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AD/HD: An overview

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By Jan Baumel, M.S.

What does this mean for your child?

Kids with AD/HD may be delayed as much as 30% of their actual age in their ability to pay attention and remember. This means that a 9-year-old may act more like a 6-year-old in his ability to focus and use self-control. Imagine how hard it might be for a first grader to sit and concentrate on instruction in a fourth grade classroom, and you'll get an idea of how hard it is for many kids with AD/HD to function in groups their own age. It doesn't mean his intelligence is any less; it's just the ability to control impulses that's affected.

What services are available?

A medical diagnosis of AD/HD doesn't automatically qualify your child for special education. Your child must be assessed and found eligible by the public school's multidisciplinary team in order to qualify for services. If she's experiencing academic problems along with AD/HD, you or the teacher may request an evaluation to see if she qualifies for special education services.

Kids with AD/HD may be eligible under "specific learning disability" since attention problems may be the cause of significant academic difficulties. Or they may qualify as "emotionally disturbed" if their social or emotional behaviors negatively affect their ability to learn. Or they can be considered "other health impaired" if they have limited strength, vitality, or alertness (including increased attention to environmental stimuli which results in limited concentration in the educational setting) and the AD/HD adversely affects their educational performance.

If your child with AD/HD doesn't qualify for special education, she may be eligible for accommodations, such as preferential seating, in the general education classroom under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability. She qualifies if the public school's multidisciplinary 504 team agrees that, in comparison to the average child with no disability, she has an impairment that "substantially limits one or more major life activities."

If your child doesn't qualify for these services, then her needs may be addressed in the general education classroom.

How is it treated?

Depending on your child's needs, more than one of the following may be appropriate and/or necessary to help your child succeed.

  • Medication
  • Behavior-management strategies at home and at school
  • Classroom accommodations
  • Family and child counseling

How can parents help?

  • Anticipate problems and help him make a plan.
  • Establish clear rules, limits, and expectations.
  • Reduce the amount of talking and reminding; use charts and lists as reminders instead.
  • Consistently use positive reinforcement and logical consequences.
  • Collaborate with his teacher about necessary modifications and/or accommodations.
  • Look for opportunities to support and celebrate his strengths, especially in the non-academic areas.
  • Become knowledgeable about AD/HD by reading, attending conferences, participating in support groups or online communities.
  • Depending on your child's age, discuss the specifics of his AD/HD, using books and websites for kids.
  • Be sure that childcare providers and leaders of groups and programs outside of school are aware of the management strategies that you and the school have found to be effective.

How can teachers help?

  • Provide individual accommodations as appropriate.
  • Follow a consistent behavior management plan.
  • Reinforce appropriate behavior.
  • Find opportunities to use his strengths and talents at school.
  • Work collaboratively and communicate regularly with parents.

Jan Baumel, M.S., Licensed Educational Psychologist, spent 35 years in education as a teacher, school psychologist, and special education administrator before joining Schwab Learning. Today she is a consultant to local school districts and university field supervisor for student teachers.

Comments from readers

" we have fought a middle school for 2 1/2 years for an IEP program which a doctor recommeded would accomadate our granddaughter's needs. she has AD/HD and Asperger's. The Team keeps trying the same thing over and over each year, but not consistenly by just giving her help writing down her assignments and making sure she hands in her classwork and homework. We see to it her homework is completed, but with the AdHd, she does not pass it in always, and this counts as half her grade which causing her to have failing grades, yet she passes because she has very good SOL scores. Of course, this makes the school look good, but if they only knew the battle we are having to get the proper education the doctor feels would better suit her they would be appalled.She also has very poor social skills. She finally after 2 1/2 years there has three friends, one has a hearing problem ( and she has that also), one is a very shy little girl, so, they too, have some problems. On a whole, the majo! rity of her class and students just pass her off when she speaks to them. we have seen it in the hallway and classrooms when we have visited on those special days. We feel the teachers and adminstration of this school do not really know what to look for in these problems. We are still fighting and will continue until she has the proper education due her. the doctor said she was very smart and could go far in this world with the proper education and we will she is being cheated at this particular school. "
"I'm a 16 year-old girl in highschool. I know I have AD/HD, but my mom and step-dad won't believe me. They refuse to get me checked out and say that there's nothing wrong with me, except I do stupid stuff and act a lot younger than I am. I've read several articles on AD/HD, and found that I definately have it, but still can't convince my mom to take me to a doctor. What can I do?"
"'My daughter is 4 years old and will start school in the fall. She has a really hard time sitting still and an even harder time coloring but when it comes to sitting and watching a t.v show she will sit for while. I have taken her to therpist in years past about getting her still long enough to eat and she has made some progress with thier idea of letting her play at somewhere's like the playground to get her energy out. They basically thought she had too much energy but now a couple years later I still have the same problems. I worry and wonder about AD/HD? I just know something isn't quiet right? "
"My son is 5 and he will be starting kindergarten in the fall. I am very concerened that he may have ADHD. All of the things listed, he does, consistently. In Fact, he was expelled from preschool when he was 2 1/2. And then when we came back (at 3), the teachers (though very good sports) asked me if they could watch him for their ADHD study. Ofcourse I said yes, because I too think something is going on there and wanted to see what they found. They found that he is an excellent candidate for it..They gave me a paper that had ideas for controlling ADHD by diet which does lessen the affects of his inability to pay attention. My question is, do I let his new kindergarten know or do I let it be, and see if they confront me? I know that it is extremely hard for me to deal with on a daily basis, and for my own sake, I'm wondering if I should do something more to get this problem under control; I am worried about his ability to control himself and pay attention at school. By the way! , Bi-polar disorder AND ADHD run in my family. :("
"Does the state of Maryland public school system still offer a 504 plan to a child diagnosed with adhd"
"I thought sometimes a child with ADHD pays to much attention and is overwhelmed. How can I focus the child on what he/she needs to focus on?"
"Hi,I'm a mother of two ADHD boys,ages 4&8.They are under medication at this time but not in a special education class.My 4 year old was recently exspelled from his school so I had to place him in daycare where he was doing great.He was put in a different school again and almost got exspelled again.he had an IEP test but was found without a disability.What should I do?"