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Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder – Is This Your Child?

Fri. 08/04/2017

In today’s world, everything is fast paced.  Electronic communication gives us no down time. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for “snail-mail” communication before we respond.   As adults we hear, “Did you get my email?” or “Did you get my text?” with the unstated question being, when are you going to respond? Gone are the days when you have three days from when you pay a bill with a check to when it is cashed!   Our children’s lives are not any slower or easier.  Immediate reinforcement, bells and whistles on infant and toddler toys, and over scheduling children’s free time to ensure they have every advantage for experiences in sports, dance, etc. are the norm.  Who sits still anymore?

Curricula in today’s public and private schools are advanced relative to the curricula we were exposed to as children and high schoolers.  Today’s education system expects children to learn more, learn it faster, and know more at earlier ages than was expected 15, 30 years ago. It is not surprising that many children struggle in school.   They say, “The teacher goes too fast” or “This work is too hard”.   Teachers say, “Children can’t sit still the way children of the past could sit” or “If the pay-out for the activity isn’t instantaneous or entertaining, many children become impatient”.

Given this phenomenon, we observe how children interact with the curriculum, with school work, their teachers, and their peers in this new climate and begin to understand why school may be difficult for some.

Today, there are those that say ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder) is a buzz term and children are assigned this diagnosis very liberally.  The thinking is that some children are just more active than others and some children are just better students than others.  There is no need for a label.  I respectfully disagree with those global statements for several reasons.   When appropriately trained professionals evaluate a child taking into account academic, social and emotional data from parents and teachers, the diagnosis of ADHD is reliable and valid.

Here are some of the behaviors reported  in children who struggle with attention, self-regulation, and overall organization.

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Frequently daydreaming
  • Difficulty following through on instructions and apparently not listening
  • Frequently has problems organizing tasks or activities
  • Frequently forgetful and loses needed items, such as books, pencils or toys
  • Frequently fails to finish schoolwork, chores or other tasks
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty with peers, such as being too “bossy” or not able to sustain play routines or not able to sustain peer relationships.

There are also specific academic characteristics that may be associated with children who present with ADHD.  These same learning characteristics may also be associated with children with a learning difference or a learning disability.  Not all children demonstrate all these characteristics. And in some cases, children with ADHD do not exhibit any learning difference with respect to school work or oral language.  However, when school is a struggle for children with ADHD, here are the issues we may observe. Difficulty with math:

    • difficulty remembering math facts
    • difficulty remembering steps in a multi-step calculation sequence
    • Difficulty paying close attention to the wording in math word problems that are crucial for solving the problem
    • Resistance to writing all the math information on paper when engaging in calculations or problem solving
  • Difficulty with written language:
    • Inconsistent spelling errors
    • Inconsistent use of capitalization and punctuation
    • Use of run-on sentences
    • Organization of essays
    • Resistance to extended writing activities
  • Difficulty with reading:
    • May not learn phonics well, which affects spelling and reading multi-syllable words
    • May not comprehend the written word well because they don’t “stay connected to the text” – that is, daydream while reading
  • Difficulty with executive functions:
    • Organization
    • Planning
    • Flexibility of thought or actions
  • Difficulty with oral language:
    • Following directions (that is, not fully listening to directions because attention wanders)
    • Organization of oral language – that is, doesn’t tell a story or set of experiences efficiently (that is may ramble on or not tell the most important aspects of a story or experience) and/or jumps from topic to topic

It is important to understand that a very targeted and thorough evaluation by qualified professionals will help parents and educators know if a child has ADHD,  if a child has a learning difference associated with ADHD, and whether the learning difference makes the child appear to have an attention difficulty or whether the learning difference occurs along with ADHD.

For more information, The Summit School in partnership with South River Pediatrics, will be hosting a Community Talk on Monday, August 14th at the South River Pediatrics Office – 224 Mayo Road #A, Edgewater, MD, 21037. To RSVP call 410-798-0005 or seminars@thesummitschool.org.