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Teaching English to ADHD Learners

(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

This page deals with the learning difficulty known as ADHD. You will find a short description of the learning difficulty as well as an explanation of the related term ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). The page also describes myths and symptoms related to ADHD. It is written specifically for English language teachers, but may be of interest to educators and parents in general.
ADHD (noun): Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a common disorder that often results in learning difficulties. People with this disorder act impulsively and are easily distracted. They may also exhibit hyperactive behaviour. While some specialists consider ADHD a behavioural disorder, others call it a cognitive disorder. Research suggests that ADHD is a neurological disorder stemming from inefficiencies in the brain.

The cause of ADHD is unknown, however brain scans indicate that it may be caused by abnormal size, function, and form of the brain’s frontal lobe. There may also be an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. ADHD is believed to be inherited in most cases, however, it is also prevalent in premature babies and children who have experienced head injuries.

How ADD Differs from ADHD

The disorder ADD (attention deficit disorder) was renamed ADHD to account for the “hyperactivity” that is often one of the major symptoms found in people with the disorder. The disability can exist without the presence of hyperactivity, in which case it is referred to as a subset of ADHD called ADD. Both terms are often used to describe the same disorder.

Myths About ADHD

Symptoms and Warning Signs of ADHD

Children can exhibit ADHD symptoms at a very young age, and are often diagnosed before the age of seven. On the other hand, some adults do not realize they have this disorder until their own children are diagnosed with it. Some symptoms, such as hyperactivity, may be less severe as a child ages and learns coping mechanisms. Parents and teachers who recognize a number of the following symptoms in a child may want to consider having the child formally tested for ADHD by a medical professional.

It is also common for children to exhibit additional symptoms and emotions, such as depression and anger, from related behavioural or learning disorders.

Strategies for teaching students with ADHD

If you have a student who has been diagnosed with ADHD in your classroom, you may be eligible for extra help from a tutor or aide. Whether or not you have help with your special needs student, you will need to explore a variety of strategies to help your student cope in a classroom environment. Keep in mind that a traditional classroom is often very stressful for an ADHD student who finds it difficult to sit still, remain quiet, and concentrate on a task. Here are some strategies that teachers recommend:

ADHD and Language Learning

ADHD is often associated with deficiencies in the frontal lobe of the brain. This area is responsible for language processing and memory. While ADHD is not always classified as a learning disability, people with ADHD often require extra help from speech pathologists and other language specialists. Many foreign language teachers find that a multi-sensory approach works best when teaching learners with ADHD. ADHD students may find it difficult to focus on listening in a distracting environment. Certain accommodations, such as providing learners with scripts can be helpful for improving listening skills. Mneumonic devices, interactive computer programs, and private tutoring sessions may also help. ADHD students may qualify for exemption from the foreign language credit if they are diagnosed with a learning disability.

Written for EnglishClub by: Tara Benwell