AEF offers alternative schooling for children and adolescents who are not experiencing success in traditional public or private schools, socially, and or at home. Some of the students at AEF have difficulty with organizational, homework, social, attention, focus, friendships, and decision making skills. The specialized curriculum of AEF is designed to help remediate the cognitive, life, social, and communication skill deficits that these students exhibit.
Some of the students have been diagnosed with ADHD, however, two students with ADHD are as different from each other as two students without ADHD and therefore the interventions and curriculum need to be individualized as there is no single full proof method which promotes success in every child. The unique cognitive, social, and life school curriculum offered at AEF allows students to develop the specific skills necessary for their individual success.
What is Attention-Deficit Disorder?
ADD is officially called Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or AD/HD (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), although most lay people, and even some professionals, still call it ADD or A.D.D. (the names given in 1980) or ADHD . The disorder’s name has changed as a result of scientific advances and the findings of careful field trials;
In keeping with this evidence, ADHD is now divided into three subtypes, according to the main features associated with the disorder: inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
A child with ADHD is usually described as having a short attention span and as being distractible. In actuality, distractibility and inattentiveness are not synonymous. Distractibility refers to the short attention span and the ease with which some children can be pulled off-task. Attention, on the other hand, is a process that has different parts. We focus (pick something on which to pay attention), we select (pick something that needs attention at that moment) and we sustain (pay attention for as long as is needed). We also resist (avoid things that remove our attention from where it needs to be), and we shift (move our attention to something else when needed).
When we refer to someone as distractible, we are saying that a part of that person’s attention process is disrupted. Children with ADHD can have difficulty with one or all parts of the attention process. Some children may have difficulty concentrating on tasks (particularly on tasks that are routine or boring). Others may have trouble knowing where to start a task. Still others may get lost in the directions along the way. A careful observer can watch and see where the attention process breaks down for a particular child.
Symptoms of inattention, as listed in the DSM-IV, are:*
- often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities;
- often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities;
- often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly;
- often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions);
- often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities;
- often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework);
- often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments,pencils, books, or tools);
- is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli;
- is often forgetful in daily activities.
Excessive activity is the most visible sign of AD/HD [ A.D.D. OR ADHD ]. The hyperactive toddler/preschooler is generally described as “always on the go” or “motor driven.” With age, activity levels may diminish. By adolescence and adulthood, the overactivity may appear as restless, fidgety behavior (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).*
Symptoms of hyperactivity, as listed in the DSM-IV, are:
- often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat;
- often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected;
- often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness);
- often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly;
- is often “on the go” or often act as if “driven by a motor;”
- often talks excessively.
When people think of impulsivity, they most often think about cognitive impulsivity, which is acting without thinking. The impulsivity of children with ADHD is slightly different. These children act before thinking, because they have difficulty waiting or delaying gratification. The impulsivity leads these children to speak out of turn, interrupt others, and engage in what looks like risk-taking behavior. The child may run across the street without looking or climb to the top of very tall trees. Although such behavior is risky, the child is not really a risk-taker but, rather, a child who has great difficulty controlling impulse. Often, the child is surprised to discover that he or she has gotten into a dangerous situation and has no idea of how to get out of it.
Symptoms of impulsivity, as listed in the DSM-IV (p. 84), are:
- often blurts out answers before questions have been completed;
- often has difficulty awaiting turn;
- often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).
It is important to note that, in the DSM-IV, hyperactivity and impulsivity are no longer considered as separate features. According to Barkley (1990), hyperactivity-impulsivity is a pattern stemming from an overall difficulty in inhibiting behavior.
In addition to problems with inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity, the disorder is often seen with associated features. Depending on the child’s age and developmental stage, parents and teachers may see low frustration tolerance, temper outburts, bossiness, difficulty in following rules, disorganization, social rejection, poor self-esteem, academic underachievement, and inadequate self-application (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
What Causes ADHD?
ADHD is a neuro-biologically-based developmental disability estimated to affect between 3-5% of the school age population (Professional Group for Attention and Related Disorders,1991). No one knows exactly what causes ADHD. Scientific evidence suggests that the disorder is genetically transmitted in many cases and results from a chemical imbalance or deficiency in certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help the brain regulate behavior. In addition, a landmark study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that the rate at which the brain uses glucose, its main energy source, is lower in subjects with ADHD than in subjects without ADHD (Zametkin et al., 1990).
Schools for Children with ADHD
Schools catering to children who exhibit ADHD or related social, cognitive, or social deficits need to incorporate these skills into their curriculum.
Teaching reading and math will NOT help students with ADHD develop the appropriate skills necessary to overcome their deficits. Students must be given the necessary tools to compensate and remediate the symptoms of ADHD and related deficits.
Attention, organizational, sequencing, ordering, part whole relationships, conflict resolution
Time management, task analysis, self-confidence, coping with anxiety, dealing with change, making good decisions
Making friends, keeping friends, treating friends, respecting authority, accepting responsibility
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