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.
- 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.