ADHD in School

Douglas Cowan Psy.D. MFT's picture
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the Classroom

Often the ADHD child has special educational needs, though not always. Most Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder kids can be successful in the regular classroom with some help.

Identifying Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD – in the Classroom

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

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 kids may not be hyperactive.

Research shows that there are several things happening in the brain of the ADHD child 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 kids 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.

Classroom Teachers

As a teacher, ask yourself the following kinds of questions. They are not "diagnostic," but they can give you some direction in whether or not to consult with the school psychologist, or sit down with the parents.

  1. Can the child pay attention in class?
  2. Some ADHD kids can pay attention for a while, but typically can't sustain it, unless they are really interested in the topic.

    Other ADHD kids 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 child would have a deficit in at least one aspect of it.

  3. Is the child impulsive? Does he call out in class? Does he bother other kids with his impulsivity?
  4. These kids 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.

  5. Does he have trouble staying in his seat when he's supposed to?
  6. 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?

  7. Can he wait?
  8. Emotionally, these children often cannot delay gratification, and they typically cannot wait their turns.

  9. Is he calm?
  10. ADHD kids 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.

  11. Is the child 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?
  12. Most ADHD kids have trouble staying on task, staying seated, and many have terrible handwriting.

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

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

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

  19. Does the child seem to be immature developmentally, educationally, or socially?
  20. It has been suggested by research that children and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may developmentally lag 20% to 40% behind children 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.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Many children with ADHD also have Sensory Integration Dysfunctions (as many as 10% to 20% of all children might have some degree of Sensory Integration Dysfunction).

SID is simply the ineffective processing of information received through the senses. As a result these children have problems with learning, development, and behavior.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., M.S. is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Tehachapi, CA who has been a skillful counselor to children, teens, and adults helping them to overcome ADHD, find relief for depression or anxiety, and solve other problems in life since 1989. He served on the medical advisory board to the company that makes Attend and Extress from 1997 through 2011, and he is the Editor of the ADHD Information Library online resource. His weekly ADHD Newsletter goes out to 9,500 families. Visit his website at for more information on achieving greater health, personal growth, Christ-centered spirituality, stress management, parenting skills, ADHD, working out the stresses of being a care-giver to elderly parents and also being a parent to teenagers, or finding greater meaning in retirement years, Dr. Cowan can be a valuable resource to you.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., MFT
27400 Oakflat Dr.
Tehachapi, CA 93561
(661) 972-5953

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