ADD/ADHD is a controversial topic in education and psychology—some people accept it as a real problem that requires treatment (and sometimes medication) while others dismiss it, attributing ADD/ADHD to a lack of self-discipline. Or, put more simply, kids being kids.
It’s not my place to decide if ADD/ADHD is real or not. My job is to help students learn as well as possible and help them succeed. This article will help you do that too.
Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey is a very excellent book about ADD/ADHD. It was written by two doctors who were diagnosed with ADHD who learned how to focus to get them through med school and their residencies.
Driven to Distraction it offers non-medicinal and non-psychological ideas on treatment for kids who show the symptoms.
The book also covers medicines and their histories of treatment as well as outlines clinical treatment, making it a very comprehensive resource. (And, it’s a fun book to read!)
I find the list of “Fifty Tips On The Classroom Management of ADD” in chapter 8 to be invaluable. There’s a reprinting/rewording of most of these tips here.
My top 3 from the list are:
1.Remember the emotional part of learning.
Students with ADD (or the symptoms of it) have a harder time finding enjoyment in the classroom. Pay attention to how they feel about their work and help them stay excited and motivated. Figure out what a great reward is for them and use it to keep moving forward. Remember, school is a different experience for some students and it can be a hurtful, negative place with the wrong context. Pay attention to how your son/daughter feels about school and help them see it in a positive way.
2.Schedule “Blow Out Time.”
ADD/ADHD students often lack the stamina to do most tasks more than ten minutes at a time. Eventually their stamina will increase, but, in the beginning work with them for ten minutes or so and when you see their attention waning change the subject. Talk to them about something else, give them a two minute break. When they return, you’ll see their focus is sharper. Repeat. Extend the time between breaks as time goes on. When you hit the point where it seems they can’t handle more than a specific amount of time (ex. Build up to 25 minutes), knock a few minutes off the max time (20-22 minutes) and remain at this increment for a month or so before increasing again.
And, most importantly…
3.ADD kids need structure.
Have a specific schedule for when they do homework, make lists of tasks that need to be completed in a day. Text them reminders. Give them direction and limits. Repeat directions and expectations. A good way of thinking of structure is that your child is like a rollercoaster that’s hurtling at top speeds, but it needs rails to keep it in place. Make these limits, keep these limits.
In the book, each chapter begins with a quote. One chapter starts with: “I sing in my chains like the sea,” a line from a poem by Dylan Thomas.
The authors of Driven to Distraction use these lines as a metaphor for their personal struggles with ADD through Med School and their daily lives.
For them, they may have their personal limitations, but still sing beautifully in spite of it. They still perform above and beyond the rest and inspire others.
They sing in their chains like the sea.
By Grant Bergland, Private Tutor