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ADHD (double click to see slideshow)
If your child seems extremely disorganized, very inattentive, or easily frustrated...he is probably not going to "grow out of it" as many teachers/doctors tell you! This "persistent pattern of inattention that is more frequently displayed and is more severe than is typically observed in individuals at comparable level of development" is called ADHD. It can affect your child's academic performance, as well as, their social relationships. Stop blaming your child for this. Let me help your child understand this condition and maximize its benefits.
Today’s Forecast: It’s ADD With A Slight Chance of Hyperactivity!
There are a number of various descriptions to define Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are almost as many descriptions as there are characteristics that may or may not appear in an individual with this disability. According to the DSM IV, ADHD is defined as “a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and is more severe than is typically observed in individuals at comparable level of development.” In other words, ADHD is like a storm of raindrops that can flood an individual’s ability to maintain attention. Doctors and other professionals use the term co-morbidity when speaking about several characteristics or disabilities that appear simultaneously. Co-morbidity, however, sounds quite depressing-very morbid!
Hopefully, this Umbrella/Raindrop metaphor, will help create a better understanding of co-morbidity and its role in ADHD.
An umbrella is used to protect against rain. Although the rain continues to fall, a person with an umbrella does not get wet. Every individual with ADHD needs an umbrella. ADHD raindrops can appear alone, at one time or another, or constantly along with the others. Every storm is unique. Individuals with ADHD have their own unique set of raindrops. Every day is different for an individual living with ADHD. It depends on the forecast or the amount of rainfall that particular day. It also depends on how well the individual can maneuver his umbrella to protect against that particular storm. So here comes the rain…
Raindrop #1- ATTENTION
We can never discuss ADHD without mentioning attention. Attention is basically the ability to maintain your focus on the task at hand. Individuals with ADHD may be attentive….just not on the right stuff. They may even be very attentive-to everything! This might include- the trees outside a high school English classroom window; or perhaps the outline or the number of lines on the window itself; maybe they dream of their future vacation; or maybe they are focused on whether or not someone can tell that they are not paying attention.
Another characteristic in individuals with ADHD that is related to Attention---is the ability to Hyperfocus on a task. This means that the individual is so consumed by a particular activity that they cannot be interrupted easily. ---Perhaps a child who is playing a video game and does not ‘hear’ his parent calling him for dinner---Perhaps a student in class who is so absorbed in the art of coloring in every white circle on a marble notebook that she doesn’t even realize that the class was dismissed---Perhaps it is the adult that is paralyzed in his chair while writing out bills that they do not even hear the telephone ringing.
Keep in mind, that these individuals appear focused because they are focused. However, their focus may not be on what you might expect. They really are trying to pay attention so much that it makes them anxious. And then the next raindrop falls…..
RAINDROP #2 ANXIETY
We have all felt anxious at one time or another. It is that feeling when you are late for a class…a meeting…or a show... and open the door to the room and all eyes turn on you. A tingly sensation is felt in your shoulders as you begin to blush. After a few moments you settle into your seat and the uneasiness subsides. Unfortunately, for many individuals with ADHD, that feeling never subsides. It has become part of who they are. They have spent so many hours compensating for their lack of attention in all areas of their lives. The shame and embarrassment; the guilt; and the covering-up and un-truths told; have become an enormous burden to carry around. The result is anxiety. The individual feels nervous and uneasy even while performing ordinary, everyday tasks. This anxiety interferes with memory, job performance, social confidence, and even comprehension. Yes, comprehension-which leads to another raindrop…
RAINDROP #3 INFERENTIAL COMPREHENSION
Reading between the lines is often referred to as “inferential comprehension”. This is not comprehending who, what, where, and when? This means comprehending the how and the why. This weakness in inferential comprehension is very common in individuals with ADHD and can be considered the smart student’s learning disability. They can easily compensate in class. They maintain good grades due to their ability to memorize. Academic problems will begin to emerge in about sixth or seventh grade; for others it may not be until high school or beyond. Essay questions and making inferences in content areas will be very difficult for this child. Due to their advanced long term memory, the student will usually write or tell everything they know about a subject, to answer one specific question. A student with ADHD really doesn’t know the specific answer, so they tend to over-write or over-talk to hide their weakness. Thus, this may not become obvious until major standardized exams indicate that an A/B student is partially proficient or just barely proficient.
Comprehensive Child Study Team evaluations may not reveal this type of learning difference. The Learning Evaluations usually show that overall functioning is in the Average range. Broad scores combine decoding and comprehension skill scores. Eligibility is usually based upon a discrepancy in overall reading or very limited basic skills. Therefore, these students do not meet the criteria to receive special services. For children with ADHD, it is the academic fluency scores, or their performance on timed tasks, that usually fall below average. Some parents who continue to believe there is something not right with their child, turn to tutors or learning centers. Most tutors will provide all the right tools, such as graphic organizers and mnemonics. Yet it is still obvious that the child is only memorizing the chart and regurgitating it back word for word.
This can help keep students afloat for a while, maybe even through high school. However, most college drop outs have severe weaknesses in inferential comprehension. Class discussions and lectures contain too much verbal information for the individual to attend to and process. Without support this student will lose his motivation and give up. Nobody would ever ask a deaf person to sit and listen to a lecture without a hearing device. A person with this type of learning disability cannot be expected to listen to a lecture without support.
Unfortunately, problems with inferential comprehension do not end in the classroom----which leads to our next raindrop.
RAINDROP #4 SOCIAL ISSUES
Since this weakness affects the way an individual hears and processes language, comprehending conversations are also affected. Therefore, this also becomes a social concern. A student recently stated, “My friends get mad at me because they don’t think I’m paying attention when they are talking to me. Then I repeat to them exactly what they just said. They don’t get it. I don’t either. I really don’t hear them, but I can still repeat it.” The problem is…he can repeat exactly what they say… but he may not be answering or conversing with them. Gradually, friends or co-workers may lose their patience with this and find it annoying. If a person doesn’t reciprocate appropriately in social conversation…once again he is not reading or listening “between the lines.” They may be perceived as “uncaring” or “self-centered”. Often these individuals try to “buy time” with “um’s”, or giggles, or yawns. This person will often find himself in an argument and not know why or even understand that he started it. They will often feel they are being picked on. Comments such as “he doesn’t like me and I didn’t do anything to him” or “I have no idea why I got fired…I did everything I was told to do” or “it’s always my fault…I’m stupid”….”It’s not fair” are common for the ADHD individual. Individuals with ADHD are usually on the outside of the conversation looking in. They don’t usually get jokes. They just laugh when everyone else laughs. Sometimes they may even laugh too loud or too long. They might not keep a secret and won’t understand why that isn’t right. They can be impulsive when speaking in a group. If one word that someone else says triggers a memory, they will burst out an off topic comment. Since social functioning also carries over to job and career relationships, it is important to develop an awareness of this weakness as early as possible.
Here’s another example, an adult at a cocktail party may stare directly at a friend and appear to be engrossed in a conversation with that friend. As the friend continues to talk, the individual with ADHD may lose focus and start to drift. First, noticing the colorful dresses floating around the room; or perhaps eavesdropping on another conversation within earshot; or even counting the trays or tracing the picture frames on the table nearby…. When the friend finally pauses and waits for the person with ADHD to respond, a very uncomfortable silence occurs. The person with ADHD is confused and embarrassed. They were really trying to listen. They yawn as they try to remember what they were about to ask or say….which leads to our next raindrop!
RAINDROP #5- MEMORY
Individuals with ADHD are often considered ‘forgetful’. Actually, individuals with ADHD are not at all forgetful. They can remember and retain lists and facts for a long time. The problem is they cannot remember the here and now. They may have to write down a phone number to remember it; however, they can state a best friend’s phone number from a decade ago. That is because these are two completely different types of memory. Most individuals with ADHD have excellent long-term memory skills. Whatever information they have learned, is carefully stored. Once they have it in there, it isn’t leaving. However, they cannot remember what they were just about to do. If someone asks a question about a recent conversation that they really should remember, they find themselves telling fibs, which leads to our next raindrop…dishonesty…
RAINDROP #6 DISHONESTY
Individuals with ADHD tell quite a few lies. It’s much easier to tell a lie than be honest and tell the person who has been talking to you for 30 minutes that you weren’t listening. Or perhaps tell a lie to your boss that you mailed an important package—when the truth is you thought you did, until you found it buried on your desk. Since living with these untruths and lying for so long has become a part of who the person is, sometimes they lie and don’t even know why? And then what are they paying Attention to---whether or not the person they are talking to, knows that they just lied!
Individuals with ADHD also tell tall tales and exaggerated, creative stories so easily. They are often scolded and misunderstood for telling these untruths. For example, a child does his Math homework in bold yellow highlighter. The answers are illegible and the parent begins to scold the child. The child begins to cry and states, “my teacher said I had to do it in highlighter.” The parent says, “you’re lying…nobody told you do your math with a highlighter. You were too lazy to look for a pencil” The child shouts louder, “I’m not lying. My teacher said to do my answers in highlighter.” Listen carefully and you will see the truth here. The child is not lying. They just aren’t ‘hearing between the lines.’ The teacher’s words were misunderstood. She probably wanted her students to highlight their answers.
In addition to these exaggerated ‘untruths’, some dishonesty that is evident in individuals with ADHD also comes with the shame, guilt, and embarrassment from this disability itself. In an effort to quickly cover up their errors, individuals with ADHD use these lies impulsively----which leads to our next raindrop---impulsivity!
RAINDROP #7 IMPULSIVITY
Here is the scene…a birthday party… the cake is placed on the table… a hand reaches across, barely avoiding the blade of the knife. The child just couldn’t wait to touch the icing. They wanted it and their body reacted.
Now picture the same child in class…the teacher asks a question. The child calls out the answer. How could he possibly stop, and raise his hand and wait to be called on. Chances are he would have forgotten his response.
This impulsive behavior can be seen in adults with ADHD who make spur of the moment decisions or responses only to regret them moments later. They don’t take a moment to check their calendar…and constantly double book. And then, of course, have to tell a little lie to get out of the extra plans. It starts to become that domino effect again. When will the storm end? The individual regrets his actions, blames himself…feels stupid, lazy, crazy….confused…-and here comes the next raindrop-disorganized.
RAINDROP #8 DISORGANIZATION
“it’s in there somewhere”
“save it…I’m not sure if I need it or not”
“I can’t remember if I made the deposit or not”
“I think it’s on my desk”
“I missed another appointment”
“If only I could get organized”
Sure, we’ve all had days like this. But for an individual with ADHD everyday is this day. Projects started, but never completed. Gifts that are purchased, but never given. Checks that are written, but never mailed. Homework that is done, but not handed in.
You cannot ask a child with ADHD to simply clean up his/her room; you must begin with “line up all your shoes”…then, “close all of the open drawers”…then, decide which clothes are dirty-put them in the hamper, etc.
You cannot ask an adult with ADHD to simply pay the bills. First, they must find the bills…Then, they need to locate a pen..that works!... then stamps…then the bills again. And we wonder why these individuals procrastinate!
Why? Why are individuals with ADHD so disorganized. Well, travel into the storm past the raindrops of inattention, anxiety, impulsivity, forgetfulness, and so on…and do we really have to ask ‘why are they disorganized’. Their minds are so consumed by the thunder and lightning, there is no clarity…no order!
RAINDROP #9 LEARNING DISABILITIES
In some cases, individuals with ADHD do poorly in school. Keep in mind these individuals usually have average or above average cognitive ability. Since their academic achievement is not on the same level as their cognitive ability, it may be considered a learning disability. What is uncertain, however, is whether or not the ADHD characteristics interfere to such a great extent with the child’s ability to learn or if a learning disability exists in and of itself.
Well, we know weaknesses in inferential comprehension (which includes math problem solving) are common in individuals with ADHD. We also know that these individuals must exert more mental control to attend to tasks. Thus, they require more time to complete assignments than their peers. However, once the ADHD characteristics are treated, does a learning disability still exist. Although it depends on each unique individual, most learning weaknesses improve tremendously once ADHD characteristics are treated.
This is not the case with ALL students with ADHD. For example, a student who has dyslexia, will still have dyslexia once their ADHD is treated. Will their academic performance improve once their ADHD characteristics are treated. Absolutely. Do they still require a multi-sensory, phonetic, systematic approach to acquire decoding skills. Absolutely. However, that may be considered ADHD with a learning disability. It is not necessarily a raindrop under the ADHD umbrella…and must be treated separately from the ADHD itself.
RAINDROP #10 HYPERACTIVITY
“My child doesn’t have ADHD-he’s not hyper.”
“ I’m not hyper, if anything, I’m lazy.”
These statements are extremely common from parents and individuals who first hear Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
However, just like all the other raindrops…hyperactivity, may or may not be, part of the storm. If it is, it is easy to see. Thus, individuals with ADHD, hyperactive type, are diagnosed earlier and more readily than individuals with ADHD, inattentive type. Hyperactivity is obvious---the other characteristics are somewhat ‘invisible’. A student who appears focused and performs well on tests, would never be considered ‘disabled’ by his teacher. A student who is restless, jittery, annoying, talkative, and overactive, is usually referred for an evaluation much sooner because the child’s behavior is observable. The only one who can observe the other characteristics is the individual living with ADHD.
Very often parents become very upset once they discover that their child has ADHD. They worry that this will limit their child’s potential. To the contrary, an individual with ADHD has a rainbow of potential. However, accurately diagnosing ADHD is a priority. Accepting your child’s ADHD comes next. Then discussing and explaining it to your child is extremely important. In most cases, the child will feel relief. He already knew that he was ‘different.’ Now your child no longer has to feel bad, stupid, lazy, or embarrassed. Together you can blame the disability and not your child.
As teachers and parents and coaches we want our children to learn…to be good students and good citizens… to be healthy, and happy, and successful. We want to encourage and motivate. All of that is possible, if they believe in themselves. Whether a disability exists or not, the child must accept who he is. They must know their own strengths and weaknesses…and understand and accept them. It is up to us to instill in them self acceptance. Then and only then will they find the confidence to be honest with themselves and those around them.
SOME OR ALL OF THESE RAINDROPS POUR DOWN ON AN INDIVIDUAL’S SELF ESTEEM, CONFIDENCE, ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE, JOB RESPONSIBILITIES, FRIENDSHIPS, and LIFE!
AS PARENTS, TEACHERS, OR COACHES, WE GIVE STUDENTS THE ABILITY AND CONFIDENCE TO OPEN THEIR OWN UMBRELLAS TO PROVIDE SHELTER FROM THE ADHD STORM… TO ACCEPT WHO THEY ARE…TO UNDERSTAND WHO THEY ARE….AND TO SEE THEIR OWN RAINBOW OF THEIR POTENTIAL THAT FOLLOWS THE STORM.
Helping children become aware of their ADHD, will allow them to...
CREATE THEIR OWNFORECAST and see the
RAINBOW OF THEIR POTENTIAL!
Copyrighted Material, B. Lombardi 2010