Current literature recognises Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as indicative of a neurological and genetic disorder. These conditions are usually associated with significant learning needs.
The three main characteristics of ADD/ADHD are difficulties with:
- Sustaining attention, effort and persistence
- Disinhibition - difficulties with controlling emotions, impulses to act and delaying responses.
Common indicators of ADD/ADHD are included when a student finds it very difficult to:
- Listen, retain and act on more than a one-step instruction at a time
- Follow through on instructions
- Sustain attention, effort and persistence, or the student becomes so focused on a task they find it difficult to change activity when asked
- Complete tasks - the student may move from one task to another before they complete it
- Organise - they often seem forgetful, and frequently lose equipment necessary for tasks and activities
- Settle into activities - they consistently need prompts and routines
- Control emotions, impulses to act and delay responses
- Concentrate on the focus of activity - they are easily distracted
- Wait their turn, and may cut across activities and interactions as a result
- Judge consequences for their actions and as a result have difficulty making informed choices.
Many students will show one or two of these indicators at different times and in different settings. Factors relating to whether a student has ADD/ADHD include:
- Range, intensity and duration of the behaviour and the pervasiveness being significantly different to peers
- Whether the behaviour has been long-standing, is happening at home, in school and/or in a variety of situations within the community
- Having no other explanation, such as school and home management practices and educational programming.
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Deciding whether a student has ADD/ADHD requires careful assessment and determination by a paediatrician and other appropriate professionals based on extensive data of develop-mental, learning, social and behavioural areas, drawn from a range of sources. A team approach is essential and must include the student, and parents/caregivers, who have a wealth of knowledge about their child, and others significantly involved with the student.
Medication is very often recommended for students with ADD/ADHD and parents/caregivers decide whether to accept this recommendation. If medication is to be administered at school, systems need to be set up as with medication requirements of other students.
Medication can improve ability to sustain attention, but requires careful and regular monitoring and review. It is not a sufficient intervention in itself - it forms one part of a comprehensive management programme that includes educational adaptations and changes in terms of the environment, instruction and interpersonal interactions. The student needs to be supported to develop essential skill areas including social interaction.
Any programme will also need to include guidelines for managing difficult situations so that their impact is minimised and energy is concentrated on active and positive engagement in the curriculum.
Teachers have a pivotal role in facilitating long-term positive changes for the student with ADD/ADHD through implementing changes to support the student within the class.
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