Oddly these two disorders are the opposite of each other in an important way. The ADD student tends to ‘drift away’ into his own world, essentially paying attention to nothing, unless the teacher is alert he is easily overlooked. He tends to be a dreamer, who has difficulty starting his engine and keeping it running.
The ADHD student, on the other hand, pays attention to everything, he is distractible and constantly on the go. He won’t be overlooked, he is highly noticeable. His brakes don’t work, so he is constantly ‘sorry’ after the fact when he yet again damages something or someone. Life is tough with constant reprimands and negative feedback.
Both, however suffer from the same debilitating factor - an inability to focus long enough to learn.
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
My attention fades - I 'glaze over'
The child with ADD has 'wandering attention' They simply 'faze out' while still looking at you. You will see their eyes glaze over. They have retreated into their own inner world.
Chloe has trouble maintaining focus and shifting attention from one task to another. She is rarely any trouble in the classroom, merely appearing to be a bit absent-minded. In real terms she misses a great deal and her learning suffers.
* Use the free 'Ease into Reading' resource available on-line on the link below. It offers the rationale and procedures that these children need in order to exercise their brain and facilitate the forming of new working pathways.
* Be mindful as this student can easily be overlooked as he/she is unlikely to attract your attention in a group or class.
* Be a frequent presence. Your proximity alone will draw their attention back to the work at hand.
* Give frequent praise / reward for getting a task finished.
* Keep tasks at a reasonable size / length.
* Hand out one task at a time.
* Organise paired or group tasks.
Below is a list of important aspects of attention required for optimal learning
EASE INTO READING
Do you think Chloe would be able to drift away in this classroom? Watch the video below.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)
My attention shifts - I'm constantly 'distracted'
Unlike a child with ADD this child's lack of focus is due to distractability. A noise, a movement, the groundsman outside the window, will all disrupt his attention.
Matthew's problem was that he paid attention to everything and concentrated fully on very little.
Unlike the ADD child, who is happily daydreaming, Matthew was fidgeting, leaving his seat, disturbing his neighbours and missing the instructions.
He stood at his tote tray wondering what the teacher had asked him to get. He saw a Ben 10 sticker on Danny's book and began talking about the shop he was in when he visited his cousin, which lead to what his cousin said till he heard part of someone else's conversation and picked up on the word 'fish'.
The other children were retuning to their seats and he still didn't know what he was supposed to do.
The weekly spelling test began with Matthew scrabbling for a pencil. The third word reminded him of what happened that morning and he missed the next word. Such is the life of the ADHD student in the classroom.
To add insult to injury, we demand, "Look at me when I talk to you." Remember that this student has great difficulty in focussing. Often such a student can't focus on looking at you (visual focus) and listening to you (auditory focus) at the same time. If what you are saying holds the important message don't insist that he looks at you.
Attention seems to be governed by the frontal lobes - it is called 'Executive Function' as it is where decisions are made, be they considered or haphazard, as in Matthew's case. Decisions need to be made on what to focus on when and for how long.
Decisions need to be made on what is most important at this time (prioritising), what consequences might ensue from certain actions and whether to 'abort' as the action might be dangerous, or hurt someone's feelings, or offend someone. Matthew's pattern was 'act first then suffer regret'. His intent wasn't bad but because he tailed to think things through, the consequence was often yet another embarrassment for all concerned. Matthew was on a downhill ride with no brakes.
* Use reminder lists.
* Acknowledge that you know it's hard for him to 'stop and think'. Praise him whenever he does hold back.
* Don't insist that he looks at you, he's having a hard enough time listening to you.
* Provide him with a fairly predictable structure - so that there are many things he can do without instructions or with minimal instructions (keep these short & clear).
* Help him to self monitor. e.g. In the class tell him 'on the quite' that you have a glass of pencils on your desk. Acknowledge that you know it's hard for him to notice what he is doing. Choose one only behaviour. e.g. being out of his seat / or disturbing someone at a bad time for them (e.g. during the weekly spelling task). etc
Tell him that each time he does the behaviour you will put a pencil in the other jar. Provide a reward for improvement in self monitoring. He will soon begin to watch the jar and monitor his actions as it is in his interest to do so. His frontal lobe is being exercised.
* Give ALL praise for the behaviours you wish to influence. e.g.
- making a good decision on which of two actions is most important (provide opportunities).
- Focussing - maintaining attention to the end of a short list of words. etc
- Being 'organised' (having his pencil out and ready / resisting a distraction)
Use the same EASE INTO READING kit any chance you get. (e.g. introducing the 'silent 'e' rule / correcting an a/u confusion). The procedures will provide exercise aimed at executive function - which in turn modifies 'intention' AND 'attention'.
2 Theories: (Food for thought)
There are two theories out there:
1. It's best to remove all distractions and work in a quite room for optimal learning to occur. (Claims of success are being heard from the advocates of 'meditation')
2. ADHD individuals have a 'higher attention threshold' than the average individual. It takes MORE stimulus and not less to activate their attention. If this line of thinking interests you, watch the movie below. Do you think Matthew's attention would be captured in this classroom? Watch the video below.
As with all learning deficits, VAS levels can be a compounding factor.