ADD/ADHD is a mental health/ brain disorder that causes an individual to loose focus,attention span and usually results in a poor working short term memory or retention. Dependent upon the type of ADD/ADHD the individual may also show an inability to sit still with hyperactivity. ADD and ADHD may persist into adulthood and often creates many challenges for the individual for staying on track, organization, and focus. Frequent accommodations are often utilized to help the individual in being successful such as extended tets time, quiet study locations, and decreased distractions. Other ways of aiding a child or adult with ADHD/ADD is the use of various organizational methods. Many people with either ADD/ADHD are diagnosed by a physician via observation and the ADHD checklist and a trial of medication may be used in order to changed the action of certain neurotransmitters usually in the frontal lobe of the brain. In doing so the neural pathways become more oxygenated and the person is able to maintain more attention and retain more information. If the individual also has hyperactivity medication such as Ritalin or Concerta may reduce hyperactivity. However, students with either predominantly inattentive ADHD or ADHD with combined or predominantly Hyperactive features do better with information processing when frequent breaks are initiated allowing the individual to "reset" their brain.Repetition of information is often required to help the individual process information and retain what is being taught. Shortened lessons plans and providing feedback is essential in assisting the ADHD/ADD student. There is no "one" fix as each student varies in the type and severity of symptoms; ranging from lack of impulse control, inattention, memory issues (short and long term) retention, hyperactivity and ability to focus on subject matter being taught.
I have worked with ADHD and ADD students for over 15 years and have helped them gain coping skills, organizational skills and have provided specialized accommodations in order for them to be successful in a school setting (college and secondary). These accommodations include frequent breaks to reset the brain, quiet areas for study and testing, presenting information to be learned in smaller portions to aide my students in retaining information both short term and long term. Helping students create a system that is unique to them which helps them tract work completed and work yet to be done. Utilization of an Agenda for coursework and maintaining work to decrease frustration levels. I have also noted that many of my previous students were very visual or tactile learners and used these strengths to help my students learn.
I graduated with my Master's in Psychology with a focus on disabilities counseling. During the past several years I have acted as a counselor in both the secondary level and college level for students. The main focus of the college counselor and advisor is to assist the incoming or student already attending college in multiple capacities. At the undergraduate level a good majority of the counseling process focuses on helping the student make decisions on the major they may want to pursue and helping them choose the appropriate course work. Additionally, the college counselor evaluates incoming documents and test scores to determine if remedial coursework is required in areas such as math. Often if the student is planning on transferring to another college the counselor makes recommendations on coursework that will transfer to a prospective college. As is frequently encountered college counselors also advise and provide guidance on concerns surrounding grades, testing, academic issues and personal issues as well.
In my capacity as a College counselor and advisor I wore many hats and dealt with a diversity of students with a diversity of needs.
A working knowledge of each departments requirements is necessary in order to provide the correct guidance to a student or prospective student. Additionally, having a working knowledge of each major is required in order to properly advise the student. The importance of this cannot overstated as in many colleges, majors are competitive and popular and advising a student of the realities of the major and the academic demands is a critical skill.
Advising and counseling students is challenging, yet very rewarding when they are able to see themselves obtaining the degree they have worked so hard to achieve.
As a former student assistance professional a strong foundation during the formative years of k-6 is important for successful learning at the middle and high school levels. During the elementary years the basic such a reading, writing, and mathematics is important for future development. In early elementary school learning thru visual aides such as pictures, drawings and sharing in small groups aides in the learning process. Reading to children daily in the early stages such as kindergarten and first grade is essential at the same time introducing the letters of the alphabet with known and fun objects. The key to successful learning during the elementary school years is fun and that the student feels adequate and successful enough to build upon successes. Peer interaction at this stage is crucial and utilizing a method of cooperation and sharing rather than competition has been shown to be more effective. Teaching children ages 5-11 requires a hands on approach with praise for success. Additionally in this age group, identifying those children that may have difficulties in one or more areas is critical as early intervention has been shown to enhance learning and success then waiting until the issue or difficulty has an affect on the child's self confidence. Most younger children enjoy the stimulus of learning in a setting whereby learning new subjects such as letters, reading numbers, basic geography and social studies is done in an interesting hands on approach. Excitement to learn new materials and subjects is an indicator that the student is grasping concepts and maturing. Additionally, giving younger children break times and times to release energy during play breaks adds to the learning experience and releases stress. Younger learners are concrete thinkers and therefore the subject matter should be presented in a manner that can be understood during the varying developmental stages that occur in elementary school. Having worked in a school district for ages k-12 I have been exposed to working with varying age groups, have assisted younger students in tutoring when one on one help is needed. I find younger children to be full of energy and curiosity and have always attempted to use tap into that curiosity to enhance learning. When children in elementary school are successful with mastering tasks it only serves to further their self confidence and give them and "can do" attitude. I enjoy seeing young children have fun learning like little sponges, curious about the larger world and yet still requiring the smile and nod and gold star that all children need and want to go forward and meet new challenges with help and guidance.
Pharmacology is a complex study and knowledge of medications, drugs and chemicals affect the human body. Specifically pharmacology focuses on the various and various classes of medications and drugs and the healing properties of these medications. Pharmacology looks at the affects upon disease processes or control of medical disorders. Drugs are classified into various systems such as antibiotics, antifungal, cardiology, hypertensive, psychoactive medications etc. In order to be proficient in pharmacology one must be have a working knowledge of the classes of drugs, the effects on varying body systems, dosage requirements based on age, gender, weight and a working knowledge of the multiple side effects and drug interactions, adverse and dangerous effects. Individuals working in the science of pharmacy and pharmacology must be able to utilize the PDR and pharmacy reference books to advise physicians on potential harmful effects when medications are prescribed. Additionally, pharmacists and pharmacologists must have a knowledge of interactions with foods and illicit drugs as well as alcohol. An example of this can be seen in patients prescribe blood thinners such as Coumadin. Coumadin if taken with other medications such as Ibuprofen (generic) or foods such as Spinach can have a dangerous effect with the potential of leaving a person susceptible to bleeding due to the additive effects of either. Constant and regular monitoring for individuals utilizing mediation for chronic health disorders is necessary to ensure that complications from the medication do not occur and that efficacy of the medication is maintained. When medication is prescribed in populations such as the elderly or pediatric additional attention must be paid as well due to the physiological changes that occur in these populations. It has been my experience in the field of psychology that pharmacology and a working knowledge of psychopharmacology is imperative due to the number of patients receiving psychotropic medications such as anti-depressants, anti anxiety, and anti-psychotics as a means of treating many mental health disorders. Due to the nature of mental health disorders these medications are invaluable, however also have many side effects and in some classes such as the benzodiazapines a risk of physical and psychological dependency. Therefore a thorough evaluation of the individual is important and routine monitoring for difficulties strongly advised.
As a former MH/Addictions counselor it was imperative that I have a working knowledge of pharmacology and in particular psychopaharmacology due to the nature of my role. Many of my students were on medications that may present with side effects which could be potentially dangerous. Addi tonally during my tenure as an addictions counselor/therapist in a school district, students often were referred to me for difficulties related to drugs and alcohol. In order to help the student I had to have a working knowledge of both legal and illicit medications/drugs that were seen frequently within a secondary/college setting. In order to aide a student with referrals I had to be able to identify the problematic mediation or situation. An example of this was when one of my students blood sugars was high and she had forgotten her insulin medication that day. I as health psychologist needed to be able to assess the situation and call for the appropriate medical services for my student. In over a 15-20 year period I have encountered students and clients having difficulties with medications and have had to make a quick determination of what type of drug or medication, underlying medical issues occurring and be able to quickly identify the potential problem and refer to medical personnel. Many times these situations were potentially life harming due to the population of students and clients served.
Special needs is a highly complex area in learning in that individuals with special needs are as unique as individuals without special needs. Special needs can be due to learning disabilities, mental health issues that may impact on one's abilities to learn or physical disabilities that create challenges for the individual in a learning setting. According to ADA 2010 often special accommodations need to be implemented for the individual with special needs. This of course varies due to the type of special needs due to the disabling condition. However, often this includes testing accommodations, large print books tapes in the classroom, extra notes, tests being read, quiet surroundings, specialized devices, tutoring and support. Most individuals with special needs due quite well when provided with accommodations that fit their specific needs.
Having worked with the special needs population there is a diversity of needs as there is a diversity of people. Each person's special needs must be viewed from a biopsychosocial perspective and depending upon the need of the person specialized accommodations must be created to meet those needs. The range is great and continues to become more recognized with the advent of ADA 1990 and its reinforcement of ADA 2010. This provides for educators to meet the learning challenges experienced by people with a host of special needs from mental health/neurological impairments to learning disabilities, processing disorders and physical disorders that are not always seen such as epilepsy. Additionally, recognizing that students with special needs require support, guidance, additional tools to accomplish their goals is important for and to anyone with a special need. Many students with special needs may require assistive devices of some type to reach his or her goal or just may need additional time. Special needs populations vary greatly and teaching/tutoring plans should be based on what will help the individual succeed in and out of the classroom.
I received my graduate degree in health psychology and behavioral medicine in 2009. Upon reentering the workforce I was an academic advisor to students in a community college, specializing in helping students with special needs of all types from physical disabilities, learning disabilities and those hard of hearing and those with limited vision maintain on a college campus. I often proctored exams for my students with LD issues and was a reader and scribe for students with visual impairments. As the special needs population varies a great deal, I have found that flexibility and a patient attitude is paramount when aiding my students in and out of the classroom. Providing them with the needed tools to be successful was also an additional part of my role as disabilities advisor. I have spent many hours one on one with special needs students proctoring exams, decipher information, writing or setting up assisted devices for the student in the student services area for the student to master his or her course of study. Depending upon the special needs time can vary, however the relationship with a student is paramount in his or her success! I have worked with students with macular degeneration and have had to be their eyes or provide them with assistive devices for the classroom, I have also often acted in the capacity of scribe. Flexibility and knowledge of such issues as large print books, sign interpreters and appropriate accommodations for my students is what helps the student be successful in classes
As an academic advisor in my previous role I taught study skills to both ADA students and anyone wishing to attend my focus groups on study skills. Some of the areas covered in my groups were reading for success, which focused on teaching students how to read the "important" materials expected to be learned by the instructor. This meant spending time highlighting areas within a text book or worksheet and showing the student what "key phrases" to look for within the context of the chapter or paragraph. Additionally, my study skills group also focused on successful study skills such as not procrastinating, doing papers and projects over the duration of the allotted assignment time versus "cramming" the night before. Students that paced themselves had a higher success rate then those that waited until the day before the test or paper was due. In addition about 25-45 percent of students have some level of test anxiety that interferes with successful test taking. Part of my role was to help students define what their "anxiety" was and ways to overcome this area of difficulty. Such as rethinking the way the student thinks about stress and internal dialogue that may interfere with the study process. Breaking down the subject into smaller portions was often quite helpful for my students and teaching them how take tests by starting with answering test questions they are confident first and going back to those that they are uncertain about. Additionally, teaching students to slow down and read the question carefully for cues and clues is another strategy used in improving study skills. Having study notes well organized and highlighted for importance well before the day of the test or paper is due is also a critical study skill and only helped my students to be more ready for tests and papers. Finally encouraging students about proper sleep and eating habits the day of any long tests or while doing long term research is important. Appropriate study skills used over time and practiced regularly results in improved grades overall.