Why Teachers Should Understand Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
What is Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADD/ADHD]? Some feel it is a neurobiological disorder while others say it is a learning disorder. Ever since 1980 when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders officially recognized ADD/ADHD as a behavior disorder, the definition has kept evolving and changing. But ADD/ADHD has been around a lot longer than twenty-three years. Some in the medical professions believe “ADHD is a common mental disorder and has been recognized in one form or another for over a century” (Conners and Jett, 1999, p. 3). Teacher oriented literature leans toward classifying ADD/ADHD as a learning disorder of the ‘other health impaired’ type. It was not until the year 2000 that ADD/ADHD could even qualify as an impairment in the eyes of educational law (United States Department of Education, 2000).
At present, there is no cut and dry definition of ADD/ADHD. There is also “no valid neurological or physiological test that can be used to diagnose ADHD” (Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, 1999). What we do have is a list of common symptoms of the disorder. According to Phelan, (1996) there are eight major characteristics that one can look for in a child:
3. Difficulty delaying gratification/Impatience
5. Emotional over arousal
6. Non – compliance
7. Social problems
Inattention/Distractibility is the most important indicator of ADD/ADHD, usually deemed the core symptom. Two through five on this list describe the personality of someone with the disorder. The final three can be described as the behaviors that are the result of the first five symptoms. Statistics show that “80% of ADD children will not show their ADD symptoms in a doctors office” (Phelan, 1996, p. 51). Who does that leave to make the initial suggestion that a child might have ADD/ADHD? The child’s parents and the child’s teachers. The focus of this paper will be on the child’s teachers.
According to the latest data from the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 1.6 million children or seven percent of six through eleven year olds nationwide are currently diagnosed ADHD (Special Education Report, 2003, p. 6). Furthermore, all statistics show that ADD/ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed disorder of this age group. That usually means that there will be at least one ADD/ADHD child for every twenty students in a general education classroom. (Phelan, 1996, p. 139) This makes it imperative that teachers are knowledgeable about not only the symptoms, but also the different methods of treatment. Given that ADD/ADHD has no clear-cut definition or...