ADD/ADHD - How to teach and how to learn
I have spent nearly two years working entirely with students that struggled with mild to severe ADD. First, both students with ADD and those who teach them need to be knowledgeable of WHAT ADD is.
A few basics:
1). ADD is NOT simply being easily distracted, or lack of focus. For the student suffering with it, it feels as if there is a mental fog around everything they do. Tasks requiring long and acute attention are draining for the average joe, but can feel nearly impossible or even painful to an ADD/ADHD student.
2). ADD is caused by by under-stimulation to the areas in the brain responsible for thinking, solving, and task management. I often hear older students (17-18 yrs) say they are not allowed to drink coffee. Coffee couldn't be more appropriate, actually (if you are on medication, talk to a doctor before adding coffee to your routine). In fact the drugs used for ADD are heavy-duty stimulants that are chemical cousins to methamphetamines.
3). ADD and ADHD are the same thing. Used to, we considered these two different disorders, but MRI studies of the brain have shown they are actually the same disorder. Hyperactivity is just a symptom that some kids may experience due to energy generated from their personality. If a kid who can't focus is naturally energetic, you can see why they might have difficulty sitting still (Sitting still requires discipline, which requires focus, which requires.... HEY LOOK, SQUIRREL!).
4). Because ADD kids have had to compensate for their lack of focus for quite awhile before it was diagnosed, they are often super-students after treatment. Imagine if you had never driven in sunlight and only dense fog for your whole life and then someone lifted the fog, letting you see for miles around. You would probably be a lot better driver than the normal joe, after all... ooh shiny... umm, uh... oh yeh.. because you had to have quicker reflexes to avoid obstac... I found a penny.. and you had to always be on your to... awww look at the cute puppy!!!...
5). ADD usually goes away on its own in early 20s. The brain is still developing until about age 25, so the whole under-stimulation thing typically resolves itself as you get older.
Most ADD individuals are highly motivated to succeed, they need someone who can encourage them and support them. This should include teachers, family, and friends.
1). Remind yourself that your student does not WANT to be disruptive or distracted, they might even feel humiliated if they are caught doing so.
2). Be positive! Catch them doing something good, and show them how they can do even better.
3). Encourage structure. Show how to construct lists of what they are doing/need to do, so they can easily see where their brain got off track.
4). Encourage routine. see #3.
1). Be Supportive. If discipline seems to be a problem because your kid never seems to do what their told, they probably forgot. In two years of specializing in ADD tutoring I have yet to meet a kid that did NOT crave their parent's love and approval.
2). Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry (James 1:19). If you want your ADD child to learn disciplined focus, blowing up won't help. Model what the way you want them to act, studies have shown that even one year olds will mimic complex behavior they see adults using. Self-control is crucial, if you act impulsive, they will too.
3). Find time to spend with your kid, if they are older you may have to push a little because hanging with mom or dad isn't "cool." No matter the groaning, underneath, they will never forget the time their parents WANTED to spend with them. You can't be supportive if you don't understand how they think and feel.
4). Authoritative parenting is important and needs to be consistent. This a firm-but-fair parenting style where the emotions and feelings (regardless of right or wrong) need to be acknowledged and validated. That doesn't mean you say its ok to act the way your acting, but it is a voice that says "yeh, that really does stink, I'm sorry youre feeling that right now." No matter what you think their emotion SHOULD be, it isn't going to be, and trying to force them to feel that way just says "I don't care how you are feeling, get over it." Think how you would feel if a friend or loved one acted that way towards you? The feelings are already there, like it or not, so acknowledge them and give them positive direction.
For the ADD:
1). Be consistent. Make a routine that includes finishing chores, homework, and social time (though this one may be sacrificed sometimes, it should still be a priority).
2). Make lists. List what you are going to do when you sit down, what you need to do for the day, for the week, and even for the month. If memory is a problem for you this is crucial to functioning.
3). Make sure you keep a normal bedtime. Yeh, it sounds lame, but remember, your brain is still developing and you want this to go away right? So give it the rest it needs to grow. 8-10 hours a night (really closer to ten hours) is what the AMA (American Medical Association) recommends, and the APA (American Psychological Assoc.) recommends a whopping 10-12 hours a night. Those numbers are specifically for kids ages 8-18.
4). Mornings stink, so early to bed, early to rise is just what the doctor ordered. I am on stimulants for a sleep disorder (narcolepsy), and I know they can take a while to kick in. Give yourself enough time to wake up and the stimulants to work BEFORE you get to school.
5). Study in 15 minute bursts with 5 minute breaks. This gives your brain a little bit of freedom, and suprisingly this tactic is EXTREMELY effective for all students. It gives your brain time to work through what-it-had-done.
6). Clutter should make you shudder. Keep a clean study space, this applies even if you don't have ADD. The fewer things you have in your work area are that many less distractions that can invade your brain terrain.
The key here is ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE. It is not healthy for ADDers to constantly be switching up the schedule, in fact it may be downright painful.
If you have ADD, tell other people (gently, kindly, and patiently) what you feel, and how they can help you. Great social support is probably the best thing you can have. If you feel like mom and dad are always on your case, remember they are on your case because they love you. But they may not have a clue how difficult focusing is for you, help them understand, preferably when things are calm and cool.
You Can DO IT! Hope this helps, please ask questions if you have them!!!