their activity levels and maintain the proper level of attention during classes. The identified exercises should be designed for ADHD students, as well as those learners wishing to participate.
Furthermore, teachers must collaborate with parents so that the appropriate classroom environment could be created for the target students. The communication with ADHD learners’ families is also important for showing parents how ADHD students can receive support from their family members and, thus, gain a significant amount of confidence. Finally, the partnership-based relationships between parents and the school staff will serve as the foundation for better monitoring of the learners’ progress and faster identification of the changes in the general tendency. As a result, an adequate response can be produced in a fast and efficient manner (Shillingford-Butler & Theodore, 2014).
A change in the environment of the classroom should also be viewed as an important step in addressing the needs of ADHD learners. For instance, getting rid of cluttered areas and creating a single open space will allow “maximizing structure and predictability” (Shillingford-Butler & Theodore, 2014, p. 236) of the classroom. Thus, students with ADHD will feel more comfortable and inclined to engage in the suggested activities.
Active supervision should also be viewed as part and parcel of the teaching techniques deployed to address the needs of ADHD learners. Because of the lack of focus, the target population needs consistent support and mentorship. Therefore, supervision must be included in the list of teaching approaches. One could argue, though, that peer mentorship could become a nonetheless important device in monitoring the ADHD learners’ progress. Indeed, studies show that students tend to accept the suggested behaviors and rules once they are taught to them through games and collaboration with peers (Geng, Midford, Buckworth, & Kersten, 2017). Therefore, peer mentorship will have to be considered as a possible teaching strategy. The inclusion of technology should also be considered a step toward creating an improved environment for the target population (Geng et al., 2017).
Possible Issues, Their Resolution, and Expected Outcomes
The identified approaches have their limitations, which are likely to reduce the efficacy of the suggested interventions. For instance, there is a range of extraneous factors that educators can hardly affect, such as family-related issues. Defining the learners’ initial motivation levels, the family-associated factors can be managed by establishing a link between educators and family members. However, the lack of control over the family-related factors may become a significant impediment to managing ADHD students’ needs. That being said, by creating the classroom environment that will encourage ADHD K-3 students to acquire the relevant skills and focus on the learning process, a teacher is likely to attain success in helping the ADD learners.
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